Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guys' Guide: Boyfriends in the Lolita Community

Guys’ Guide: A collection of articles inspired by conversations I’ve had about the lolita subculture with boyfriends, exes, and guy friends in general. These articles can certainly relate to anyone who’s an outside observer to the fashion - of any gender, sex, or sexuality - but are written with boyfriends of female lolitas in mind.

(Nice, polite) Boyfriends are always welcome at lolita meetups!
Lolitas and boyfriends at a recent Connecticut lolita meetup.
My graphic, but not my photos!

Guys’ Guide: The Lolita Community

When they hear about the lolita community, a lot of outsiders are totally blown away. The fact that tens of thousands of people are involved in some of the bigger groups is really shocking to a lot of people, and understandably so. That’s a huge number of rufflebutts, and typically that’s just the English-speaking ones! Add to that the fact that there are so many communities, and all of them have their own social norms and forms of conduct, and it’s enough to make most insiders head into mori-esque sartorial hermitages. Imagine how those who aren’t part of the fashion must feel!

But some of you guys out there might be curious about the fluffy ladies your girlfriend likes to kick around with. Maybe you want to get a better idea of what the title “lolita” implies, or you want to help your lady friends connect with other lolitas in their area. Whatever the reason, you‘ve decided to take the plunge and dive in head-first into the lolita community, local or online. Are you going to receive a welcome warm as bathwater, or the icy shock of dramatic rejection? That all depends on what you know and where you go.

But, first and most importantly...

How does she feel about it?

I mean, this is kind of a stupid question, but... you've talked to her about this already, right? It may seem harmless to you, but I can see a lot of reasons this may cause strife in a relationship. You have to consider that lolita and the lolita community could be a safe space for her (more on that later). It could be where she feels she's allowed to be candid or even affect a persona almost like she's playing a character. Or it could be that the local community has a lot of drama, and she doesn't want you to get your head bitten off and chewed up and spat out like so much meat. Or maybe she participates actively in the drama and is worried you'll judge her for it, like so many guys judge women who like soaps or reality TV. Even if you think she'd be a-okay with it, you should never take the chance; seriously, just run it by her first. If you guys are serious enough that you want to educate yourself on something like this, you should be serious enough to be open with each other on your desire to do so.

The Lolita Community Offline

So you wanna attend a meetup. Or your girlfriend invited you to brunch with her gals. Or you happen to run into a lolita you've met through your lady before. Whatever the reason, the time has come for you to confront lolitas in their natural environment. You may be scared; that's common. We're an intimidating bunch, for all our pearls and bows and frills. But don't worry! Just keep a few simple things in mind.

Kindly do:
  • RSVP beforehand. Some meetups require an attendee count, like those at restaurants or museums, and this is a common courtesy expected of lolitas as well as their +1s.
  • Introduce yourself and start conversations.
  • Compliment people on their outfits.
  • Politely inquire about pieces you find interesting.
  • Talk about things besides clothes. Yes, they're at a fashion meet up, so they probably expect to spends lots of time talking ruffles and bows, but don't let that be a reason not to engage with the group. We're people too, and we tend to have some pretty diverse interests! I'd be surprised if your girlfriend were the only person you had things in common with at a meetup. 
  • Dress appropriately for wherever you're going. A picnic meet up is going to necessitate different gear than a night at the opera. Make sure you know where you're going and that you have something appropriate to wear beforehand. Please don't just wing it and hope for the best.
  • Be yourself! Most lolitas (heck, most people in general) are really quite forgiving when it comes to their friends' lovers. Don't be so afraid of making a faux pas that you come off as that antisocial weirdo (unless, of course, you are an antisocial weirdo. In which case, you'll actually probably be in good company at a lolita meet up).
However, please don't:
  • Compliment someone on their costume. Seriously, just... trust me on this one.
  • Ignore the rules of common courtesy. I think this is the biggest thing, honestly, because like I said, most lolitas are pretty forgiving of others’ boyfriends. At least try to be involved; make conversation, don't sit on your phone the whole time or hang back from the group, and you'll probably make a good impression.
  • Look sloppy. You're obviously exempt from the rules of lolita and no one expects you to be your girlfriend's accessory either, but remember that you're going to spend at least a few hours with people who spend a good amount of time looking at and thinking about clothes. If you want to make a good first impression, that's the best way. (Also, hopefully it goes without saying, but- shower. Deodorize. Brush teeth. Etc.)

And as always, remember; lolitas are just people in fluffy skirts. Whatever you'd expect to annoy anyone else, expect to piss us off, too; whatever most people will let slide, we probably also will. I know it can be nerve-racking, especially if you've heard horror stories about the seedy underbelly of the comms, but really. In person, most lolitas are sweet as pie (we'll probably wait til we're back home to talk our shit about you).

The Lolita Community Online

Your lady friend probably frequents one of many communities (“comms”) online. To be perfect candid: for most guys and most communities, it's best if you just stay away from these.

No. Seriously.

See, here's the thing about the comms. As lolitas, we spend a lot of our public time around people who at best think we're kind of eccentric and at worst think we need serious psychiatric help. When we go out into the world and go about strangers, we get heckled or worse. We're often treated as a living, breathing freak show, in existence simply to amuse and entertain others. Sometimes that's as innocuous as answering endless questions (or the same question endlessly) , and sometimes it gets far more sinister and threatening than that. Most lolitas are used to having our personal space violated in various forms whenever we leave their houses.

The comms, in light of that, are a safe space to many lolitas. They allow us to socialize and connect with each other without having to deal with outsiders. They're private, they're public, they're selective or open- whatever they are, they belong to lolitas. I won't go so far as to say they're sacred, but to many lolitas they're pretty dang important. We're likely to get pretty territorial over them, so it's probably better if you just leave them be.

(Also, can I point out? Allowing boyfriends into comms has the potential to get really awkward or uncomfortable for everyone else. Some girls may feel the need to censor themselves if an 'outsider' is present. It can also make people think you're trying to keep track of your girlfriend's online activities in a way that could be triggering to anyone who's been in an abusive relationship, or could also give fellow members an unflattering opinion of/bad vibe from you. Isn't that the last thing you want from a group of people who're important to your girl?)

I know this seems harsh. I do know plenty of lolita boyfriends who are present and active in the online comms. And I know your interest is probably totally innocent and innocuous, but getting involved in the lolita community really could give everyone a bad first experience with you, and that's totally counter-intuitive if you want to get more involved on the subculture. If you decide it's still something you want to pursue, well, far be it from me to stop you, but it might be a good idea to go to a meetup and meet some of the girls in the community first (you never know - it's highly possible that you just really won't get along with any of them).

Now, obviously, if you're also an alt-fashion fan who likes or participates in something related like boystyle, dandy, steampunk, aristo, etc., obviously it's a different situation. Then you could probably infiltrate the group with no bad feelings at all. Wiggle your way on in there, you sly dog, you!

In Conclusion

Lolitas are like anyone else. I feel like that’s an ongoing theme in this series, and if you’ve been dating your lolita for any substantial amount of time you’ve certainly realized that about her by now. But even though you’re obviously aware of this in her case, it can be easy to get intimidated by some of the horror stories that surround us frilly females. Should you interact with the local community? That’s your call, and something you should decide for yourself after getting your girl’s opinion on the topic. Whatever you decide, and whether it’s in person or online that you decide to participate, keep these simple tips in mind while you’re doing it, and you shouldn’t feel like there’s one specific way you need to act or dress or speak when you’re with lolitas that’s any different from how you’d act with any of your girlfriend’s other friends.

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