When I was offered the opportunity to contribute to this newsletter, I immediately jumped at the chance (as Autumn and Paula will surely attest to). However, I was initially at a loss as to what to write about. Then I thought of Fest. You know, that annual shindig where a few OBSSE nuns get together and wreak havoc in a small town. As many of you may know, although I have been a member since I was a young'un (ah, the good old days of junior high), I have never been lucky enough to attend Fest. This year I have pledged to myself that I will go, geography be damned. Unfortunately, such a move involves informing my (ahem) parental units.
It won't be pretty. You see, I have managed to keep my affiliation with this group a secret from my parents. Not because of any shame (you know how wonderful I think you all are), but simply because I don't want to given crazy stares at the dinner table. After all, how do I convincingly describe my dedication to a group of people I've met over the Internet, whom I've bonded with over a mutual admiration of a fictional character?
However, as Registration is nearing, and as other priorities have now subsided a bit (like, oh, college), I'm about to embark on this most noble mission. But just to give you a picture of what I'm up against, this is how I see my parents reacting to the proposition:
I'll set the scene. My parents are watching television in the family room, in generally good spirits. I think to myself, "This is an opportune time to tell them." I slowly enter. (Cue Via Negativa fade-in/fade-out montage.) I'm slightly apprehensive, but exude a confident facade.
Scott: Hey, Mom. Dad. Um, can I talk to you guys for a second?
Mom: What is it Scott, my Dearest One?
(Okay, she never talks like that. But this is the type of mood she'll need to be in if she's going to be receptive to my idea. Work with me, people.)
Scott: Well, uh...OK. This is going to sound strange, but I have to tell you about this group of people I know online.
Scott: Yes. (beat) I better just say it, straight out. [deep breath] For several years, I've been a member of this group of people who are addicted to the character of Scully on the X-Files. It's called the Order of the Blessed St. Scully the Enigmatic. You see, there's this get-together every year --
Mom: Scully from the "X-Files"? Oh dear. I thought you were over that obsession.
Scott: It gets better, trust me. You see, this group of people - who are really cool, intelligent, and funny people - they're mostly women. Many of whom who are about your age.
Mom: Scott, you're a teenage boy. What the hell are you thinking?
Scott: No, it really gets better. I would like, with your permission, to be able to hang out with these people for an extended weekend. (beat) In Colorado.
Mom: You don't mean across the countr--
Scott: Yes. I do.
Mom: Are you absolutely nuts?!
Dad: Wait a second here, have you actually met any of these people?
Scott: Well, yes, in fact I have. I met a few in NYC just last summer. I came home unscathed, if you'll remember correctly.
Dad: Riiight....but what exactly would you do in Colorado?
Scott: Oh, plenty of fun things. Prance, eat fabulous cheese, act out the Jersey Devil Project. Scramble for oxygen. You know, the usual stuff.
Dad: That sounds disturbing.
Mom: But, Scott, how do we know these people aren't serial killers?! I mean, how can we be sure you won't come home maimed beyond recognition?
Scott: Oh, that will hardly be the case. These people are fine, upstanding citizens. La.. can twirl batons with the best of 'em. And Autumn is one of the most distinguished boob adjusters in the nation.
Dad: A what?
Scott: Long story. Anyway, how about it? I mean, all I'm asking is the chance to spend a few days with a group of Scullyists whom I've never physically met. Just a few thousand miles away. What do you say?
My mom has been rendered mute, paralyzed with images of me lying in a gutter after having been baton-whacked into unconsciousness.
My dad just shakes his head, rocking back and forth, unable to comprehend this nonsensical trip.
Scott: I'll take that as a yes, then. Oh, and one other thing - will you guys pay for my plane tickets? [no answer] Great, it's settled then!
I begin to walk out, triumphant. Just then, my mom blurts out: "Her name is La..?"
As you can see, I've got my work cut out for me. But with the right timing, precise phrasing, and some damn good luck, you may just see me in Colorado come this summer. You've been warned. ;-)
P.S. My apologies to my parents for their caricatured portrayals. But I have to admit, it was a great deal of fun writing them that way. ;)
[Ed. Note: Sister WildKat submitted the following essay to her writing class and was kind enough to share it first with the mailing list, and now here.]
"I can't see a thing!"
"Don't worry. Scully'll keep us safe."
The snow started falling some time around 5:00 that afternoon, just as Emma and I pulled up to Mish's house near Midway Airport for our weekly get-together. This time, we were all there: Mish, Emma, Kristin, Liz, and even Indiana Michele and Marie. The Weather Channel predicted snow, but we didn't worry too much. So we gathered, and chatted, and ate, and watched X-Files, like we always do. And the snow kept falling. And falling. And falling. Until, by the time we left around 10:30 that evening to head back north to Evanston, the air was white with snow. As were the roadways. It had fallen so fast and so hard that a think layer of the white stuff completely obscured the dividing lines, and Emma couldn't tell where the lanes or the shoulder began. It was bad. We considered turning around and going back to Mish's for the night, but it was late on a Sunday night and getting later. I had class in the morning, and Emma had left her antibiotics back in her dorm room and wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep in her own bed. So we pushed on to Lake Shore Drive where the snow not only covered the road but blew blizzard-like in the air. Then I got the idea. I pulled my Plastic Incarnation (PI) of Scully out of my back-pack and wedged her between the windshield and the dashboard. The rest of the trip was treacherous, to be sure, but we made it safely home to Chapin Residential College with Scully as our guide.
My PI is a small plastic action figure of the television character Dana Katherine Scully, from the show The X-Files. She stands about five and a half inches tall, and weighs less than two ounces. Created by MacFarlane Toys and copyrighted by Fox, Inc., she sports a tailored black suit with a white shirt, accessorized by a gold cross, a watch, earrings, and an FBI badge. Originally she carried a cell phone, but it has long been lost. Her face and hair were carefully crafted to bear a vague resemblance to Gillian Anderson, the actress who portrays Scully. My PI's facial expression is one of mild disappointment, of seriousness and import, but with a bit of wide-eyed curiosity as well. The paint on her auburn hair and her hands has started to chip in places from much use and abuse, and she has gathered dirt from my carrying her around in the front pocket of my backpack for long periods of time. She has been my sole traveling companion for two Spring Breaks, and together we have visited everywhere from Cologne, Germany, to San Francisco, California, to Mille Lacs, Minnesota, to Vancouver, British Columbia. She will accompany me to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this Spring. She has stood on ancient Roman altars along the Rhine and stood on my personal altar in my dorm room in Evanston. She even took a road trip with my friends, in my place, from Chicago to Los Angeles last February. She is a toy, a symbol, a conversation piece, and, yes, even a good luck charm to keep cars from crashing in the snow.
But why? Why is a little plastic dolly so important that I carry her all over the world? Most people have an object- a lucky penny, a piece of jewelry, a stuffed animal, a photo of a loved one- which has special meaning to them. For me, my PI is a little portable Scully I can take with me. The character of Scully is a sort of personal hero for me. She is intelligent, educated, independent, strong, loyal, always searching for the truth, always trying to understand the world around her, and always trying to help those in need. She's a beautiful woman who tries hard to be accepted as a person, not merely an object, in a man¹s world. She can be vulnerable and she makes mistakes. She's human. And for that, I admire her. I carry a little version of her to remind me to follow my path, to work hard, to seek truth. But that isn't the entire reason I keep her around.
I keep my PI close to me because she reminds me of my friends. If not for Scully, I would not have met my best friends here, and I wouldn¹t have shared many treasured moments with them. My circle of close friends, the group of women with whom I spent the evening of the great snow fall, is made of members of a group call the OBSSE, or the Order of the Blessed Saint Scully the Enigmatic. Contrary to popular belief, we are not a cult. We are, however, an Internet-based, tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek pseudo-religious order, dedicated to all things Scully. The OBSSE is a classic example of the Internet bringing people together. We truly are a community of incredibly varied individuals who have gathered because of a special interest. We have a web site, http://www.obsse.com, where we go for information, reference materials, links to other important X-Files sites, and the monthly OBSSE newsletter. In the OBSSE chat room, people gather on Friday and Sunday nights to discuss everything from television, to sports, to theater, to politics, to individual achievements and problems. Sometimes we even discuss Scully.
The main focus of the OBSSE is the mailing list. The list, which has approximately 600 members, exists to discuss Scully and the X-Files. When good episodes air, the discussion is fascinating and intelligent, as the majority of people on list are either in college or are college graduates; many have advanced degrees. We have medical doctors, scientists in various fields of study, lawyers and law students, teachers, computer technicians, actors, writers, and a whole lot of current or former English majors. Discussions touch on character and characterization, mythology, religion, dramatic techniques, science, feminism, even music. We complain about what we don't like, praise what we do. We also spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the CHarc (the Clothing and Hair Arc, which makes more sense at this point than the show¹s mythology, or Mytharc), and creating ever more elaborate in-jokes and jargon. We are an incredibly diverse community. Demographically, the OBSSE mailing list consists primarily of women, but our male members are well respected, and we represent a wide variety of sexual orientations, religions, races, and geographic regions. The list tends towards liberal political views, but Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Greens, not to mention many non-American political parties, and other view points are all represented. The one thing we all have in common is admiration of Scully and respect for each other.
In its earliest days, the Internet was a way for people all over the world to exchange ideas and knowledge. Recently, Internet critics have said that instead of connecting people, the Net has led to people holing up in front of their computers and not communicating with the "real world." The OBSSE is a wonderful case of the Net bringing people together. All over the world, members of OBSSE have grown beyond the bounds of mere Internet acquaintances and into "real life" friends. Groups of OBSSEers, such as my friends here in Chicagoland, get together to watch episodes, go out to dinner, see movies, and do all the other things a group of friends do. Once we met in person, the Chicago-area membership quickly became a fairly close-knit quasi-family, and nearly all of what we do now falls outside of anything related to OBSSE, or even Scully or X-Files. We throw each other birthday parties. We advise each other in affairs of love. We attend special events that one of the members is involved in. Yes, we do watch the show together most Sundays and chat over Instant Messenger, but our friendship is dependent neither on the television show nor on the Internet. Scully is, however, the reason we met in the first place, and we express our gratitude by volunteering for one of Gillian Anderson¹s favorite charities, Neurofibromatosis, Inc. It is the most fitting way we can imagine to thank Ms. Anderson for bringing us together, and for providing a role model in Scully. Earlier this year, we designed a new logo for the local chapter of NF, Inc., and printed and sold tee-shirts at a conference to raise money for the organization. The OBSSE as a whole also contributes to NF, Inc., fundraising and awareness through annual Scully Marathons held in May. These "Scullythons," which are generally held in May, involve watching twelve episodes of X-Files, as well as raffles and auctions of memorabilia. Last year, Scullythons were held in 27 US cities, two cities in Canada, one city in Australia, and one in England, and a total of $22,759 was donated to local NF, Inc., chapters.
As in international organization, the OBSSE doesn't meet just on local levels. This summer was host to the Third Annual OBSSE Fest. Fest '00, "Summer Camp for Mean Adults," was a four-day event held in Mille Lacs, Minnesota, which I attended with the rest of the Chicago group, and about 90 other members of OBSSE. Over the course of the four days, I joined fellow OBSSEers in Scully-themed camp songs around a bonfire, went kayaking, ate lots of ribs, watched videos, sang in a talent show, and talked with people from all over North America, and even Germany. My PI came, too, and I entered her into a PI fashion contest. People brought their own PIs dressed in all sorts of outdoors-y, or just whimsical, costumes. Mine sported a water-proof habit made from non-slip drawer liner. She stood next to a Mulder PI with a Jack-in-the-Box antenna ball for its head, and a pair of glam rock PIs, beautifully painted and glittered. Some people created whole dioramas, with tents and stoves and little tiny mugs that said DANA on them. The winning entry was sent from Australia, via Wales, and brandished a very pointy club. It was an event that showcased the best of what OBSSE as a community possesses: intelligence, creativity, talent, and a great sense of humor. There is something wonderful about a group that can bring a bunch of adults together to play dress-up with dolls.