Last night, as my family sat on the lawn of the Pink Palace museum, watching Napoleon Dynamite on a really cool screen with awesome sound, surrounded by other Memphians who wanted to enjoy a nice evening's free entertainment, it came to me.
If you haven't seen the movie, you still may know the scene. Near the end of the movie, Napoleon's big dance (which, by the way, I have every intention of learning so I can join in every time the movie is on). Remember (if you've seen it) how the audience of high schoolers is silent for a moment, then erupts into thunderous applause? Applauding this sort of bizarre but also triumphant moment of total spazziness from this really awkward but dear adolescent boy?
That's how BlogHer felt.
As I've gotten sucked into the whole blogging thing, I've occasionally read posts that really resonated with me. Posts from all kinds of women with all kinds of writing talent, sharing tales of woe (of varying degrees) during high school. Of feeling excluded. Of being marginalized. Of watching, wistfully or sneeringly, those seemingly-well-adjusted popular kids who made being a teenager look easy.
And as we who were registered for BlogHer got more and more excited (and anxious) about the big event, more confessions of social anxiety, shyness, fear of not being accepted were sent out into the blogosphere. I read them and felt relief.
Each of those posts felt like Napoleon's dance. Put out there with a courageous spirit, beyond caring what anyone thought, just doing it for himself and the good of Pedro.
And the crowd went wild.
Maybe because that willingness to be a dork, to be a spaz, resonates with most people. Maybe most people felt the same way in high school: uncomfortable, misunderstood, awkward. Those who were viewed as popular, like the film's Trisha and Summer, still have moments of self-consciousness. But the lucky ones had friends like Pedro and Deb. Quirky, yes, but true and kind.
Blogging is like Napoleon dancing. I put words onto a screen and hit "publish," not knowing who's going to read those words. I don't know if the audience will applaud. And while the applause is great, it's not why I'm writing. I don't know that I'm writing for any "Pedro" in particular, or if it's more about stretching my proverbial limbs and moving with the music.
And at BlogHer we got to applaud each other, vote for Pedro, and dance together.
I emailed the following to a fellow Memphis blogger, the factual story of my BlogHer experience.
I arrived in Chicago Friday morning, via Amtrak. My brother met me at the station and whisked me onto a bus that took us to Navy Pier, and he walked me to the Grand Ballroom. I was a few minutes late and had missed the breakfast but was registered quickly enough to make it to most of the "Speed Dating for Bloggers" session. About 750 women (and a few men) were in two big circles, talking one-on-one for about a minute, then one of the circles would move. Business cards were exchanged, commonalities were noted, and online friends were recognized. I met Kvetch and Dirt to Dish and A Baby Boomer and a bunch more ladies whose faces have mostly turned into a blur of pretty. To my amazement, local blogger Lizarita was immediately to my right (she immediately recognized me from my pictures...her name tag threw me off as I thought of her as Liz but she was listed as Elizabeth). She's much prettier in real life, by the way.
Liz convinced me to attend a different session than I had intended, and I'm so glad she did. "Naked Bloggers" was not about nudity (well, a little, but not much) so much as about online identity and honesty in blogging. Heather B. spoke eloquently and well about her blogging activities, some of which almost got her evicted from an apartment. All the sessions were participatory, which gave the participants many opportunities to put faces with online handles (Sarcastic Journalist, MochaMomma, and Sarah and the Goon Squad were some that I was delighted to see).
After the session I had a chance to chat with Sarah, with whom I've corresponded online for months. We checked out the swag in the vendor area (I had brought my backpack, and was soon burdened with about 20-30 lbs. of miscellany, including five t-shirts, a bath set, flavorings for medicine, chocolate, a laptop bag, pens, a manicure kit, and about 8000 business cards) then sat down with a bunch of mamas from Maya's Mom for lunch. We found two seats at a table and I realized that I was sitting next to GingaJoy (and yes, as promised to my MamaPop ladies, I kissed her)!
After lunch, Sarah and I decided that the beer garden was a more appealing option than the next session. We downed a couple of beers, got to "officially" know each other, got a tourist to take our picture, and hurried back to the Grand Ballroom. Where I met Izzy. The three of us decided to attend a techie session on building traffic. The presentations are available online and were useful and technical. But not particularly heated or all that interesting for non-techie people.
We took a bathroom break and hightailed it to the next session: "The State of the Momosphere." I wasn't at BlogHer last year, but I've gleaned from other blogs that there was some contention between the "Mommy Bloggers" and the non-mommy bloggers. That wasn't the case this year, but the politics of monetization of blogs certainly caused a heated discussion. Catherine and Lena were fantastic panelists, and I really felt for all the panelists who had to speak after Catherine, who is astonishingly articulate. There were a few discussion threads that I never managed to comment on, like this comment that was in my head for a long time: "Most mommy bloggers are mothers of small kids, generally preschoolers. Perhaps that's a function of these moms being more likely to be home with the kids. Since nobody in my house calls me "Mommy" anymore, does that make me a "Mom-blogger" instead?" It wasn't a particularly deep or interesting comment, and by the time someone brought a microphone to my side of the room, the conversation had moved on. Other bloggers have discussed this session a great deal and I have little to add at this point.
My brother met me at Navy Pier for the cocktail party on the rooftop. Since I was staying at his apartment across town, I didn't have a chance to drop off my swag bags anywhere, but he did help me consolidate them into his backpack so neither of us was carrying 80 tons of stuff. At the party I met Lena and Mom 101 and Disorderly Conduct. And I learned this: even the highest-ranked, most-visited bloggers? They're all geeky girls, just like me. It was wonderful to be surrounded by brainy, witty women, even if it was just for a day (I only attended the first day of the conference). I can't wait until next year.