for the Submissive Guide Newsletter 9/12/15
I talk about going to munches as a good first step into the lifestyle and there's certainly a lot of good that can come from that. But when you are already nervous or shy, having a negative experience will make you feel like it just wasn't worth it or that you don't fit in. When in fact, the problem lies in the group itself or maybe even the location. So, here are a few of the common issues with munches that you can either adjust to or at least work around to try to make your nervous butt feel better at a munch and meeting people for the very first time.
If you are a munch coordinator, you might want to consider if any of these things are hindering new people from attending or returning to your group.
Space is too small
Munches are meant for mingling and getting to know people. If you have everyone sardined into their chairs and crowded tables with no room to walk behind others then that will limit interaction. New people will feel penned in and if they happen to not click with the people they are stuck between, may not return. I know I've been uncomfortable in tight surroundings and it it really ruined my enjoyment of being with other like-minded people.
A new person who is nervous or shy is going to feel very overwhelmed with the closeness of people. So if you attend a munch and the venue is just too small for the people who attend, you best tactic is going to be to find somewhere to sit that has a bit of breathing room, most likely near the door or a hallway. It will feel just a bit less cramped that way and if you have to, you can bail early.
Space is too large
Of course, if the space can be too small it can be too large also. Cavernous spaces where 15 attendees can get swallowed by the space are going to do a few things to your group and to the new people who attend. First, it's going to feel like the event is under-attended. What happened to the 25 other people who you expected, one might ask. Is the group that bad that people don't want to come? Certainly not the impression you want to give a new person. If you do have a large space, bring the tables and chairs together as a unit and encourage people to sit in a central area.
If you attend a munch and the room is huge for the few people who are there, try to sit with the larger group of people. You don't want to go sit on your own, no matter how nervous or shy you are. You'll have a better time if you can talk to people and the attendees will feel more like chatting to someone who sits near them than someone who is a wall flower.
Space is not private enough
A lot of munches use public places to gather and meet; from restaurants to coffee shops and bars. If you can't get a semi-private or private room and are meeting among the general public, then new people will feel less like talking at all. After all, kink is likely a secret, and definitely not something you want innocent bystanders overhearing. And worse yet, what if their next door neighbor sees them sitting with these new people and starts getting nosy? Sure it's hard to find free private places to host munches. Often the cost comes out of the host's pocket unless a collection can be made during the munch. But it's worth it in many cases where privacy is favored.
If you enter a munch gathering and they are sitting mixed in with the general public you can consider not attending if you think you might be discovered. If you want to stick it out, keep your discussion vanilla and your voice at a volume for the people just around you.
Poor visibility of everyone
The last munch I attended was in a restaurant's private room. That was well and good, but the tables were set up like normal restaurant seating. So seeing other people meant craning my neck around, turning in my chair to say "hi" to the people with their back to me and overall was not conducive to chatting with anyone but the 2 other people at my table. Hosts should reorganize the seating to maximize mingling and visibility of everyone.
As a new person this is very intimidating and doesn't reflect well on the connected feeling a support group should have. It encourages clique building and a new person can't compete with that and will feel alone in a sea of people. So, if you enter a munch and the tables aren't set up in a way you can easily see people, try to sit somewhere in the middle of the largest mass of people. That way you will have several options for conversation and your nerves may be high, but at least you won't be stuck talking to the one guy who only wants to brag about how many ladies he's spanked.
No encouragement to get up and mingle
Nothing hurts a group more than gluing your butt to the chair you start out in and only talking with the few people near you. The rest of the group is practically ignored and you don't get to meet what could be a very interesting person. As a host, you should encourage mixing and mingling when food isn't being served. Make sure you introduce yourself to new people, chat casually with the returning members and if you see cliques forming, ask if they can't spread out a bit for part of the munch. It might seem silly but even asking people to make a point to introduce themselves to someone they don't know during the evening can help move people around and out of their seats.
Going to a munch where no one moves around and no one talks to you can feel isolating and unwelcome. But if you can make a point to say hi to one person it might help you feel more welcome. And if you make that person someone across the other side of the room you at least have tried to break your fears and meet someone you didn't sit next to when you entered.
Select few dominate the conversations
It's great when people want to chat and converse about kink things at a munch. It feeds the curious and helps share information to those less experienced. But if the same people are talking each and every munch and the information they share never really changes it can make the munch feel stale and boring. Especially if one or all of the people are grating, too overt, loud or obsessed with just one topic. Munch groups that can share the spotlight with many of its members work out a lot better and even if some of the people are quieter or less informed doesn't make them any less valuable - and value is a good thing to a support group.
New people need to feel welcome and that their thoughts, questions and opinions matter. Asking questions and asking for input from new people will help them feel welcome and that even if they don't know the answer they will feel valued as an added member to the community.
Overt PDA making others uncomfortable
Often, people can get a bit handsy at munches. I don't know if it's the atmosphere, the alcohol flowing or the conversation but there are instances of groping, ass slapping and flashing that can go on at munches that could (and often do) make new people uncomfortable. This is inappropriate at the best of times and downright illegal at the worst. The hosts of munches I've been to rarely deter this interaction either. Especially if it's happening within a known committed relationship couple. And even then it shouldn't be allowed. Sure you are in a private room at a public place, but at any moment that private room could be opened to onlookers such as the servers, wait staff or management. We need to learn to act accordingly. Play parties are better places for overt PDA, not munches.
As a new person, approaching the host when you see something like this happening that is making you uncomfortable is your best course of action. Perhaps they just need someone to bring it to their attention for them to notice it as unusual behavior. Then again, if THEY are the ones engaging in it - you might be best suited to find a different munch group.
In all these issues, there are far more good things that come out of munches and I hope that I have not discouraged you from trying your local groups and seeing for yourself if you can make a few friends, learn some new things or feel more welcome exploring your kinks. If you'd like to find the munch scene where you are, check out FindaMunch.com.