A Tribe of Sorts

I sometimes think that I write too negatively about my adolescence. It’s not as if I didn’t have a good time. I had a loving family. I had friends at school and at home. Like, I wasn’t the cool, popular guy, but I certainly wasn’t a reject. 

That said though, I was “different” and I never really felt I quite fit in. I remember feeling this as long ago as when I was nine or ten and trying to explain it then and no one really seeming to know what I was talking about. I felt very frustrated at the time. 

*****

One of the great things about living in London is that things happen here. Not just club nights for fat gay men and major musical theatre events, but conventions. I already stood outside a knitting and yarn convention here, where I failed to meet a friend of mine. (The amount of failed connections I’ve had in this city. I keep arranging to meet friends and then it doesn’t happen. I will be better at it.)

Anyway, last weekend, there was a YouTube convention. Well, it’s an “online video” convention, but no one’s actually on Vimeo or Daily Motion except pornographers, so it’s a YouTube convention. 

I had watched lots of videos of these conventions, where famous youtubers meet their fans and sell merch and do live shows and speak on panels. They’re crazed affairs. 

I was mature and instead of buying a ticket to one of the fan days, I bought a ticket to the creator day, a quieter day, intended to help people who make their own online videos. I know no one else takes my videos seriously, but just like I want to be a good writer, I want to make good videos. I like making videos and I want to be better at it. 

There weren’t any super-famous YouTubers there and the crowds weren’t crazy. The crush barriers were in place for the following day, but creator day only had the most dedicated of fans. There were mid-level famous YouTubers that I was starstruck by. I smiled at Tomska and he saw me, which was awesome. I went to talks on editing videos and marketing online and it was all interesting, but the reason I started this post by writing about being “different” as a teenager was because all around me I could see my tribe that could have been. 

Most of the people at the convention were in their late teens. And one particular “type” predominated. They were overweight, with hair dyed quirky colours and bold floral prints or funny slogans on their shirts and an awful lot had rainbow jewellery or accessories. 

Who are the people who watch YouTubers’ lives obsessively and whose best friends are people they’ve never met and whose place of safety is the internet? Fat queer teens who feel they don’t fit in, that’s who.  And through Tumblr and YouTube they find each other and make big groups of friends with similar interests and outlooks and they defend each other and the bond. 

In one sense, I was jealous. This was a type of friend group I never had as a teen. But on the other hand, I wasn’t. I’m glad that I didn’t find like-minded people and learned the resilience I did from growing up in a world that was simultaneously loving and alienating. I think it makes me stronger and makes my personal skills more diverse. I didn’t discover YouTube, or should I say I didn’t discover YouTubers, until I was thirty. 

But it is nice to know, even retrospectively, that I wasn’t the only one. 

I’m boarding a plane to Cork now to spend a week with my family and no doubt to be thrust back to all the moods and feelings of my adolescence. 

But it’s OK. I have the internet and a whole London waiting for me on Friday. 

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