When we last left off, Maria Scileppi was describing some of the most notable friends that she met while working on her Peoplescape project, a year-long social experiment. The project culminated in an exhibition at an art gallery last June. To read the first part of this series, see part one.
Who were some of the most memorable friends that you met while working on the project?
I met Kelly, my July 9th, at a strip club. A friend of mine tested me and said I should meet someone at a strip club. We walked into the all nude club and were immediately approached by several women. I was trying to sniff out the friendly-will-talk-to-us-for-awhile vibe. Finally Star, a girl-next-door type, came up to us and sat on my friend’s lap. We talked for a while and I remember being really blown away by how normal she was. She did not seem like a stripper, hard and jaded. She had only been dancing for 6 months and talked about the shadiness that goes on between strip club and employees. She also drives a Cadillac and lives in Wilmette. That image cracks me up. Anyway, we talked for a good 40 minutes and she opened up about her life. I was surprised she spent so much time with us, considering she wasn’t making any money. Towards the end I felt a little unsure what to do. Now that I knew her would it be weird to get a lap dance? But is it worse to not give her any money since she spent so much time with us? She gave me a lap dance and I gave her $20 and a hug.
I met Charles, my July 29th, on the streets of Old Town. It was a Sunday, the hardest day to make friends and I had been trying all day. I was in public spaces hoping to make a friend. I never force it. It was now 10pm and I had just turned to a friend not sure what to do next when Charles came up to me and asked for $15 so he could stay at a halfway house. I thanked the Universe for delivering Charles to me. I asked him to join me for a drink and to tell me his story. He had just gotten out of jail that Thursday. He was convicted of murdering his uncle because his uncle molested his child. He had been in for 11 years and had never been on the internet! He recited some beautiful poetry he’d written while locked up. I gave him my business card which he promptly put into his bible. I realized afterward, that I had just given my business card to a murderer. I was quite embarrassing to tell my boss the next day but I haven’t seen Charles since.
I met Dusica, my August 5th, on Craigslist. I was looking for someone to play tennis with. I answered her post and we met at Oz Park. Turns out she’s really good at tennis and I’m not. We hit the ball around and she told me her story. She is from Serbia but went to high school and college here. She was also planning on opening a crepe shop. After our tennis game she took me to the future home of her crepe place. We decided to go to another crepe place in the neighborhood to do some recon. We met several times to play tennis or to see blues music. She has since opened her “Couture Crepe Cafe” and it is doing well.
I met Bridget, my August 9th, at a Media Bistro networking event. I was fascinated by her career and had a million questions. We became good friends and started hanging out several nights a week. I introduced her to my “October 20th” and they just got married last week in Paris. He is Parisian and they now live in France.
Do you continue to correspond or talk with some of the friends you met on the project?
Yes! I have about 30 people from the project in my phone. I have several that are very good friends and I run into people in my project about 70% of the time I go out. I went to a party this past Saturday and saw 3 people from my project. One guy, my April 18th, is from Australia but I met him in Barcelona. He was on his way to Dubai and I to Paris but we spent a few hours at a pub. We stayed connected through irregular IM chats. He was visiting the states for the first time and passing through Chicago. He asked about hostels but I offered my couch to him. I only knew him for about 5 hours, two years ago and now he’s sleeping on my couch! I do feel a bond with people in my project no matter how fleeting the moment was.
Did the Peoplescape project exceed your expectations?
Hell yeah it did! I had no idea how many people cared about the concept. Pretty much everyone I tell is fascinated and has many questions for me. It has also gotten other people to take on projects of their own, many have taken on 365 day projects. I also learned a lot about myself, I had no idea I had this in me.
What are some of the things you’ve learned as a result of this project?
It has changed my life and it will never be the same. I have created a rich world around me through the people I connect with. The project also taught me to dream big, sounds corny but I never believed I could do anything I set my mind to, until I tried. The project also helped me realize that I have something powerful to offer the world. I don’t have to live a cookie cutter life like so many other people. I can leave my mark on the world and make the world a better place in my own way by encouraging and promoting friendship and connecting with others.
Would you consider doing this again?
No. Absolutely I could not do it again. It was the perfect time to do it because I had just moved to a new city and had no friends. I had nothing else to do with my time. I also was naive (which I think is a great weapon) about just how much it would require.
For anyone reading, do you have any recommendations about how to meet more friends?
Yes. Most of the time people came up to me and started conversations. I think it was because of my body language. An “open” posture draws people in and lets them know it’s okay to approach you. Show up to life. I said yes to pretty much everything I was invited to. I used Meetup.com and lot and heard about things going from Craigslist, Going.com and Time Out magazine.
Is there anything more you want to say to anyone who wants to learn more about your project?
Please visit my website for more info: Peopelscape365.com or feel free to email me Mariascileppi@gmail.com.
Once again, I’d like to thank Maria Scileppi for taking the time to tell her story. She has inspired me to get out there a little bit more and has reminded me that I need to work harder at maintaining my existing friendships. The fact that two friends she met on this project have since been married also reminds me how interconnected we really are.
How about you…other than the internet or other social media tools, where do you go to meet new friends?