Imagine with me for a few moments …
Imagine you are an alien. This is a recent discovery for you. All of your life you knew there was something different about you, pieces that didn’t quite fit with what others said about themselves, about what they expected of you. An innate wrongness. A jutting fragment that would not fit in the smooth places of the world.
A few years ago, you met someone. When you spoke with them, you understood another entity for the first time and, for the first time, you were understood. For the first time, your thoughts had a place of belonging. It was with this other that you found peace. After spending many hours with them, you understood; they felt like coming home, like belonging, like refuge because they, too, were alien.
The two of you spoke of your alien culture together. You quietly sought others of your species, quietly, because though you knew there were others, there were also xenophobes – and in far greater numbers – who vehemently disapproved of aliens. You learned to wear discreet symbols of your alien lineage. You learned to look for those symbols being worn by others. Soon you felt less alone.
You learned of meetings, where aliens sat among the resident species, and spoke in hushed tones about all things alien, over local cuisine. You found a discreet club, hidden in an industrial neighborhood, run by and attended exclusively by aliens. Every time you went it was like a mini vacation. You didn’t have to hide who you were there. It was the one place you could fully be yourself around others. For a while it was enough. Those few hours were all you needed to be able to breathe the foreign air on a daily basis.
Then you attended a massive alien gathering. It was held in a hotel run by natives who understood aliens, who did not look at you out of the corner of their eye, as if you were ill and what you had might be catching. Aside from hotel employees, the only other beings present were alien and there were hundreds of them.
There were slightly different dialects spoken, some different customs, unique symbols worn and yet, everyone attending, everyone, was alien. There were classes about aspects of alien life, special sects, which you could attend if you wished. If you did not wish to attend a formal class, there was much to be learned in the common areas, simply by sitting and listening to the swirl of conversation.
There was no hiding. No worries about whether the alien clothing you love so dearly would pass with the natives, no hiding it under native clothes. You practiced your alien customs, in public, not behind closed doors like a dirty secret. You could be your entire self, out in the open, and you were, for days on end, and it was glorious and you reveled in it.
When you went home, your native name sounded odd. You had to remind yourself, when you heard it, that it was you who was being addressed. You were disoriented, almost feeling drunk. For a while your home environment felt wrong, for a while, until you adjusted and remembered that it is you who are wrong.
With a heavy heart, you put away all of your alien belongings. Each piece a reminder that alien gatherings are temporary, that you are still an alien living among the natives, that you, once again, must hide as many of your alien traits as you possibly can. That if a nefarious individual spots you, exposes you as alien, jobs can be lost, children can be removed from the home, unrectifiable damage will be done.
You pull your sleeves down and wear long pants, covering the evidence left by alien rituals, covering the marks that only hours ago you had been displaying with pride, now covering the instigation of questions, of sideways glances, of “my god are you ok?”, of “what happened to you?”.
This, this is the reality of living the lifestyle. This is what “con drop” is about. The unfettered joy of being immersed in an environment where you are entirely free to be yourself. Being immersed just long enough to settle into the rhythm of who you are, only to be told it’s time to leave.
All encompassing environments are remarkable. All things being equal, I would travel from conference to gathering to event and never go home. It is the going home that hurts. If you have the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to partake. Find an event where the entire hotel is bought out for the event and the only folks there, aside from staff, are in the lifestyle. The freedom is like nothing found at munches or dungeons or an hour or two at a house party.
Attend a multi-day event. Before you go, stock the cupboards at home with comfort food, buy bubble bath, put your closest lifestyle friends on speed dial. Know that coming home will be more difficult than you can comprehend, and go anyway, as often as possible. Have plans to put yourself back in the natives box, knowing that the lid will never fit quite as tightly as before. Go. Be who you are.