Monday, July 22, 2013

Living on the Fringe

I was recently on FB and commented on something on my newsfeed. Another author was venting, pissed at finding herself dissed from a conversation within a group. I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I asked for a bit of specificity. She said it was a group discussion, where someone walks up and inserts self, then takes over, dismissing who she doesn’t consider important within the group.
Ah! I knew what she was talking about. I call it being fringed.

This happens to me. Sometimes it is because of a specific person who deliberately eliminates those they don’t know or consider unimportant. Sometimes, I truly believe people do it without realizing they are doing it. Their energy is so intense or overwhelming, they intimidate and or take over without meaning to. It happens.

Sometimes a group just grows too large and naturally splits.
And people are just shuffled to the outside.

Why do we stay there? On the edge?  Well, we are easily shuffled and don’t really know how to re-establish our position. We might just shrug and leave, it isn’t worth risking giving the impression of pushiness.
Yup, I’m one of those.

It happens within social groups. It happens within so many avenues. If we complain, we are told to be more assertive. That we need to speak up for ourselves. And undoubtedly we do.
Ah, but I am so tired of being told if I were more…assertive, pushy, confrontational, loud, secure…then I’d be more successful, more part of, more everything.

The thing is, I’m not a shy person. I am not terribly reserved. I am sensitive to offending. (Despite the impression I give sometimes when I blog.) I am sensitive to being rude. I was taught to be polite, to a fault. If you are dismissed, you go. You don’t impose. You don’t insert.
Yet, I know there are better words for what I should do…and most of it is my perception of how to define the right thing to do. The right way to act.

Now, when I put a pirate hat on at convention, I change. Same convention, I wander without the hat and I’m once more living on the fringe.
Every situation of being fringed calls for a separate evaluation. And living on the fringe can be a choice. In fact, it likely is a choice. I know I’d like to be aware of making that choice.

I’d like to start a movement. The fringed movement. We count, we are there and we aren’t invisible. We aren’t mice, we aren’t timid. We are aware, sensitive and polite. We are everywhere. We inhabit the borderlands. We write stuff that doesn’t quite fit in, (like romantic adventure featuring pirates.) We are the lady writers of scifi/fantasy, who are dissed by the great white men. We are the self-pubbed who aren’t best sellers. We are here. Always have been. And despite my FB manifesto last week, we aren’t invisible. It just feel that way sometimes.
I think everyone feels fringed now and then. I need to design some buttons… Any suggestions for our slogan? Ever felt that way yourself?
(Yes, it was Terri’s turn to blog today, but she begged off…speaking to me on Saturday of an oncoming coma she intended to be in come Monday.)


MsHellion said...

Yes, when you're being fringed, do leave quietly--flipping them off as you do so. I'm all about sending birds to wish the #()%*#ers well.

I always think of this as cliquing up. When I graduated from high school, I remember thinking, "Wow, I'm so glad that's over and I won't have to deal with that kind of narrow-minded exclusionist behavior any longer!" Oh, what a precious twit I was and still am.

While I imagine about 1% is the other person actually thinking you have nothing notable to add and they want to take over, I imagine the majority is suffering from the same inferiority complex they've just tossed to you. If they include you, THEY'LL be exposed as the person who has nothing to add to the convo and they were just horning in to feel "included". If they take over and run the show, the odds are greater that you'll feel intimidated and slink off and they'll get the accolades for being so awesome.

So just remember: they're INFERIOR. And give them lots of birds.

Terri Osburn said...

Unfortunately, I'm not in a coma. I'm at my day job and drudging through a very ugly inbox. I know this feeling you're talking about. Happens to me all the time. And no one who knows me would ever say I lack assertiveness. Sometimes, it's just not worth it.

I'm a big pick your battles person. If I want to be in and I feel strongly enough about having my opinions/thoughts heard, then I push. Screw 'em. If it's not all that important to me, then I wander off. In the end, it's their loss. :)

And those who push in and take over are usually suffer from way more insecurity than I'm battling. You have to almost feel sorry for them.


MsHellion said...

EXACTLY. We should pity them. For the big douche canoes they're being and can't help...

Maureen said...

Hels, I do think a lot of this stems from high school behavior. But it isn't as blatant. High school, you knew when you were being fringed because they made sure you knew it. And knew that they had the POWER to fringe you.

Now, 30 some odd years since high school, I think most ringleaders of this behavior aren't terribly aware that they do this. They are socially stunted to not realize what douchebags they are.

It's the follow alongs that drive me crazy. And what is hysterical? If you stand away and watch, the 'star attraction' will bail on this group the minute someone walks by who they think is more important. Without a thought!

Haleigh said...

Oh I'm so this person too. I'm not even a little bit assertive, and so regularly get pushed to the fringes by people with more intense personalities. And at the same time, I often have to remind myself that I wasn't so much pushed to the fringes, as voluntarily skuttled there as soon as I felt uncomfortable (which is, for me, pretty much all social situation).

This happens to me most a work, and I tend to forget that it's not about me, it's about the douche canoe with the inferiority complex :)

This hasn't happened to me much as a writer. Perhaps because I'm so much more confident in writerly groups than in other social situations that I don't flee so readily.

I love that the pirate hat makes it a completely different convention experience for you. I need to get myself a pirate hat! (both metaphorically and literally :)

Maureen said...

Terri! Coma girl! Morning!

You are a very outspoken and assertive person. It is hard to imagine this happening to you, but I can also see you rolling your eyes and just finding something better to do. You have a strong sense of self-esteem which serves you well.

There are so many ways to be fringed, from social to professional. And yes, I generally find myself eyeing the chief fringer with some pity. While I generally view the rest of the crowd with true disdain.

Idiots that they didn't see this coming and recognize it for what it was. A hostile take over.

Maureen said...

Hal, the pirate hat effect is incredible. I'm not sure if it's because the flamboyancy simply makes it hard to ignore, or it it's the sense of it on my head that allows me to play a more assertive role.

It's like saying, "I'm not an idiot, but I often play one in real life."

Well, I'm not a pirate but I play one at conferences.

And good for you to not feel fringed at conferences!

I know one solution is to examine the fringe and snag someone else who is also aware of the fringe affect and go get a drink. Screw 'em.

Terri Osburn said...

Now that you mention it, that night I went to the Prism awards with you in the fabulous pirate fascinator you made me, I felt incredible. It's like the fun of it sinks into your brain and you can't help but smile and feel confident.

Also, you appear more interesting to people so they take an interest in you. Totally boosts the ego.

Maureen said...

Hats are like magical fringe repellants. ;-)

P. Kirby said...

I think I've played both parts -- the fringed and the douche canoe. I'm actually an introvert to the extreme, but good at playing an introvert (although it wears me out). I know I've merrily bumbled into and derailed conversations, and no doubt irritated the shit out of someone.

My guess is that the tendency to distract, be distracted and "fringify" is in part of function of our social context. I.e., we've all become accustomed to being distracted. Heck, most people, not just teens, but most people, can't get through a person-to-person conversation without answering or checking their cell phone several times. Our wee little attention spans are always looking for something more interesting on the horizon.

Though I'm not a fan of gender stereotypes, I would say that douche canoe behavior, barging in and taking over the convo, seems to have a male slant, probably because men are accustomed to diminishing the opinions of women. "Huh? A woman's talking? It can't be important."

Maureen said...

You know, I've been in so few mixed sex groups, it's been awhile before I've faced the fringifying from guys. So, I'll see if I face it when I attend PhilCon...

I do think you're right about the ease at being distracted. Phones being the biggest culprit. I'm not as totally guilty as others, but it's there.

I do know the merrily bumbling role, I've done that! Though I do think I'm more likely to go all wide-eyed and not let anyone leave a group I've bumbled into. I don't know, I swear, I'm just not that passionate about anything to successfully take over a conversation...

So, keep an eye on Longmire tonight...might see Pat playing an extra! ;-)

Janga said...

Like Hal, I'm a scuttler who usually can't get to the sidelines fast enough. And since I'm a harmony lover who avoids confrontations if at all possible, I never say a word or make a gesture--unless I'm in a car and being cut off.

I agree with Pat about the gender characteristic. I've seen women take over a group of women, but in mixed groups, it's almost always been a man who dissed a woman or women. I can't count the time I have seen this happen in committee meetings, department meetings, etc. as well as in groups at social events. I don't think I've ever seen a woman challenge the move either, and that's particular remarkable because women were always in the majority in professional settings.

Terri Osburn said...

Not that this is the same thing, but I'm almost never intimidated into silence by a man, and this has led to awkward moments.

At a formal company dinner, dominated by men, one particularly loud man was telling a story. I knew where he was going and got the punch line in my head long before he said it. Unfortunately, I also let it come out of my mouth, steeling his thunder.

I did it without thinking, and got some very unhappy looks from the men at the table. But the one woman, who happened to be a VP and my boss, nearly choked on her wine laughing so hard.

I just never got the "He's a man, let him talk" thing.

Maureen said...

Janga, I think that fringing by choice is different than being fringed.

You know, I'm gonna need to make up a card for this word. Show how it's used as a verb, a noun...etc.

I'm obviously missing something in my group dynamics. Men.

I'm not sure I care...

irisheyes said...

Very interesting observations! I've been focused lately on the whole introverts vs. extroverts thing. I have one of each in my children and am trying to help the introvert feel comfortable in his skin while teaching the extrovert to tone it down a bit. I've tried to teach her not to be one of those obnoxious people that walk into a convo and derail it and focus all the attention on her, cause it's in her nature to do so. It's quite amusing to hear her talk about all the girls in her HS whose mother's didn't have that same conversation with. LOL

I'm an introvert and couldn't blend into the woodwork fast enough when I was a teen - low self esteem to the max. Now I am comfortable with who I am and would just rather observe than participate most of the time. When the fringing thing does happen to me I just excuse myself quietly and either find someone else to talk to or go back to observing. And what I do observe is the obnoxious people doing the fringing don't really last long and lose their audience pretty quickly. The unintential fringers try to include me back into the convo. It's all karma - what goes around comes around. The bottom line is that I'm happy with whatever happens cause like Terri pointed out I pick my battles very carefully these days and fighting extroverts with excessive personalities isn't a battle I need or want to fight these days.

I also don't deal with it in the workplace, though. If something like what Janga was talking about occurred I might get ornery enough to stand up and say something. I'm much more tolerant of it in the unintential fringer than the obnoxious know-it-all fringer. LOL

Maureen said...

I always love how the intentional fringer does often leave the group...the minute someone more 'important' strolls by.

The fringing that goes on in high school is just wa-a-a-a-a-a-ay harsh. Good for you for keeping an eye on it.

Good Mom Award to Irish!

irisheyes said...

I'm not sure if it is harder to parent a child who is your exact opposite or the same personality as you. I find challenges with both of them. :)

My daughter shares a lot of her father's personality traits. So, I figured as her mother I could tone down some of the more obnoxious ones. LOL My DH happens to be the unintentional conversation hijacker. He does it ALL THE TIME. It has gotten to the point where we have signals that I give him (a look, a hand on his back, a word) that lets him know he needs to shut up and move away from the group. It's one of those things that he knows he does and when he's diligent he watches himself, but then he gets all excited about something and there he goes. So I'm his watchdog. And I've tried to explain to my daughter how there are certain behaviors she has to guard against being the personality type she is.

I always tried to be nice and positive, but always wondered if I was giving her the wrong impression - like maybe she should try to be someone she's not. All my fears have been put to rest in the past couple of years, though. She has found my advice very valuable as she has navigated the social pitfalls of high school.

irisheyes said...

Oh, and thanks for the compliment, Maureen!

Terri Osburn said...

Irish, I may need you to have a chat with kiddo to help her navigate high school. :)

Maureen said...

My DH does that. His enthusiasm soars over a conversation and he misses all the clues... But at least he tends to laugh about it.

And better she hear advice given in a calm and easy fashion than finding herself smacked with a label that is hard to get away from in high school. Things are so black and white in high school.

JulieJustJulie said...

Fascinating discussion ... Makes me wonder ... How many people feel like they are an inhabitant of fringe? Even if they are in the " in " group. Because people are so different on the inside, I would think that anyone who was blessed ( or cursed ) with a large dose of self knowing would feel like a fringer.
Or maybe that's just my view of life? Because I'm blessed ( or cursed ) with with a large dose of self knowing and I've always known that I am on the fringe. And I'm cool with that.

Janga said...

Ter, I love that you stole the punch line. LOL

My department head for many years was a sweet, soft-spoken man, a Southern gentleman to his finger tips. The only time I ever heard him raise his voice was in attempts to regain control of meetings from a couple of bulldozer personalities and often these incidences occurred when a bulldozer had drowned out the voice of a female colleague. It also drove me crazy to see some of the women in the department, including a couple who were nationally recognized scholars in their fields, preface their comments when they were allowed to speak with words such as "This may sound stupid but . . ." or "I apologize if I missed the point but . . ." (And I know I've wandered from Maureen's topic a bit. I apologize--sincerely.)

JulieJustJulie said...

"I need to design some buttons… Any suggestions for our slogan? "
Like I posted last night on FB ... I have A Theory ... a theory about why a sculpture has something missing ... And why that missing piece, in my mind at least, is a sad reminder that woman had more power 3000 years ago than they do today. Yep. I have a picture in mind. It's subtle and obvious at the same time. Just like well ... Any fringer.

Maureen said...

Oh, yeah. When it comes to what I write, I live on the fringe. Period. I know it, I embrace it. So, you bet. Some of us are very aware of the borderlands of the fringe and happily exist there.