I’ve been to bed (very late), but couldn’t sleep and I’m not even that tired any more, so I’ve got up and am trying to do some things so if I sleep in tomorrow, it won’t matter so much.
The reason I went to bed so late and so hyped up was that I went to a Doctor Who pub quiz, the same one I wanted to go to last month (it’s a monthly event). I arrived just on time, having underestimated how long the journey would take with a Sunday bus timetable. Our team was comprised of past and present members of the Oxford University Doctor Who Society (actually, technically we were all present members, as membership is life membership). I knew two people there; my friend M. I knew would be going, but it was a pleasant surprise to see someone I hadn’t seen since I left Oxford in 2005. There were also a couple of other old Oxford fans in another team. There were three current Oxford undergraduates too, two of them from my old college. One asked me about the society when I was president, which made me feel a little old (although M’s connection with it goes back considerably further).
We won the quiz on a tie-breaker. I answered quite a lot of questions correctly. It was fun and good to do something social that isn’t either Jewish or related to my issues (depression, autism etc.). There was a LOT of noise in the pub though. There were thirteen teams AND other people drinking at the bar AND a gig going on downstairs. I covered my ears instinctively at a couple of points which was an autistic trait I didn’t think I had. Obviously I’m more sensitive to noise and sensory overload than I thought I was; I’m just good at avoiding. One awkward moment came when someone asked how I knew so much Doctor Who trivia and I said “I’m probably autistic and this is my special interest” which in my head sounded light-hearted-yet-meaningful, but in reality sounded stupid and weird.
I travelled part of the way home with my team-mates. This probably added some time to my journey, as I had to take an indirect route, but I wanted to continue socialising plus I felt safer walking in a crowd in a not so nice part of London at 10.30pm than I would have done travelling alone.
There were some Big Name Fans there. This weirded me out a little as I’m not used to in-person fan meetings these days, certainly not with people whose picture I recognised from Doctor Who Magazine. I used to want to be a Big Name Fan years ago, but I don’t think I would want that any more. Nowadays I just want to have some friends. My Doctor Who book isn’t intended to make me famous in fandom, but to give something back to the fan community I have enjoyed being part of (to varying extents) over the years, as well as for the intellectual fun of writing it. The evening did make me wonder what it would be like to go to a Doctor Who convention, but I’m wary of how that would work practically with autism, kashrut and Shabbat (the Jewish dietary and Sabbath laws). Maybe if there’s a London-based convention on a Sunday I’ll think about going.
(As an aside, I’m thinking about going to see Robert Alter talk about his Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) translation in Jewish Book Week, which would be a big step for me in terms of going to something new and big, but I haven’t worked up the courage yet to book a ticket, largely because I would have work the next day and am worried about having a late night. It would be good to hear Alter, as I got a lot from his books The Art of Biblical Narrative and The Art of Biblical Poetry.)
I did feel self-consciously Jewish at times. Whenever I’m in one environment, I obsess about how people view my traits from other aspects of my personality. With Jews, I worry about seeming fannish or worldly; in non-Jewish environments I wonder how people view my Jewishness. I know most Orthodox Jews (and many non-Orthodox Jews) avoid socialising with non-Jews, but I can’t do that without cutting off too many aspects of my life (Doctor Who, mental health, autism). I just try to be a good ambassador. I might wear one of my Doctor Who kippot (skullcaps) next time. I might as well embrace being in a ghetto of one (OK, probably not literally one, but not many). Although there are probably fewer people in fandom who have a problem with Jews than there are frum people who think geek culture should be avoided (I’m remembering the time my shul rabbi went off onto a rant about the dangers of imagination, which still seems a bizarre thing to say, although I have yet to think of an answer to him that he would see as valid).