In my first column for this fine fishwrap publication, I said that "I joined the SCA about fifteen years ago (though I first heard of it five years before that)". A vast number of people have written in about that column, and both of them wanted to know what I meant by that statement.
It is, in fact, a little running joke down here in the Southern Wastes. When we were holding discussions regarding who our "Baron pro tem" should be (until we can drop the "Incipient" from our group name and become a bona fide Barony), the first candidate introduced himself by telling us how long he'd been in the SCA, but he took special pains to point out that he'd heard about it several years prior to joining, as though this somehow extended his longevity within the Society. He then went on to boast of his numerous accomplishments throughout the Knowne World, which included founding at least three Kingdoms, and apparently the entire Society would have crumbled many times over, had it not been for his valiant participation.
But the astonishing thing is, once he'd set the precedent, every single candidate followed up by saying not only how long they'd been in, but how much earlier they had heard of the SCA. Our youngest candidate (a strapping young lad of nineteen) actually heard of the SCA three years before he was born, the one-upmanship was that fierce. So it's a good thing I wasn't running for Baron, because the truth is, I saw some guys in armor beating up on each other with sticks, went over to see what was going on, and joined right there on the spot; it didn't take me several years to decide I wanted to play.
Anyway, competition was fierce, because anyone can be a Baron, but very few people can be the Founding Baron of a group. Somehow, that makes it much more IMPORTANT, and in the SCA, it seems to be very important to be IMPORTANT.
One way to be IMPORTANT is to autocrat a lot of events or start a service guild, and refuse to delegate any tasks or listen to suggestions from others -- that way, if it's a success, you don't have to share the spotlight and can have all the glory for yourself. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, you don't have anybody else to pin the blame on. And it usually takes a lot of hard work, so what can you do if you want to be IMPORTANT without putting in a lot of effort?
One method is to move to a different kingdom and claim to be more IMPORTANT than you actually are. When I was in college, a guy moved to a neighboring group from California. He claimed to be a Knight, and a lot of people believed him -- despite the fact that he didn't have a Knighting scroll, didn't have a white belt (or, in fact, any garb at all), couldn't remember the name of his local group in California, couldn't remember the name of the King who knighted him, and he claimed to have been fighting in the SCA for ten years, despite being only eighteen. Yet the group he moved to was so thrilled to finally have a "Peer" amongst them that when people from my group began questioning his story, we were no longer welcome at their events.
At any rate, that kind of ruse doesn't work quite as well nowadays, what with the Internet making it too darned easy for people to catch you in a falsehood. Online Orders of Precedence aside, some people actually communicate with human beings in other kingdoms, which can make it fairly inconvenient if you're "veracity challenged" about your past.
There are many other tricks you can use, but the easiest way to be seen as IMPORTANT is to act IMPORTANT. Butt in on other people's conversations, rather than waiting courteously. Refuse to notice anyone of lower station than yourself, and try to associate only with people wearing pointy hats. Spend your time telling people you'd love to talk, but you have to go to an urgent meeting. Wear Elizabethan garb. But most importantly, you need to have a horde of sycophants (from Greek syco- [groveling] and phants [cupbearers]); no self-respecting IMPORTANT person would be seen in public without at least one or two toadies.
But how to attract sycophants, I'm afraid, is a subject for another column.