The April meeting of the Boozy Babes Book Club of Baltimore (how's that for alliteration?) took place at La Cuchara, and it was an awesome time to discuss, snack and sip. While I admit, five out of seven days I'm usually at home on my couch watching Netflix after work, it's fun to have an excuse to do something different and shake up the routine. If that someone different includes cocktails and cheese plates, you really have to trust it's going to be fun.
In my email last week, I talked about putting yourself out there. It doesn't matter if it's through a cooking class, a book club or just random drinks at someplace new. When you get older, it seems like it's hard to make friends. Young-mess Me would have never gone to a fancy restaurant to discuss a book with people I didn’t know. Young-mess Me was too busy drinking cheap beer and trying to fit into a scene I so clearly wasn't meant for.
I managed to chat with Cassie and Natalie, the matriarchs of the Boozy Babes Book Club. I'm so happy that both of these girls have come into my life – they're both sweet as can be and could make anyone feel welcome. I wanted to talk to them about the book club, and also talk about how to manage overwhelming social situations – so without further babbling, meet Cassie and Natalie!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. The Boozy Babes Book Club has presented an awesome opportunity to get together, enjoy some food and drinks and keep me reading. Still, if you had asked me to join a few years ago, I probably would have made an excuse and wound up sitting on my couch, reading the books anyways because – who am I kidding – socializing with people you don't know can be sort of overwhelming. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask some questions, about book club and about how you handle overwhelming social situations.
1. What made you guys want to start a book club?
Cassie: I’ve always wanted to be in a book club, but must say I never imagined I’d run one! I’ve always been a little shy and never really expected to get much interest in starting one myself. The second I moved to Baltimore though, I met SO many people with similar interests, and my friends here have really helped me come out of my shell. So I said, what the heck! As good a time as any! Natalie and I got to know each other at a party and when I asked her if she’d like to start a book club with me, we never looked back! I’ve always loved what you can learn from other people through book discussions, not just about the books themselves but also about the people who participate, and I always get hyped up talking about fictional lives and scenarios as if they’re real so a book club had always sounded like my dream social function!
Natalie: I wanted to start/be in a book club for ages but never found anyone that was fully committed to start one and the ones that I looked in to joining seemed so formal. Cassie & I ran in the same circle of friends since she moved here but we officially met in November of last year and completely hit it off over our love of books, art, and Baltimore which in turn got our book club plans in motion.
2. Can you give me a mini-breakdown of your meetings, book decision and membership?
Natalie: We vary our meeting times, days, and obviously locations to make sure a wide variety of people who want to participate can. Our schedules are very similar, but we knew that others' may not be and felt it wouldn't be fair to hold it same day/same time potentially excluding people. We've been lucky to have many familiar faces crop up again and again but also new faces. The discussions are usually free flowing where we encourage everyone to bring a question, topic, or idea. One thing I (personally) dreaded was the task of picking a new book each month. We wanted to make sure that everyone felt like their recommendations and decisions mattered when it came to that aspect. We gladly accept book suggestions of all kinds and use a democratic process of voting. In terms of membership we are open to everyone and anyone who wants to read!
Cassie: We really wanted to incorporate our passion for reading and our desire to explore all that Baltimore has to offer. We’ve made it a goal to always try out new places where we can not only have great discussions but experience great food, drinks, and interesting atmospheres.
3. I think you've got the perfect setup, pairing food and drinks with a delegated topic of conversation. It allows people to dive in and reach their comfort zone at their own pace. Do you think this setup makes it a more inviting book club to people who might be nervous about branching out socially?
Natalie: Definitely! I think with a book club especially it can be intimidating that someone might judge you based on your reading speed, book preferences, or simply your take away from that month's book. By holding them in restaurants/bars it re-enforces the idea that this is a gathering of friends instead of potential strangers. Inadvertently we were able to take the awkwardness and anxiety out by waiting for book talk until everyone has had a chance to mingle. We always start with a bit of catch up, introductions, and obviously ordering drinks/food before book discussion. By the time we start chatting about the book, everyone is comfortable with one another.
Cassie: As someone with social anxiety, I know I’ve still found each meeting very enjoyable and open, and I definitely like to think that Natalie and I have done our best to make everyone feel welcome and encouraged to participate! We often have people come who haven’t been able to either start or finish the book too, which is always still encouraged. At the end of the day, being able to discuss a great (or maybe even awful!) book is just for fun, it’s really just an excuse to meet new people and try new things that maybe you’d be hesitant to do on your own… I hope that anyone who may feel apprehensive to join will give us a go regardless, just because we’ve got a good amount members now, so many great books still to read, and a lot of fun meetings ahead, that I really think there’s at least some aspect that everyone can enjoy. We’re a great group, we come from many different backgrounds, and personally this book club has made it much easier for me to branch out and get past my own anxieties.
4. It's great to branch out and push your social horizons, but it can be totally intimidating. I feel like you two are always up to something fun – do you have any tips for people who might be nervous to explore?
Cassie: TOTALLY intimidating! Honestly, I think joining a group in the community of any kind is good for anyone who wants to try new things and meet people with similar interests. I know that’s what has pushed me to get to know my new home better and make new friends. The main reason Natalie and I have gotten the chance to know each other so well is because we decided to run this club together. I think we just push each other to try new things, and it’s always less scary when you know you have a partner in crime! Book club has helped me discover a lot of different things to do in Baltimore simply because everyone has had a different experience here and has so much to share and contribute. So try I’d say try to get involved in a group, because then you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of meeting some really great people who will help you explore new interests. I think everyone owes themselves that opportunity.
Natalie: Get comfortable exploring by yourself. It's important to be just as comfortable doing things on your own as it is with a group of people. It can be something small like grabbing lunch by yourself or something crazy like taking a trip to another country. (Both of which I've done!) I have found once you've overcome that fear, you'll be open and willing to do anything!
5. Have you ever sat out of a social situation because you were nervous or shy? What did you think afterwards, and would you do it again?
Cassie: I’ve done this TOO many times. I was very self-conscious growing up and only until I hit about twenty or so did I (slowly) start to get over it. Sometimes, if I know I will only know one or two people at larger social gatherings where everyone knows everyone else, it takes a lot of energy to convince myself to suck it up and go anyway. And almost always I have a great time. It’s never a good feeling to realize you’ve held yourself back from meeting potential friends and making new, fun memories just because you couldn’t find the courage to just show up. I’m sure there are some fun experiences I may still pass up because of my shyness, but I like to think I’m getting a little better about it all the time. I think it’s important that you have people who can give you positive reinforcement to put yourself out there, but at the end of the day you just have to learn to be that support system for yourself.
6 Finally, what's on the horizon for the Boozy Babes Book Club – must read books or must visit meeting locations? Would you guys ever consider hosting events?
Natalie: In terms of must read books I've been itching to read something non-fiction with the group (which we haven't done yet). One book I've thrown in which hasn't been picked is He Wanted The Moon by Mimi Baird. For a must visit meeting locations I think an outdoor Bar Clavel meeting would be perfect this summer. Alewife is another - might be a bit too small though as our group keeps growing. I'd like to work on hosting a book swap event opened to members and beyond, perhaps around our one year mark. That would be wonderful! I'd also like to figure out a way to expand our social media presence. Recently a member asked to join by finding our tag on Instagram so it would be fun to see how we could utilize that to our advantage.
Cassie: I’d love to maybe incorporate a location where we could do a group hike or something afterwards for anyone who’s interested in sticking around, so stay tuned for that! It’d be fun to plan a meeting that could easily be turned into a half-day outing maybe, and continue to get to know each other beyond book club. In terms of hosting events, as we become more established as a group, which I think is already naturally happening over time and with more people feeling comfortable getting involved, this is a direction that could be really fun. If you’ve got a cause you’re interested in or fun affairs you know of, let any of us Boozy Babes know! We want to support the community, and we have a good amount of members who already participate in various community events throughout the city.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions you guys! A few end of post notes, all photos were taken from the #boozybabesbookclub feed on IG and the book of the month for June is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. It's actually a book I read last summer, but I'll definitely be re-reading because, hello - summer, Neil Gaiman. Feel free to pick it up and tag along!