The waiting for the elevators, the being surrounded by thousands of women, the panel, the parties, the after-parties (cheesecake and/or Caesars, anyone?) the reading – oh my, that truly gorgeous Voices of the Year reading. They’re all over, presumably until the fun starts up again next year in Chicago.
But something else is also over: the anticipation.
For several months leading up to it, I will admit that BlogHer 2012 took up a fair amount of the real estate in my headspace: low-level anxiety around going somewhere new; being part of something so big, so storied. There were the questions of what to wear, what to say, where to hang out and with whom, yes, but underneath all of that my junior-high baggage about not fitting in, not having fun, not having any friends and feeling alone and excluded among the thousands.
Yes, of course, I knew in my head that these weren’t rational fears. I knew in my head that my clothes were plenty nice enough, that I would have lots good things to say on my panel, that the judges wouldn’t really have chosen my piece for VOTY as a practical joke. I knew in my head that the conference would be made up of a group of diverse and interesting women and that I would doubtless find dozens if not hundreds of kindred spirits.
I also knew in my head that I had two roommates, seasoned BlogHer conference veterans, who would watch out for me and be my instant posse, fast-tracking me into their inner circle of fabulous women, saving me seats at the lunch table. Deborah and Vikki took it upon themselves to invite me into their conference world, so very graciously making room for a third. And for this, I was eternally grateful.
But I was also a bit worried.
I’d met Deborah only the year before, when we’d gone out for dinner in Manhattan and talked and talked until she was very nearly late for her train, and then continued the conversation the next day at her home in New Jersey. I’d met Vikki only online — and, as we all know, those connections can be just as strong as the in-real-life variety, but we’d never had the chance to see if our IRL chemistry would mesh before committing to five consecutive days and nights together. (I took some comfort in the fact that our menstrual cycles mysteriously synced in advance of the conference.)
But mostly I was worried that I would intrude on their dynamic. They’d been through two previous BlogHer conferences together. They had their traditions, their rituals, their shared history (involving vodka keggers and multiple photographs with brand mascots), whereas I would be coming in green. They’d met each other’s families, and still wanted to hang out. I worried that I’d be a third wheel, a drag on their relationship. I worried that they — blog wives — would really wish that they hadn’t invited me — the blog concubine — into the red tent. I worried that they might put toothpaste on my face or stick my hand in warm water when I fell asleep in the middle of their traditional all-night after-party.
But none of those things happened. (For the record, apparently Deborah really wanted to put toothpaste on my face when I fell asleep at 4:30 AM in the middle of the all-night after-party, but fortunately she was too soused to actually get up and do it.) Instead, we found our way. We figured out the dynamic without having to force it, accepted and made room for (and occasionally teased each other mercilessly about) our respective foibles (to wit: someone, not me or Vikki, brought seven pairs of jeans for two days). Vikki and I read our VOTY pieces aloud the night before the conference began in the quiet of Deborah’s kitchen, a reading that was in many ways more intimidating for its intimacy than the real thing in front of 4,000 or so BlogHer attendees. (Did I mention the grand and happy coincidence that we were both chosen as Voices of the Year? As in, two of fifteen out of 1,700 submissions? And that Deborah had had the honour in 2010? What are the odds? It was like a gift from the gods of non-competitive not-awkwardness, frankly.) The two of them made fun of my sleep mask (“It’s a face bra!”) and imitated my so-called Canadian accent — oot, aboot, hoose — a little more than was strictly necessary, but they also cheered me on in my panel and had my back during VOTY and drank Champagne with me after in the Hilton lobby.
And when I finally fell asleep at 4:30 AM in the middle of the all-night vodka kegger, it occurred to me that, in another time and space, I might have been frustrated at the party going all around me. But I wasn’t. I drifted off to sleep, in the midst of the sea of balloon animals, to the happy sounds of Faiqa drinking our emergency tequila stash, to Sarah and Karen doing duets from Grease 2, to Stacy and Deb and Laurie still arguing the finer points of spoons, thinking, “This is what I signed up for. This is exactly what I signed up for.”