On “mean peers”

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Master P! Can you help me with something…? There’s this art I want to learn, but, the Laurels who do it are snobs. They’re hoity toity. They’re unapproachable. What should I do?”

A reply from the Minister:

Let me try this. I’ll start with my reply, but then, add two stories to help illustrate my thoughts.

First, where are these assumptions coming from?

How do you know someone is a snob? How do you know they are hoity toity? How do you know they are unapproachable?

Where’s that coming from?

Is it because of the way they dress? Because they wear fancy dress-up Court clothing all the time? Is it because of whom they hang out with? Because they might be serving on the Crown’s retinue? Is it because of how they talk? How they laugh? How they smile?

Are you projecting something about their behavior?

Could it be how you were raised? Or the social norms you grew up with? Were you taught it was inappropriate to talk to others first? Were you raised to show respect by not approaching people in charge? Do you have cultural inhibitions playing a part of how you see others?

Is something else influencing you?

It could be your own biases coming into it. Your own prejudices. Your own past experiences interfering with your opportunities to learn. Or it could be the influence of your friends or your household. All of that could be coming into it when you judge someone as a snob or as unapproachable.

So, maybe try this?

Pause for a moment.

Be careful making judgments about people you don’t know. Be cautious making assumptions about people you’ve never even talked to. Or maybe only talked to once. Or just met in passing. First impressions can also be misleading.

Think about where these judgments are coming from. Maybe this has nothing to do with the Laurel at all. And maybe it has to do with your past experiences.

Remember, Laurels are people too. And, really, all Peers, at the end of the day, are people.

We might have bad days. We might have a frowns on our faces. We might have a headache. We might say the wrong thing. We might stick our feet in our mouths. We might make mistakes. We might have personalities that don’t match. We might have trouble making eye contact. We might be self-conscious. We might have imposter syndrome.

We’re people. We’re not perfect.

But for all that? We do try.

We love the arts and sciences. We love learning. We love teaching. We love building our communities.

So, give us a chance. Get past the assumptions and the pre-conceived notions. And share in the arts and sciences with us.

Here. Let me share some personal examples now. A couple of stories.

Story 1.

Me? I know that people call me snobbish, or hoity toity, or unapproachable. And it makes me sad. Because I try very hard to be friendly.

I also really like to dress up. It is one of the reasons I am in the SCA. And something I have done from the very very beginning of my SCA activity. I like pretty fancy clothing. I have spent lots of time researching my garments. I have spent lots of effort assembling my clothes. My friends have spent a good deal of effort making clothing for me. And I have searched out merchants who can help me with my look, too.

And, yes, just because I dress this way, people can find me unapproachable. These are people who have never even talked to me. I’ve not done anything, except dress up.

Story 2.

I was new to the East. Sure, I moved in as a Peer into the Kingdom. But I still didn’t know anyone. I was always self-conscious about fitting in. I was always worried people wouldn’t like me. (Sometimes I still am!) I was always afraid to meet people.

I remember seeing Mistress Eloise Coulter at events. She always looked impeccable. Her kit was perfection. Her composure always maintained. The more I learned about her the more impressed I was by her. She was a Landed Baroness. She was a Laurel and Pelican. She had decades of service and artistic contributions to the Kingdom. She was one of the best scribes in the Kingdom. She was the epitome of “The Dream” to me.

And I found her completely unapproachable.

Was that her fault? No. Not at all. It was wholly on me. It was my peer fear. My insecurities. My issues.

Thankfully, a common friend eventually introduced us. And I learned that she’s quite remarkable as a person. And one of the people I am most thankful to know. I’m sad that my inhibitions didn’t give us a chance to be friends earlier.

So?

Let’s give each other a try. Let’s forgive ourselves for making assumptions. Let’s forgive each other for having the occasional bad day. And let’s figure out how we can pursue awesome artistic adventures together.

Not sure how to go about it?

Walk up and say hello at an event. Let them know what you’re interested in. And ask about when you could talk more. They might be busy already! So, give them a chance to make another time to talk more.

Send an email! Introduce yourself and share with them what you’re interested in. Ask if they can help, or, if there is someone they think might be better to assist you.

Attend one of their classes and use that as a chance to meet them. Teachers expect to meet people while teaching. So, if you’re worried about being an imposition, this could be a great place to get past that issue.

Ask a friend to introduce you. Or maybe one of the local A&S officers. Or really ask anyone to help you. Get an introduction so that you don’t have to do it on your own.

You’re waning to learn. They may want to teach you. But, they can’t know unless you say something. Give it a chance! It may not work. But at least you have tried!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.