Any place that markets itself as a centre of personal wish fulfillment is going to draw in people who want something for themselves. The more they are paying, the higher the hurdles to enter, the greater their expectation of achieving their goals is.
Here is the problem: having paid these tolls to commercial companies, but not to you as an individual human, they develop a sense of entitlement. People become generic commodities. Pawns in little games removed from their ‘real’ life to fulfill fantasies of sexual exploits, power and influence, vengeance and ego inflation. The scene is social cocaine.
How can one know what is a real connection and what is part of a game? The most successful scene socialites become so by using superficial skills: charm, lies, flattery. Inclusion at events and sharing of relevant information. For the men, they have free reign to be the asshole they wouldn’t dream of being in their home town, where everyone knows their business. A life without condemnation. For the women, they aspire to be empresses. High school mean girls, who can control access for the other women to events and certain men.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? How does one avoid getting drawn into endless drama, keep one’s integrity and avoid becoming suspicious of everyone?
To a large extent, you can’t. We are products of our environment. The longer you spend in the scene, the more the patterns of behaviour wear ruts into the muddy tracks of your heart and soul. Do we become cold, controlling? Do we mimic the sociopathic behaviour of all those around us?
Do we insist on retaining our empathy, be endlessly drawn into the dramas of others, lose ourselves in the role of supportive friend, confidante, beta? Sacrifice our own goals and fantasies in enabling all those around us?
Can we find genuine supportive friends and connections within the scene who help us to keep our sanity? Indeed, we can. But we must be so cautious in who we trust. If you feel someone is your friend, your ally, or your budding relationship, ask yourself these questions before you get drawn in:
-Do they talk to you about things outside of the scene? Other than at parties?
-Do they include you in non-sexual and non-scene activities? Honestly?
– Do you meet their non-scene friends and family?
-Do they make plans with you to do non-scene/sexual things that you’ll both enjoy and, this is the important part- do they actually follow through on them? If they endlessly tantalize you with ideas but never find the time to make them real, you need to consider whether they are just saying them to control you, keep you on the hook, and see if you are useful for something later
-Do they invite you to things and plan things with you in mind, rather than just to make up the numbers or gender ratio? How far in advance are you invited to things?
-Do you end up feeling exhausted by running around ‘helping’ them? Do you genuinely have evidence that they would be there for you in a tangible way if you had a real problem?
-If they were stripped of looks, charm, sexual prowess, and words, and you had only their actions and treatment of you to go on, would you say they treat you well? Words and smiles are free. Actions that cost time and money are real.
-Do they treat you with the level of respect and consideration you want? Forget ‘nearly there’, forget ‘it’s growing and we are working on it’. Respect and consideration for you should be given as a basic human right. Misunderstandings aside, are they making you feel better about yourself or worse?
-Do their words and actions behind your back demonstrate love, respect and consideration for you as a human being? Are you having nasty surprises, feeling left out of things, overlooked or excluded?
-Are they treating you as well as you are treating them?
You may look at your pool of ‘friends’ and feel it’s a lot smaller. Isn’t it wonderful to feel like you suddenly have 100 fun, attractive friends? Well, the sad truth is, you don’t. Nobody on the swing scene does. Even people who have been on the scene years will only have a small handful of genuine ones. The rest are these:
– people who have sex with you
-people who invite you to things to make up numbers
-people who talk to you by text, usually on groups, now and then.
-people who see you as useful to use for things (hosting, contacts, information, work, organizing, etc)
-people who use you and your own situations as a source of gossip to make themselves seem informed, powerful and in control
-acquaintances you’ve met and are on speaking terms with
-scene allies. You work on things together effectively.
Now, all these people will present as ‘friends’ and probably refer to you as such, but this is not friendship in the conventional way. The same rules are not expected to apply. If you come to believe that they will, you will experience a lot of unnecessary pain. Then you will find out how few genuine friends you have, and how valuable those ones really are.
If you were to leave the scene altogether, in some sort of lifelong chastity, how many of them would still make time for you? This is the acid test of who you can really trust. Everyone else is just playing games in the big social sandbox that is the Swing world.
This is not to say that friendships can’t grow. You aren’t going to be soulmates at a first meeting, obviously. Just consider whether the amount of energy you are expending for them seems balanced and whether the things they are saying and doing match up.
Even armed with this knowledge, you will make mistakes. We all do. We like to see the best in people. We like to choose to believe that we are personally validated by people we grow to like. We like to believe we are popular. That we have found our social niche at long last, that we are worthy of friendship and love. And you are, baby ducklings, you are.
We must try not to let this blind us to the truth, however. A very great number of the people you meet are not genuine in the way that you are. They may be more genuine with people in their ‘real’ life, and view the scene as a consequence-free zone to experiment, without any crisis of conscience- after all, everyone else is doing the same, right?
They may also be equally false in their ‘real’ life- with their family, friends, workplace. Their wife, girlfriend, husband, at home who has no idea. They may cruise by on superficial charm and work the whole world to their advantage in this way. These are not the exception.
The swing scene is an absolute Mecca for certain personality traits: mainly narcissistic ones and sociopathic ones. People like this thrive and do well here. The options to achieve goals by hook or crook are varied and plentiful. The options to feed megalomania are even better. Where better to set people up to stroke your ego and make you feel powerful? It is easy to do- they identify your NEED. They will never fill this need for you, they will just tickle it with vague ideas, promises and a hint that you can achieve personal validation from them eventually if you just do these few more things first.
All in all, baby ducklings, you may be thinking that this is a tough world to be in if you aren’t a sociopath, and you’d be right. If you are a ‘nice person’, a ‘genuine soul’, if you honestly want real friends, or love, or genuine mental or emotional connection with another human, you are going to be rapidly identified as prey and utilized brutally. You probably won’t even notice at first. You will be too busy having fun, swept up in a whirlwind of sex, popularity and sudden self-importance. The icky bad feelings all start to creep in later. Cumulatively. While, on the surface, everything is anaesthetisingly wonderful and distracting, below the tiny hole you sought to fill has grown and grown. You feel worse than ever about yourself. And the only way to keep up what little you feel you have is to plug harder and harder at feeding the vampires.
Well, baby ducklings, it’s not all doom and gloom. You have 2 ways you can go:
1) become a vampire yourself. I’ve no doubt this happens a lot. Vampire bites kill you eventually, Then you return from the dead the same- soulless.
2) stop feeding the vampires and start staking them
If you are not a narcissist or sociopath and have found yourself nearly drained dry, it can be hard to feel like there is any way to defeat them.
Yet you have a talent they do not- you have the easy ability to imagine what someone else is thinking and feeling. They also have a weakness you do not- an inflated ego makes them very blind. They are susceptible to flattery, believing that you are still buying into their bullshit, and you can stroke their ego in just the way they expect you to, distracting them from ever seeing what you are really doing as you set up behind the scenes, ready to turn the tables.
Exactly how you turn the tables, my darlings, is up to you. Firstly, consider what you want…
No! Not their love. Not their friendship. Not their respect. That was never real, and it never will be. That goal is gone, and the sooner you accept this, the sooner you can progress. They may seem to change. They haven’t.
What you want does not need to be a practical or tangible thing. There doesn’t have to be a set point at which you’ve ‘Won’. You can go on winning forever. In fact, I suggest you do.
What you need to think about is how you want to FEEL. What you want back, my darlings, is your power.
Now, you may automatically assume that you can hurt their feelings, in much the same way you’d respond. You can’t do it, it won’t work. Narcissists and sociopaths don’t feel things in the same way. Even if you choose to believe that there may have been people who broke through with them, you can be confident that you can’t generate in them the feeling that they did in you. They won’t miss you. They won’t feel guilt, remorse, loss, shame, inadequacy, heartache; they won’t sit there and wish for the things they planned with you but never did. That will never work on them.
They are highly practical people. They will never ‘like’ you, in the way that you would feel it. But it may be possible to put them in the position where they have to pretend or suffer loss. Things they will feel way harder than you are the following: embarrassment, uncertainty, exposure, loss of status, loss of money, loss of opportunity. The over-inflated ego is a brittle thing and explodes in beautiful shards.
So remember baby ducklings: Study them, learn their ways. Stroke their egos, do their bidding. Tolerate their warped perception of your motives as doting and servile. Do everything they expect. Any good illusionist will tell you, the magic of surprise is borne from distraction.
The unwavering self-belief that the only reason someone would want to keep them close is that you like them is their massive Achilles’ heel. Then you get your house in order, your ducks in a row, learn to know who your real friends are, and plan a victory that benefits you personally. You are going to take control of your own destiny now. The narcissist ever did need you more than you needed them, it’s just that you didn’t know it, and they will never admit it. When you sip champagne with your real friends, remember that conflict is the spark that starts the journey in every tale of personal transformation. Silently thank them for giving you the gift of conflict, then forget them utterly.
Respect yourselves, baby ducklings. You are now swans.
*cover image photograph of Salvador Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus at the Freud Museum