At Least It’s Not The Skulls…

When you’re on a hunt for a new best friend, one of the key moves is to sign up for various activities. I wouldn’t say every activity—some perfectly glorious events just don’t lend themselves to socializing—but you’d be surprised how many different organizations base their entire evenings around ending up at a bar for a bonding session. Since January, I’ve signed up for mixer events ranging from straight mingling to volunteering to theater to running. This fall I’ll do my first religion-and-socializing group.

One of the most fascinating aspects of infiltrating all these worlds has been to see how passionate a subsociety exists within each one. They’re like fraternities with a twist. Special languages, internal politics, even their own forms of hazing. I kid you not.

Take last night. A new friend invited me to join her for a Hash House Harriers run in Chicago. I had no idea what I was getting into. Because I didn’t have time to do my own research, I said yes before I really knew what I was saying yes to. All I knew was that hashers (as they’re called) are self-proclaimed “drinkers with a running problem.” I took this to mean that there would be some running, and then later there’d be some drinking. Turns out the drinking—and socializing—happened before, during and after the run. Other things I didn’t know till I showed up: Everyone goes by a code name—my run included Bubbles, Corn Star, Horny, and Rumpspringa; there is a song—usually a dirty one—for every occasion, and there’s an entire hashing vocabulary, one that would take me six months, at the very least, to master.

Similar insider knowledge—vocab, politics, inter-org relationships—has emerged in other activities. At lunch after my One Brick outing, I listened in on a conversation about who got to be EM and EC, and who wanted the positions but were rejected (EC is event coordinator and EM is event manager, though none of the insiders used the full titles). Improv, which is definitely growing on me, comes with its own set of VIPs. And when I went to showtunes night at a gay bar last Sunday (totally my mother ship calling me home), I felt like an outsider since I wasn’t in on the call and response for each song.

There’s something fascinating—and reassuring—to the concept that no matter what you like to do, there is almost certainly a community out there dedicated to it. And that in each community there are die-hards, occasional members, and the people who fall everywhere in between.

In one sense these cultish subcultures are reminiscent of the college greek system. They include secret society hooplah that you must know in order to feel a part of the group. The non-sorority aspect of it though is that anyone can join. You don’t have to rush or be chosen. If you want to run around town with the Hash House Harriers (any town! It’s worldwide), you’ll be welcomed with open arms. They love Hash virgins. Believe me, I now know this to be true.

Inside jokes and knowledge, when you know them, are the fastest track to feeling included. Over these months I’ve learned that the organizations with all these “secrets” are almost always the same ones that people are most passionate about. Participants who are fluent in hashing, say, are super comfortable at the event. Then there’s me, the random girl in the corner who only understands every third word. But the more you feel a part of a society, the more loyalty you feel toward it. And suddenly you’re going back every week, and you have to fend of the potential BFFs with a stick.

Have you witnessed other subcultures—speechmaking, yoga, rollerblading—that have a subsociety of dedicated members? Were you put off by them, or were you eager to join in? I feel like these communities, once you find one you like and immerse yourself, make the BFF search easier by giving a sense of belonging. Do you agree or am I crazy?

11 Comments

Filed under The Search

11 responses to “At Least It’s Not The Skulls…

  1. Running and drinking sounds rather unwise…perhaps that’s why everyone has a nickname. So they cannot be held accountable for their bad behavior afterwards…

  2. Betty

    I am also fascinated by these subcultures existing within subsocieties! I’m always telling my husband that there seems to be a specific group out there for every imaginable hobby, interest, issue, or pastime. It’s just a matter of finding one that suits your current interests and passions and then going to an event and giving it a try. I have an interest in origami, and found a group that meets once a month to work on different origami projects and who are willing to help out beginners learn the different techniques. I went to one meeting and had a fabulous time. The people were so friendly, nice and super enthusiastic about their hobby. I keep meaning to go back, but so far haven’t made the time for it yet. Although I had a good time, there weren’t many candidates for BFF because the core members were so much older than me. Age isn’t everything, but I generally find it easier to be friends with people if they are within 10 years + or – from my age because we’re in more similar life stages. Have you found that to be true for yourself as well?

  3. Suzannah

    Hearing about these sort of opportunities, is when I feel envious of people living in the cities….I love in a small town in east Texas…a wonderful place with kind people…but I feel certain saying there are no running / drinking groups!
    But I am very involved in my church….in a way, that is my subculture….
    The difficulty with living in a smaller community is, looking for new friends is challenging, and you still bump into potential BFF’s, you may have passed on!

  4. Lorrie Paige

    I’ve recently joined groups that are more exclusive than the typical regular social groups. I feel at least we have one thing in common from the start when I join the groups more focused on a certain subject.

    As with Betty, so far I haven’t found anyone yet to be a BFF (I’m also searching for one in Portland Oregon), but for me I get along best with people 10-25 years younger than me. I’m 48 and prefer to be hanging out with people in their 20s and 30s. I don’t look and dress my age so that’s one reason, and some say I don’t act my age either–hahaha!

    BTW, Meetup groups are great to meet people. Meetup is national and I think international. So far, I’m in 3 Meetup groups and things are going well. Also I have my meditation group, where I just met a couple interesting people this past Sunday, so I look forward to seeing them again during the next class….

    Anyway, I love your blog Rachel! I just found out about it. I’ve added your blog link to my WordPress blog. One of these days I’ll find the time to go back and read all your entires.🙂 Awesome blog!

  5. You’re such a good sport.🙂

    Another group with their own “lingo” is the mommy bloggers. Took me a minute to figure out what a DH is and some of the other seemingly made-up acronyms. Heck, even Twitter has it’s own sub-society! More than anything, people want to belong.

    I’m glad you survived the Hash. Next time, you pick!

    • NikKidd

      Reminds me of the wedding blogs/forums – they have an entirely different language, as well! MIL, MOH, STD (not the kind you don’t want to get), etc!

      What’s even more strange about that one is that it’s a community that is fleeting, in a way, as MOST members (but not all) are only on there while they’re planning and then tend to migrate on to other communities. Yet the lingo and “traditions” remain, as new members join and pass it on to the next new members, etc.

  6. I just realized you mentioned The Skulls in the title of this post. Well played, Rachel.

  7. See, I’m kind of wary about these kinds of groups. I know, intellectually, that everyone there has been the new kid, but I always feel like the perpetual new kid. Even as I understand, and even help create, in-jokes, there’s always the older, more revered stories that everyone but me (it feels like) looks back on fondly while I sit there and feel like a fool. My baggage entirely, sure, but there you go.

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