Furry Fiesta post-con report

I’m writing this having just gotten home after attending Texas Furry Fiesta 2020 in Dallas (I live in Dallas, so I’m local, makes it super easy to attend). I feel like I need to get this off my chest in some fashion other than just talking about it piecemeal to various individuals online. There are things in this that are kind of embarrassing for me to share because I don’t want people to look at me like I’m a danger to myself or I require constant sympathy or everyone has to constantly try to keep me engaged and entertained or whatever. I just… I want to share this because I feel like there’s something important here.

First off, the con staff did an excellent job. The con itself was great. I have no complaints of any real consequence. Sure, there are things that I wish were better, like the line ride for the elevator, but that’s just the nature of a convention so I don’t hold it against anyone. I attended from Thursday night to Sunday night. Next year, I’d like to try to get Monday off work as well so I can stay Sunday night too. It’s an environment I really do wish I could get more of.

I was offered space in a hotel room by someone I was once in a relationship with. We decided it would be best if we just stayed friends and the separation was amicable. I try my best not to make things awkward around them and I’m not entirely sure if I’m successful. I never have anything said to me about it so I have to assume everything’s fine. They fill the other two slots in the room with friends of theirs, who I really only know through said Ex. We’ll call them Green Bean for the time being, just because I’d like to avoid naming names so I’m less apt to cause a kerfuffle.

Thursday night went down without any real hiccups. It’s become a tradition that Green Bean and I take a group of their friends to a local restaurant that’s perhaps 15 minutes from the con hotel if you take the toll road. Problem: the group, with me included, is six, and my car only fits five legally. Green Bean decides to just climb in the trunk (I have an SUV so it’s not like he’s getting kidnapped or anything) and while I’m uneasy about this, it’s kind of sprung last minute and I just roll with it because I don’t like to make waves or cause a problem.

We get to the place, we have a lovely dinner, we come back, everything’s fine. I still felt rather uneasy on the road both on the way there and on the drive back. The car isn’t meant to handle that many people. I could feel the suspension struggling to hold up. I could feel how difficult it was to respond to other vehicles on the road. I couldn’t stop as briskly without risking hurting Green Bean back in the trunk. I was all nerves. I was glad it was over when we got back and hoped it wouldn’t have to be done again.

The next day, I spent a pretty sizable chunk of time just kind of following Green Bean around since I didn’t really know anyone else who wasn’t on staff. I encountered a few people here and there and it was great seeing them, but the interactions lasted for MAYBE a few minutes before they had to fly off to put out fires or get ready for a panel. So, I just kind of stuck with Green Bean so I wouldn’t be alone. Again, we’re still friends… and I’m trying to not let it be awkward. Because awkward is just kind of my default state. I recognize that perhaps, maybe, just maybe… they might want to spend time with friends of theirs without random awkward blue dragon constantly following them around like a lost puppy, so I try to go entertain myself, get some proofing/writing done, which I do.

Friday passes fairly easily, no real problems, I attend the furry psychology panel and it’s entertaining and informative. I even fill out a survey since it’s been a while since last I’d done one. Time comes to start preparing for second tradition, to gather Green Bean and a few of their friends so we can go to dinner at a different place. This one’s a significantly greater distance away along the same toll road. In Dallas. On a Friday night. I’m not entirely looking forward to the drive itself, but I intend to be careful and not go looking for trouble. We meet up in the hotel room to plan things out, when we hope to leave by and what not. There is discussion about who all is going and it’s sounding like it’s going to be another situation like Thursday night: more people than the car is legally rated for.

I try to express my desire to not do that again in as friendly and kindly a manner as I’m able. I feel like I make the point well enough and let the matter drop, thinking that we’ll have a second car. Apparently I failed to get that point across, because when I get down to the front of the hotel and get my car pulled around, I hear that we’ve got a group of SEVEN interested in going, myself included. Yeah, I’m bougie like that, I valet my car at a furry con… because parking is a nightmare and if you park in general parking, then move your car, you aren’t getting another spot again, period so you better just park it and leave it, and I didn’t wanna pay for an uber. That shit’s expensive, especially for a group that big, going that far. I have to put my foot down on the matter because Green Bean insists that it’ll be fine if two of them ride in the trunk. I’m extremely not okay with this.

But… I’m also out in the car, parked in the front of the hotel, taking up space while others need to get in and out, and I’m just feeling like a giant jerk waiting on my group and not moving. So I eventually just tell them to bring everyone and I’ll have to be unhappy about it. I got that off a little too late and see that we’re only going to have five. We all get in, doors closed, seat belts buckled, we’re ready to go, and I’m already feeling like a fucking heel for having to force two people to stay behind. Yeah, there was no second car. I thought there would be, but there wasn’t. Lovely. I get to be the bad guy who’s scared of getting in trouble (no, I don’t want to have the responsibility of trying to keep everyone safe ON A TOLL ROAD, IN DALLAS, ON A FRIDAY NIGHT, in a car that has had its performance compromised by being overloaded).

I don’t know what was said. I don’t know how those two friends felt about being left out. I don’t know if they hate me know. I don’t know if this is going to damage my friendship with Green Bean. I’m already on edge and unhappy about the whole situation. Then one of Green Bean’s friends says “alright, at least everyone is safe” in a tone that is clearly meant to be sarcastic and snarky, as a joke. That really rubbed me the wrong way and I was five seconds away from telling them to get out of the car. Instead, I apologize–perhaps a little rudely–saying that it was my fault because I didn’t want to put seven people in a car for five. It doesn’t seem to help the situation.

We get on the road, I’m driving, trying my best to navigate the nightmare that is Dallas traffic on a Friday night, and we get to the toll road and I settle in for the long trek up north of town. Everything is pretty quiet. There are a few YouTube videos being watched in the back seat. The same friend makes another ‘safe’ joke and it’s making me bristle all over again. I don’t say anything because I don’t want to be the jerk that ruins everyone’s good time… I’ve already harshed the buzz of at least two people, and I certainly don’t know how Green Bean is feeling towards me at that moment. For all I know, everyone in the car is already looking at me like the jerk-face dad who doesn’t like the kids do what they wanna do because he’s a square. Normally I wouldn’t care about what someone thinks about me, especially if I only know them through someone else… but when I’m getting flak for trying to be safe, not just with my life and my car, but the lives of those trusting me to not get them killed… I get really agitated.

We get to the place, I park, we all get out and start walking in. Green Bean’s friend acknowledges that they might have gone a little far with their style of humor with a comment about how they might not have a ride back if they pisses me off too bad. They’re not wrong. The whole way up, I’m brooding and smoldering, going over potential scenarios of how I should defend myself if they decide to get snarky again, up to and including potentially telling them to just get an Uber back. Thankfully, it never comes to that.

The meal happens, everyone is satisfied, we get back in the car and drive back to the hotel. I go walking around for a little while, then go back to the room, get settled in for the night, and go to bed. Green Bean and I never discuss the matter. Perhaps they don’t think it needs to be discussed. I don’t know. I don’t want to bring it up for fear that it will be perceived as nothing but drama and that’s kiiiiinda why we stopped being in a relationship. The term ‘antics’ was used to describe how I behave sometimes. They probably didn’t mean it insultingly… but it’s stuck with me and really made me question how I act towards others. Being me is super fun…

The next morning, I wake up, do my morning routine, go down to get breakfast (this time just a prepackaged bowl of cereal, a thing of milk, and a disappointing bottle of apple juice… I’m so damn spoiled on apple juice… Martinelli is just the best). I even take the time to do some proofing while I’m eating. It goes well enough. After about an hour, I get up and start wandering again. I start working on catching up with a couple of people I know, one of them being a friend I’ve known for a pretty good while. We’ll call them Purple Puma (I’ll bet they’d get a kick out of that). I manage to track them down and have a brief conversation with them.

Purple Puma have any real time to hang out because there’s an event they’re going to be a part of and it requires significant prep time, pretty much all day. I don’t take this personal because… well… only a jackass would. This is something they’ve been prepping for over the last two months (maybe longer) and they aren’t going to back out of it just to hang out with me. That wouldn’t be fair to them for me to expect that. I figure I can catch up with someone else, maybe do lunch with someone, maybe wander about, chat, just hang out. I get lunch at the food truck, not having anyone to do it with. I wander more. I sit down and do some more proofing. I wander some more. Everyone I encounter I have a perfunctory conversation with, either because they’re about to go do something, or because they’re staff and as such they are currently on fire. I do get a little face time with Green Bean, but we eventually get separated and I’m on my own again. I didn’t exactly try super hard to catch back up because… again… constantly following one’s Ex around wherever they go… seems a little desperate and a little pathetic. I figure they’d like to do their own thing and expect me to do the same.

The previous night’s incident is still weighing on me. I’ve not had anyone yell at me or express their displeasure with my decision as “captain of the ship”… yeah I was totally ready to whip that little nugget out… pretty stupid, right? I’ve not actually had an altercation, and yet I still feel like absolute shit about it. Then I get hit with another realization. I’ve been getting interaction with people strictly because I encounter them as part of Green Bean’s circle, or Purple Puma’s for that matter. I don’t have a circle of my own. I’m alone. Quite literally alone. In a sea of furries, I’m all on my own.

I encounter a few people who chat me up a bit, then we go our separate ways again because I’m slipping into a less than great mood and I don’t want to let anyone see me in said mood for too long. And it’s only getting worse because… I’m actively seeking to isolate myself now, compounding the feelings of being alone–it’s a vicious cycle at this point. I go up to the hotel room twice. The first time, I go up just to take a nap, thinking I just didn’t get enough sleep. I’m there for an hour, then head back down, get sucked into feelings of isolation among the throngs of people again, feel myself starting to crumble again, and head back up. I’m on the verge of tears at this point and I need somewhere private to break down without anyone seeing me and worrying how I’m doing.

I get to the room thinking I’m safe… and one of our roommates is there. Fuck.

I put on a facade and just flop down onto the bed, hoping maybe I can just nap through this horrid thought spiral I’m in. The roommate doesn’t seem to notice, which I’m thankful for, but I can’t hold it together. After about ten minutes or so, I get up and go sequester myself in the bathroom. There’s virtually no sound isolation there so I have to keep as quiet as possible lest the roommate hears me. I start sobbing as quietly as I possibly can, lost in a vortex of negative thoughts pulling me downward deeper and deeper.

Why are you here? You don’t really know anyone, and the people you do know aren’t around to hang out because they’re doing more important things than entertaining -you-. It’s arrogant of you to think that anyone would want to spend any time around -you- especially when you get this way. You’re a loser. You don’t belong here. You aren’t furry enough. You aren’t cool enough. You aren’t nerdy enough. You exist solely on the periphery of others’ social circles and you lift out so easily and cleanly that no one would notice if you vanished. You should just vanish. Go pack up your things and go home. Pay Green Bean for all of the nights you intended to stay, and just go. No one will miss you. Just leave. That’s what you should do. Everyone else is having a good time, but not you. You can’t have a good time, even though you ought to be able to. You don’t belong here. You never did and you never will.

I’m starting to well up a bit just thinking back over those moments of emotional weakness. And it makes me feel so completely broken that I can scarcely understand how I function. It’s another little thing about myself that makes me wonder how anyone could stand being in a relationship with me. Hell it make me wonder how anyone could stand being friends with me, and it leaves me to conclude that breaking up with Green Bean was indeed a very wise decision to protect them from my self-destructive thoughts. It’s another aspect to my self-esteem issues that kind of helps to perpetuate the belief that I don’t deserve social contact with others, let alone physical contact, let alone romantic interest.

Anyway, I spend way too long in the bathroom, desperate to conceal the evidence that I’ve been crying, and I come back out, flop down on the bed and try to take another nap. Sleep never takes me and I keep stewing in my own awful thoughts. It’s so unpleasant when I get stuck there. I don’t know how to get out. I tweet out awful things, not realizing “oh yeah, people can see that”. I tweeted out things the night before expressing how upset I was about the seven in five situation, then ultimately deleted them some time later. The things I tweeted while I was in this funk, I did end up deleting later, but not until several hours later.

Since I so desperately want to just be alone, I get back up after having spent an hour in the hotel room, grab my laptop and headphones, then head down to the lobby in search of somewhere to just sit out of the way of everyone, somewhere relatively quiet, and somewhere with access to the hotel wifi. I find a spot, plunk myself down, and start watching YouTube. I’ve got me a big long playlist of stuff I’ve been meaning to watch, and I think I’m just gonna watch ALL OF IT. No one’s looking for me. No one wants to see me. Everyone’s busy. I have nowhere I’m expected or want to be. I could just go home and watch it there, but that would require me to leave, and that would potentially raise questions that I don’t want to answer. I just want to disconnect from everything and everyone.

During all of this, while watching YouTube, I start following some darker thoughts. Half of it is I’m kind of not-seriously flirting with the notion and the other half is just straight up morbid curiosity because writer brain doesn’t let me let go of things sometimes until I answer the question. I start looking up what a lethal dose of Benadryl would be. I had bought some to help me sleep since… I sleep poorly in a new bed, no matter what. And I’m in a not great place mentally. The whole “you should just go home, you don’t belong here” through line takes me to thinking I should just dedicate myself to work, live to work, give in to the cult of work, have nothing but work to live for. And that sucks so much ass. So then I ask myself why? To what point and purpose? To save up and do something special? Why bother? What’s the point? Which I’m sure a lot of you can recognize as a very troubling line of thought. Let me assure you, I do not have any serious ideation of that kind. There are brief flashes of “what if” that trigger the writer brain to follow the line just because it needs a conclusion to the story.

My research takes me to a few medical reports/journals about actual cases of someone overdosing on the active ingredient in Benadryl… then I find something truly disturbing.

There’s a website that discusses methods of suicide specifically for the purpose of helping those who are seeking a means to commit. I won’t mention the name of the website because I don’t want to give anyone an outlet to such a harmful place, rather I’d prefer you seek help to keep on living rather than figure out how to end it. I’m truly disturbed by the fact that this place exists and I found the discovery to be rather effective at driving me away from such thoughts.

But not before finding out how many pills constitutes a lethal dose. It’s pretty high, but not impossibly so. I don’t see myself getting anywhere close to that since I only ever take Benadryl once every four hours at most. The fact that there’s such detailed information really leave me feeling rather uneasy. Now I have a whole other set of reasons to be unhappy.

Then, I get a DM over on Twitter from someone I had not expected to reach out. We’ll call this individual Pretzel Kitty… I’m not terribly creative with these names. If you knew who all three of these people were, you’d probably look at me and say “Really? That’s the best you can do?” yup, that’s the best I can do. I suck at names.

They offer to hang out, likely from having seen my rather desperate sounding tweets. I thank them for their kindness, because it is a show of extraordinary kindness that they offer. I’ve known of this person for a while. I rather like what they do. They likely have people pulling them in a hundred different directions in places like conventions, so to have an offer to hang out is rather extraordinary, especially since we only really properly introduced ourselves to one another at a party not all that long ago. I still considered myself to be something of a complete stranger, just some rando they bumped into at the party. As I mentioned, I thank them for their kindness but caution that I’m in a bit of a mood and would likely not be terribly good company.

Pretzel Kitty persists, leaving something of an open invitation. I resume watching YouTube. This goes on for some time, at least an hour. By then, I’m feeling a little less self-destructive… because YouTube is a marvelous distraction, keeping me from focusing too heavily on how much I hate myself. I put the laptop to sleep and get up and start wandering around again. Once I was feeling better, I reached back out to Pretzel Kitty, letting them know that I’ve managed to claw my way out of the foul spiral I had found myself in and wouldn’t mind having some company to chat with. Unfortunately, Pretzel Kitty is actually about to go to a panel, but they invite me along. So I attend.

The panel is entertaining and helps me further tell my brain to STFU for a while. God my brain fucking hates me. I wait for the panel to end to catch up with Pretzel Kitty, but they’re about to go to a party for a while. They suggest they’ll only be there an hour or so, but by that point it’s close to eleven at night (if not already after, can’t rightly recall). I say by the time that hour’s up, I’ll probably be in bed (mainly because I want to be considerate to everyone else in the room and not come in super late and wake everyone up) so we part ways.

I head up to the room thinking everyone will already be there, wondering where I went and why I’ve been gone so long. Nope, I’m literally the only person there. Suddenly I kind of feel like I’m the boring dork who literally has no social life. I mean, honestly, that tracks. Purple Puma’s even has long been over, but they’re cooling down from it and likely at a party, no doubt enjoying some alcoholic libations (which I do not partake in) so I wouldn’t dream of imposing on them just to become a wallflower. Green Bean has gone I know not where, I just hope they’re having a good time. Twitter would suggest they are, so that’s good.

I spend a little while on my laptop, just kind of doing nothing, reading through twitter, checking on the South Carolina Primary because I enjoy hurting myself, and just dinking around online. After a while, I get a message on telegram from someone else, we’ll call this person Bean Pupper. They’re only coming in for the night (and possibly the next day). I’ve known them for a few years. I even got them interested in Steven Universe. They’re headed to the hotel and would like to see me. Since it’s been so long since last I saw them, I don’t see any reason to say no. No one’s in the room, so it’s not like I’ll end up disturbing anyone. So I let them know that sure, I’d like to see them, and that I’ll be down in the lobby in a bit.

We meet up, hang out for a bit, then Bean Pupper starts running around trying to catch up with other friends of theirs because they won’t have much opportunity to see them. Keep in mind, it’s just about at midnight at this point, so many are winding down, many are at parties, many are at dances, etc. When Bean Pupper runs off, I give Pretzel Kitty a message via telegram since they were kind enough to exchange contact info since twitter DM’s kiiiinda suck. I let them know “hey, actually I stayed up later than I expected to see a friend, if you wanna hang out and chat, I’m not zonked yet”… I’m paraphrasing.

Pretzel Kitty says “oh hey, I’m actually free” and we hook up to hang out for a while. I get to spend time with them while they enjoy a new little something they’ve been eager to get their paws on (at least I think it’s new, I don’t know how long they’ve had it but it seems to be relatively recent). I end up getting to meet and chat with not just Pretzel Kitty but a couple of other people from their circle. PK continues to introduce me as “This is Smokey, we met at X party a while back, they’re cool” which… kiiiiinda blows me away a bit. As a kid who was always the outcast, constantly bullied and made fun of through all of my childhood and never really made any lasting friendships through high school or college (save maybe one or two but contact is sparse)… I’m not used to being described in such positive terms.

Hell, I’m still not used to being described as physically attractive. A couple of people have taken to doing exactly that and I still don’t know entirely how to respond to it. I get flustered and can’t think of how I should reply, not even to be thankful for the compliment. I don’t want to come off as narcissistic, but I don’t want to be dismissive of compliments either. I just… all I can think to say to such things is something like “you’re far too kind to say that” or “thank you for the kind words” which… kinda feels a little hollow to me but… I’m still new to proper social interaction. I can put on a mask and act like I know what I’m doing, I can front pretty good… to an extent. But it’s just an act. Deep down, I’m struggling to not make it weird or fanboy at someone or become “hey remember -insert pop culture reference-” just to have something to talk about.

The whole interaction is very much a positive one. Everyone is friendly, silly, and it feels like there’s no real guard being kept up, like everyone’s just kind of free and open. It’s nice. I feel like I’ve made a few friends beyond just Pretzel Kitty since… we’re chatting on telegram now and they’re saying things like we should hang out sometime outside the con… which… oh my, that’s kind of huge for me. The whole night from about 9ish onward has been a gradual upward trend. I’m feeling incredibly stupid for having let myself get so wrapped up in my own negativity. I’ve wasted nearly a whole day of con time that I could have spent far more happily.

Hell, there was even some physical affection (nothing untoward, just hugs and a few back scratches… which… casual platonic physical affection… highly underrated, I dig that hard core, I’m super touch starved from a lifetime of being stifled… because “boys don’t do that”). I head back up to the room at 1:30 or 2 in the morning, somewhere around there, and I end up going to bed feeling far better than I did the last time I was trying to make myself sleep.

I wake up the next morning and head down after Green Bean has left, but before the others, and I get breakfast. I end up with another familiar face sitting down next to me, we eat, we chat, we catch up a bit, then we go about our day. I see tweets from Purple Puma and catch up with them. We chat, we hang out, we wander about as I learn how their event went down (spoilers, many things kind of exploded all over the place, but they just kept going so that’s some serious determination). I end up meeting a few of Purple Puma’s friends whom I’ve not met before… or if I have I don’t recall when or where. They’re still friendly enough and I’m finding we share enough interests in common that I can converse rather easily with them. We even have compatible senses of humor.

Purple Puma invites me to go to lunch with them and one of said friends. We had to Deep Elum and get amazing bar-be-que, then make a terrible choice in that we got beignets after, which were delicious, but oh my god far too much food. We wandered a bit, then headed back to the con. At that point, Purple Puma kinda goes off to see friends again, and I spot Pretzel Kitty and crew. I decide to say hello and offer them my last beignet because two have been sacrificed to the altar of gluttony, but I cannot do the last one. Conversation happens, people flow in and out of the conversation. This lasts for an hour or two, and it’s just so damn chill and enjoyable to feel like I can just be. It’s far better than where I was the previous day.

Eventually, it’s getting dark and I decide I probably should look at heading home. I go back to the room, get my stuff, and go down to get my car after saying a few goodbyes. All in all, this turned out to be a better convention than I thought it would be on Saturday.

I do not fault anyone for what happened to me. Green Bean is not to blame, nor are any of their friends. This is solely my own broken-ass brain making me hate myself for reasons that when you’re stuck in the spiral make total sense, but when you get out, seem like utter nonsense. I definitely need to seek professional help, but then I knew that already. I also recognize that I need to develop friendships of my own, not just rely on the circles of others. I need to figure out hang out time with others, not just exist to get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, rinse, repeat. I really really need to keep away from that cycle. I lived it for several years back at ‘the bad place’ (previous awful job).

I need to somehow convince myself that I’m worthy of kindness and friendship… even affection. I got a little taste of that this convention. Ever since Green Bean and I decided to just be friends, I’ve kind of avoided the idea of entering into a new relationship of any kind. I just never really felt like I could be a good boyfriend and it was always just a matter of doing my best not to fuck up. Kinda like how I feel at work. Which is probably a rather unhealthy way of looking at it… treating a relationship like I treat my job, just trying to make sure I don’t get fired.

I don’t want to get my hopes to high about the connections I’ve made, but I’ve got a couple of telegram contacts added thanks to the con. I’ve got potential hang out invitations. I’ve got a few people who actually introduce me as “This is Smokey, he’s cool.”

I’ve never really felt cool before. Not in the years that I was doing a podcast. Not in the years that I’ve been writing or even selling my writing. Not while I was on con staff. Not while I was a fencer. Not while I was in my high school’s sci fi club. Especially not while I was unemployed for 18-ish months. I’ve hung out with Purple Puma a fair bit, and they make me feel pretty at ease, even like they want me around. Unfortunately, I still get in my own way a lot and feel like I’m kind of this awkward lost puppy just trying too hard to fit in. I’d like to think Purple Puma thinks I’m cool but they’ve been so on fire so often because of convention related responsibilities that they’ve been rather in need of decompression for a long time. And I can’t blame them. And I wouldn’t expect them to allocate an allotment of time (of which they have so little free amounts of these days… because life) just to chat with me and tell me that they think I’m neat. Maybe I should go out of my way to tell others in my life that I think their neat. I probably don’t do that nearly enough, and I really should.

I don’t entirely know what I did to make others see me as cool, but… folks think I’m cool. It feels nice… even though I’m still not entirely convinced that I am cool.

I’m working on it. At least it’s being said and I get to hear it. That does wonders for my self-hating brain.