Last year I posted about going to Comic-Con alone. A surprising number of people emailed me in response. One person thought I was friendless and needed to be adopted, but the others said they were alone at Comic-Con, sometimes year after year; some said no one talked to them at SDCC, that they felt it was their tribe until they got there and were as ignored there as they were back home. There was considerable sadness, self-blame and cynicism. So I wanted to talk about it again.
There are really two themes here. One is going to SDCC literally on your own and the other is being isolated when you're there. Let's break it down.
First of all, a lot of attendees go to SDCC by themselves.
You wouldn't know this from the 8 jillion happy group photos all over Instagram, but lots of attendees fly solo. People take the train down from LA or fly in from all over the country/world. There are a few reasons for this:
- Some of us really embody the shy introverted nerd stereotype and don't have many friends to begin with.
- Some of us have a lot of friends but they don't share our nerdy passions.
- Some of us start out with Con friends but then they have kids or mortgages or just lose interest and one day we're the 38-year-old whose friends think Comic-Con is childish.
- Sometimes we're all set to embark on an SDCC adventure with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then we break up 17 days before.
- Some of us like going alone, usually because we like to indulge ourselves and control our schedules completely.
- Some of us are technically solo, but have Con friends we always meet up with.
- Some of us technically attend with someone, usually to share a hotel room with, but do everything on our own.
Even if you're a lone wolf, Con life is much easier with teammates.
I'm not just talking about buying groups. I'm talking about line shifts, having someone pick up an exclusive while you're watching Preview Night pilots, bringing you food or holding your seat. Most attendees are pretty nice people who will honor your place in line while you hit the restroom but overall, it helps to join forces with someone. On that note...
If you don't want to bring someone, consider being part of a Comic-Con group.
If you hang out online in various nerdy/Con spaces, you eventually drift into these digital tribes where everyone supports each other in badge sales, hotel sales and even panel/offsite access. Consider making this effort even if you're very shy in real life. You don't have to become boon companions once you're at the Con but a little support is nice. It might seem odd to you to become line partners with someone online but these arrangements tend to work out reasonably well once you get there. Give it a shot.
But don't bring someone just for the sake of companionship.
You may disagree with this. But if your current paramour says "I want to go!" even though they're not into Con stuff at all - don't listen to them. They're actually envisioning a trip where you do SDCC for a few hours every day and then let them whisk you away to go surfing or visit their college friend in Carlsbad. I speak from experience. Outsiders do not get how all consuming Comic-Con is and they get impatient when you dive in and don't come up for air.
That said, I have seen a few people "flip" their SO during the Con, but the SO has to be willing to explore the possibilities.
Talk to people once you're there.
Oh, you hate small talk? So do I. But SDCC works this mysterious transformation where everyone somehow easily converses with everyone else. There's always something to talk about - your Conan debacle, a drunk celebrity, the inevitable gossip about badge or wristband fraud, a fistfight in an exclusives line - and people are generally open with each other. Just participating in these conversations (and they will inevitably spring up around you) can help you make interesting connections. Remember - these people share your interests. This isn't like being forced to talk to your coworkers at the office Christmas party.
Look for fandom meetups and happy hours.
You'll probably feel awkward walking in but remember most everyone else there is a stranger too. Yes, this includes people who "know" each other online. Meeting your favorite forum or Twitter friends in real life can feel even weirder than meeting a regular stranger. No one's what you expect! So just roll with it and see what happens. You will usually click with at least one person there, if not several. And don't worry about the "odd one" - it's Comic-Con.
If you're looking for company, be blunt.
I can't count the number of semi-strangers who've outright said, "Can I hang out with you guys?" after some conversation. People like adding strangers to their wolf packs, so just ask. SDCC attendees are pretty casual that way.
If you're convinced you repel other humans and have zero social skills or appealing traits, force yourself to make conversation.
Several attendees emailed me last year that they are wretched souls scorned by all, and they're doomed to wander Comic-Con alone. That I couldn't possibly understand how hard it was for them. No doubt they're right on that score, but I do know that socially handicapped people need to practice to get better. And you never have to see any attendees again, even if they flee in horror from you. Which they won't. Use this as batting practice.
Appreciate the upside of being alone.
The first half of my SDCC existence was spent with my ex who, may she rest in peace, put up roadblocks constantly to my Comic-Con joy. She wanted to stay in when I wanted to go to a party. She complained about my panel choices but refused to leave my side. Etc. And you'll hear grim stories from some people in tightly-knit groups: fights, control issues, sacrificed event tickets and missed opportunities. Lasting bitterness. So enjoy your freedom and autonomy, go out on the prowl and do exactly what you want. You are the envy of many.
Okay, I'm done. Last year I said that attendees have the power to make their Con as social as they want it to be - and a few people got miffed because they said I was dismissing their challenges. So I'll admit that's not entirely true, but I still believe people have more agency than they think here. Good luck, be brave and I hope you make a new friend at Comic-Con.