by Michæl W. Bard
©2008 Michæl W. Bard
Yeah, theyve been dealt with here before, but since I seem to have become a primary organizer of one, Ill toss in my two cents. :)
Furmeets are odd little things. Odd, firstly, that theyre even called that but then, furries tend to apply fur- indiscriminately, as an all-purpose prefix to any word. Thus, we have such terms as furperson, fursona, furfridge, et cetera. In any other community, these gatherings would just be considered a get-together of friends, or of people who share a common interest, be it science fiction, writing, furries, or whatever. But regardless of the oddity of the term, its there, and its quite commonly used. Just so were all the same page, I consider a furmeet to be a small informal gathering without an entry fee. Bigger events with such fees are conventions (cons for short). Not the best of definitions, but it works for me.
Most of the furs I know, I encountered first on IRC. Nice, informal, easy to flee from in case of problemsin short, just the ticket for a shy person like myself. It still took me two years to get up the nerve to make any sort of physical, in-person contact with any of the people I knew from IRC! As for furdom, I first got onto a furry mailing list from a Canadian website and went to a Halloween party, hopefully to put faces to people whod previously only been names in text-windows. Of course this party was packed with well over 200 strangers «shudder» Fortunately, I found a tiny corner and talked to a couple, ignoring the existence of the rest. Got a local furry IRC channel.
Fast-forward two months. (I said I was shy, didnt I?) I finally logged onto that furry IRC channel, and starting chatting some of the furs Id met at the massive scary party and getting some relationships formed. After that, it was time to go to smaller dinnersthe archetypal furmeet. The first ones were at a local hamburger place, and I knew nobody. Still, at least it was good food. Then I got more familiar with people on IRC, and met people there I actually knew. It worked much better that way!
And from there, things stayed about the same, though the forum moved to a local spaghetti place, with the occasional side trip elsewhere.
Anyway, I should probably make my point: Furmeets are useful as a generally safe place to meet fursto feel out the terrain, as it were. If you do it in a public place, such as an inexpensive restaurant, theres not much danger. You can always just leave. Or, if it really gets out of hand, just call for help.
From my experience, furmeets work best when the number of attendees is four to five. More than that, and the group tends to break down into two or more independent conversations. Which is not necessarily bad, but it it does tend to work against the whole get to know one another thing.
The best place to do it is a dinner table. In a more informal setting, its easy for a group of friends to form a circle to talk, and leave no easy way for a newcomer to break in. Sitting at a table means that the newcomer is in the circle, and is free to participate.
And participate is exactly the right verb. Not just to fill air pockets in the flow of conversation, but to say something when you have something to say.
After that, natural human social dynamics, aka friendship, will occur.