It's that time of year again, which some hail as a time for romance and others call a "Hallmark Holiday." I know many people that place an unnecessary amount of importance on Valentine's Day, and others that don't care for it much at all. My personal opinion is that it's very easy to show your love throughout the year and a fake holiday really shouldn't be more important than any other day. A bouquet of flowers on February 14th shouldn't make up for not showing exceptional love the rest of the year, but we often let ourselves get away with being lazy with love in the off season and then kicking it up a notch on birthdays, V-day, and Chistmas. Still, as someone that thinks in symbolism and is a romantic at heart, there is some allure to a time of year dominated by heart-shaped boxes, flowers, sweet words, and candy. I don't think anyone gets through Valentine's Day without at least a little introspection in regard to their love life, whether they see it as an important day or not, or whether they are single or in some kind of relationship. With yesterday being the day of year that more relationships end than any other--presumably, a strategic move to prevent having to invest any hard-earned dimes into something that isn't working--it puts us right in between the most unromantic and most romantic days of the year. What better time to think about love?
It is important to note that I am writing this from the perspective of a straight male. As much as U.S. LARP could use more racial diversity, one thing that LARP communities have a great deal of diversity in is lifestyles. One thing my own lifestyle choices are not is diverse, and I recognize that. I don't claim to speak for any group at all in anything I'm saying here, I'm speaking for me and my own experiences. My own relationship background has been one filled with lots of long-term off-and-on things that never really turned into full-fledged relationships, serial dating, and unfulfilled crushes. Sure, there's been relationships in that mix too. Have I ever dated anyone I thought I would end up marrying? Nope. I don't stick around if I see no future in something, and the people that don't stick around for me weren't right either. That is sort of my philosophy. They say the best love is effortless, and no relationship I've ever had was effortless. I'm comfortable saying that because chances are none of my exes or any girl I have dated for enough time that they still occasionally stalk my Facebook page will read this, because none of them have ever been LARPers.
When I first started LARPing, it was closely associated to tabletop games for me. I associate tabletop game nights with something of a poker night. It's a "guy's night" for lack of a better term. Not to say women couldn't be invited, just that it was a night that was totally divorced from any thought of relationships that were not platonic. When I started going to conventions or running LARPs out of my house, I sort of applied the same thoughts to it: This is something I do for fun that I want separate from my love life. I was dating a cheerleader. Her friends once came over and teased us relentlessly as we played D&D. I wanted to date girls like the one I was seeing, and I didn't mind so much at the time that when she asked questions about my hobbies there was awkward silence after I answered. Not long after that had ended, my friends and I were at a football game when LARPing came up, and my friend's recent girlfriend shouted "LARPing? What's that?!" His response came after a short, quiet pause.
"You're not ready yet."
The ultimate, "I don't know how to explain what I do, because I know how ever I explain it you will think it is weird." At the time we were in the 16-19 age range. Immature in many ways, and certainly not sure enough of ourselves to defend our offbeat hobbies, much less wear them as badges of honor.
As we got older, love seemed to take most of us one way or another. All of us to some degree scaled back as our responsibilities increased, including those of us that began building families early. There were no more bi-weekly sessions of Mind's Eye Theater anymore. Some had significant others that didn't really understand, or even hated the hobby enough that they had no choice but to have to make a choice between their relationship and doing something they loved to do. Others specifically dated LARPers, even listing it among one of the favorable qualities they looked for in a man or woman. After dating one girl that thought LARPing was cool but really had no desire to ever do it, I thought I had found the perfect cocktail of interest for me. She understood it, only teased me for it playfully and not in a hurtful way, but also understood that it was sort of my "me" time the same way spending a day with her mother at the spa was for her. While that relationship didn't work out, it did teach me a lot about what I was looking for. In a completely non-scientific poll in asking some of my closer LARPing friends, some among them are in relationships like that now, and they love it.
One friend dated a girl that once said to him she didn't understand why good looking guys wanted to LARP. Another dated a boy where she said, "every LARP weekend was a chore" because turning her cell phone on Sunday afternoon would reveal a slew of texts that included accusations of cheating and things like "I guess you love LARPing more than me." I've been lucky and never had to deal with anything like that; both situations sound taxing and their significant others sound filled with contempt. As one put it, "If you're dating a non-larper don't make them feel like the game comes before them, and if you are dating a larper embrace the hobby you enjoy and share it with each other." Sounds very simple and something any reasonable person would agree with that can be applied to any hobby, but when pop-culture interpretations of what you do include the murder orgies of The Wild Hunt and the half-attempt at a stoner flick of Knights of Badassdom, people can sometimes get ideas. Even if we all know somebody like the king in Role Models, these sort of interpretations don't do much to put our significant others at ease.
Many seem to prefer just tossing aside looking for that cocktail and would rather spend their time LARPing with their significant other. I sometimes envy people that have found relationships at LARPs or who go into a LARP with shared interest together. As I have gotten older, I sometimes think about how much easier it would be to swivel my computer chair towards the couch and have someone to bounce ideas off of because they had intimate knowledge of what I was talking about. I can't speak for any woman, but some have expressed to me (and it is sometimes obviously apparent) that they sometimes feel like fresh meat when they go to a new LARP. Even when they aren't single, it seems that many have often had experiences where people overstep their bounds. This problem exists a lot in subcultures loosely connected to LARP (just ask the female cosplay community) and comes from those that aren't always used to women being a part of their hobby. When one shows up, and is single, it seems like a thousand little light bulbs go off over the heads of many males that suddenly become romantically interested only because of the person's gender and the fact that they are doing something nerdy. This is where the "nice guys" show up that are only content with friendship because they see it as a means to an end, with that end being either the girl in the sack or them pleading with all their niciest-niceguyness to everyone that will listen about how unfair it is that their friend won't go out with them. And that is one reason I tend to avoid approaching women that LARP. It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with not wanting to be one of those guys, the 100 sets of claws that are trying to pounce on the pretty, single, LARP girl. The unfortunate thing is that this has put me off from pursuing women that I thought I could have legitimate connections with. Maybe if they lived closer it'd be easier, but it's hard to ask someone that lives in another state to hang out when 100 other guys in a 100 mile radius are likely doing the same. Confidence is one of my strong suits, but I really don't want to be one of those men that places women in the position of "people that are just there so I can date them," even accidentally.
Is that a weird issue to have? Maybe we are playing psychologist here. All I know is, I have to be really sure about it before I wade into the LARP dating pool at all.
One friend said to me, "In the end I came to the conclusion that dating a LARPer is between two and three million times better than dating a non-LARPer. Essentially, to most LARPers, LARP is a large part of our lives. We talk about it very frequently, we spend tons of time between events preparing for our next weekend getaway and we spend much more money on it than any of us would like. To someone who doesn't LARP, these habits can be rather abrasive. This is largely due to the fact that unlike most other everyday hobbies, LARP can be very difficult to relate to if you've never done it yourself or have no experience with other "nerdy" things. This in turn makes it somewhat difficult for your partner to share in what is generally a large part of a LARPer's life." I agree to some degree, but I do also know that there are large benefits to having a life balance where you and your partner do not necessarily do everything together, but I'm also not the type of person that has LARP at the forefront of their brain or on the tip of their tongue, just waiting to talk about it all the time. In the past that has worked for me, but hey, this Valentine's Day I'm single, so what do I know?
Maybe dating a fellow LARPer is living the dream. For some, it works well. Others prefer to date someone that doesn't show up for their "me" time. I was always the latter, and at some point I moved to start wanting someone that placed more value on the things I did in my free time. But the bottom line is, it really doesn't matter whether they are a LARPer or not. If I find a woman that values similar things to me, I'm attracted to, and can have a good time with, it really doesn't matter if they LARP or not. Is it better to date a LARPer when you LARP? Maybe. You tell me. I'm barely qualified to talk about much of what I have said here, and certainly not qualified to delve into the experience of people with differing lifestyles from my own. Feel free to comment with your own experiences, and from the romantic in me: Happy Valentine's Day.
I'll probably spend mine writing and listening to 90's R&B.