In two days, I’m traveling to Chicago for BlogHer. BlogHer is like Comic-Con, except with more women and babies and far fewer Trekkies. It vibrates at about the same geek frequency, though, which is something that too many people forget, I think. It’s a conference for women who write and socialize and make their livings on the Internet, which is to say that it is the very definition of geek. But for many people, it’s an event that triggers severe social anxiety and bad flashbacks to high school. Which is surprising, for what is, as I’ve said, a gathering of geeks, which is to say, a gathering of people who are disproportionately more likely than other members of society to have limited social skills and so who should not be even remotely socially threatening.
That said, I find BlogHer scary, too.
Here’s what I said after the conference last year:
What I saw (at the conference) was this: friendships being formed, friendships being renewed, friendships being celebrated and reveled in and enjoyed. I saw love and tenderness and warmth; I saw women cheering each other on, and men cheering the cheering. I saw all of the things that I’d seen in my first year – “women who are, like me, trying to use found moments of lived fearlessness to navigate the murky waters, the frightening waters, of womanhood and motherhood and writerhood (here be monsters, here be monsters. We know this. Still we fly our sails). Among women who are willing to say, out loud, that they don’t know how to always be fearless. Among women who walk with fear, but who carry wit and intelligence and charm and strength as rods and staffs for comfort” – and more.
But I also saw insecurity and anxiety and nervousness and reserve. I saw another mom with babe-in-arms keep to the sidelines, like me. I wish that I’d done more to connect with her, beyond waggling my baby at her baby (an effort that made her baby scream, which, you know, can really make someone feel like a fuck-up), because I wanted to ask her, is this as hard for you as it is for me? I heard a woman crying in the bathroom, and another woman soothing her, and I wanted to say something, but I didn’t, because I was embarrassed, having been soothed myself the night before and still feeling awkward about it. I saw, many times, women sitting by themselves, and sometimes I approached them, and sometimes I didn’t, because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was working the room – don’t laugh, it happens – or demanding attention (oh mah gahd have you seen mah BAYBEE?!?!) or, sometimes, just because I felt stupid and awkward and who knew when the baby was going to start crying again or the front of my blouse go wet and what would I say then (oh, hai, I’m Catherine, pleez to excuse the sloppy mammaries and squalling infant)?
We all feel on the outside, all of us, sometimes; even the biggest and brightest of our stars feel their distance. Whether we know a hundred people in the room, or one, or none, we feel, in certain moments, lonely. Misunderstood. Lost. Alone. We’re women, we’re human. We can be surrounded by love and still feel isolated. We can project love and still feel empty. We can be friends and make friends and still yearn for friendship. We can be inside and still feel completely outside. We’re internet geeks, girly ones, some with babies, some without, most with vaginas, all with hearts. We’re complicated.
I love us for that. I love this weekend for that. I love BlogHer, and BlogHers, for that. But there is still the ache, the anxiety. So please, can we be gentle with each other, forgiving of each other?
Let’s all of us remember that mingling with a thousand women (and some dozen men) – strangers and friends and everyone in between – is daunting for all of us. Even that blogger in the corner who you think is all well-known and well-connected – she may be those things, but she might also be anxious as hell and quietly cursing herself for not renewing her Ativan prescription. So, yes: cut her some slack, and cut yourself some slack, and do your best to relax (ha!) and have fun. Let’s all of us who are going go in the spirit of openness and patience and fun – and those who are not, follow the stories in the same spirit (and know that you are missed.)