Meeting Maple

Meeting people is scary. Meeting zoos is extra scary. Especially ones you don’t already know.

Recently I was at BLFC. For those of you outside the US, or even possibly outside the furry fandom, BLFC is one of the largest furry conventions in the world. Hosted in Reno, Nevada, it’s one of my personal favorites. It’s not too far from home, the vibe is amazing, lots of really awesome people go. I always have a blast every year I attend.

This year, I talked about going on my zoo Twitter account publically. I posted a picture of two horse statues outside the convention space, and someone else replied with a picture of the hotel. That person was Maple.

Now, here’s the thing. I love meeting other zoos. There tends to be a pretty immediate connection, which leads to great conversations. And even past that, it’s also nice any time I get to acknowlege that all the people on the internet really do exist. It’s a weirdly amazing feeling seeing someone go from pixels on a screen to a face you know. There was a problem though. I didn’t know Maple at all. Frankly, we’d never even talked before. She wasn’t totally new to the community, her Twitter account had been around for a year, and she had a thousand followers. But, I was still unsure. There’s a lot of people out there that really don’t like me. And so, I decided on the first day of the convention that I wouldn’t meet up. I would be comfortable with the knowledge that statistically we would probably unknowingly pass each other in the hallways and that would be good enough.

But, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. I’d be meeting strangers at parties thinking “what if this is her?” I’d do small talk with people in the elevator and the question was always in the back of my mind. There tends to be about 10,000 people at BLFC, so chances were pretty low I’d ever be right. But still, the thought was so tempting. Day two rolled around, and I had sent some tweets about the con, and so did she. She posted her haul from the dealers den, I posted about a panel I’d been to. We were like ships passing in the night. Both occupying the same spaces, but not connecting. It was frustrating. I really wanted to be brave enough to reach out and invite her for lunch, or for a drink. Instead I just went about my day.

In my head, I justified it like this. If I met up with Maple, one of two things could happen. We coule have a nice conversation, and I’d feel good that I met another zoo. Or, she would dox me. It would be easy. A small camera, a microphone. Hell, even a decent memory and a sketch after. One mistake, and suddently my face is all over the place. Everything I’ve worked so hard to protect would be gone in an instant. My friends and family would be put in an awful situation, my career would likely be in jeopardy. I might even be in legal trouble. Against the weight of all that, it would be stupid to try and meet up with someone I don’t even know.

So when Maple herself sent me a DM asking me if I wanted to meet up. I re-read the message 50 times before deciding to politely decline.

And yet, I still wanted to. I wanted to so badly. I ended up ranting to a group of zoo friends that night about the problem. My exact words were

“Gooood, I wish meeting zoos was less scary. There’s a zoo here with 1000 followers but I’ve never actually talked to her. And I’d love to be like “Hey nice to meet you!” But also I don’t want to die or get doxxed.”

I desperately wanted them to validate my concerns. To say, you’re right Tarro, that is stupid, don’t risk your personal safety. But that’s not what happened. Instead, one of them said

“Oh, Maple? I’m pretty sure I know someone who knows her. You could ask them if she’s cool.”

I was still hesitant, but the person that knew her was someone I knew pretty well, so I reached out. I asked them if they’d met her, and what that was like. He told me that she was amazing. That they had met in person and that it had been a delight.

And so, between that, and a few shots, I decided that I would meet Maple. I sent her a message, and we decided that we would have dinner the next night.

That didn’t stop me from being terrified though. Despite everything, the voice in my head telling me I was making a terrible mistake wouldn’t stop. The alarm was blaring and there was no way to turn it off.

I wish I could say that I fought through that feeling and just went for it, dear readers. But I didn’t. I chickened out. At least, somewhat. A scenario kept playing out in my head. We’d be eating dinner, chatting it up, talking about zoo stuff, but there’d be a microphone recording the conversation, and someone at the table behind us would be recording the whole thing. They’d have a name and a face and it would be over.

But, I also couldn’t say no. I was too invested. It meant too much for me. I don’t know why, but meeting this stranger started to be less about a conversation, and more about conquering my fears. I wanted to be able to say I was able to meet up with a zoo and that it went fine. That I had a great time. It’s stupid, but I thought about the magazine, and I told myself it was important to see this through. I was already thinking that this whole experience might make for a an interesting article, and I knew there was only way to end this in a good way.

So, I met myself in the middle. I sent her a message saying that I couldn’t do dinner, but I could grab a quick drink. She was nice enough to let me pick the spot, and so I picked a little hotel bar. The night of the meet, my heart was pounding. Adrenaline was rushing through me. But I wasn’t about to back off now. Instead, I pushed through. We hadn’t even talked about how to identify each other, and I got there after her, so I just walked up to the most Maple looking person sitting by themselves and said hi.

I was right, thankfully, and I sat down across from her, and we chatted. I knew literally nothing about her, but we talked about the convention, our homes, the conventions we were thinking about doing in the future. It was all small talk, but it was nice. My fears immediately disappeared. She was cool, smart, easy to chat with. She was normal. Because of course she was. The number of public zoos in the world isn’t huge, but the number of people willing to spend a year publicly cosplaying as a zoo just to dox someone at a convention is significantly smaller. And so, after about 15 minutes, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. On my way back to my hotel room I still half expected to suddenly see my face on Twitter, but it never happened.

And as of writing a day later, things still seem good. If I publish this and then get doxed this article is going to have a very different tone, but I think things are going to be okay.

I’ve been trying to think of my takeaway from all this. It should be “don’t be so afraid to meet people,” but that feels very wrong. It sucks, but it’s a reality of being a zoo that we have to be cautious. But I did do it, and I had a great time. It ended up being totally okay. Maybe the moral here is that sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do things in life. I don’t know if me and Maple are going to keep talking, I don’t know how much our meeting meant to her. But I know for me, I feel really happy knowing I took a risk on a stranger and it ended up okay.

And Maple, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry that I’m so paranoid. Especially if you didn’t have any of the same feelings. I really appreciate you meeting up, you’re awesome. And I hope that thing you said your goal was comes true. It’d be cool to do this again some time, but without my preamble panic attacks.

And to everyone else, thanks for reading. See you at BLFC 2024!

Article written by Tarro (November 2023)

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