Let’s just say, a certain male adult member of my family, the one who sleeps with me at night separated by a flailing three year-old, has come a long way. He once referred to Blogher as Geekdom, sure that my attendance had me one step away from sporting plastic Vulcan ears and keynoting a Trekkie convention.
This year he referred to the conference as Spring Break.
There were aspects of the weekend that were of course, a social cut above your average lying on the couch at home watching reruns of The Soup. Indeed, there were taquitos consumed in Soho with friends; there was champagne raised in toasts; there was enviable celebrity contact; there were parties attended and parties blown-off; there was a Cool Mom Picks v Mamapop Dance-off complete with gory video evidence.
Does that look like Spring Break?
I can see where anyone reading my tweets or stalking my facebook photos might think so too. It’s easy to break off from a dance floor and tweet some bit of goofiness that you witness.
What’s hard is trying to describe (in 140 characters or less) the liberating, essential, soul-restoring feeling of letting completely loose for the first time in ages to dance like no one is watching. Despite the fact that everyone is watching and most have cameras.
What’s hard is describing the moments (in 140 characters or less) that have nothing to do with 80’s hits or lounges designed to look like Big Macs. Because when you’re profoundly in those moments, you’re not always stopping to write about them.
What’s hard is describing just what the conference is.
Because it’s sort of like summer camp. And a sleepover party. And the mafia. And a writers workshop. And The Oscars. And a playdate. And a tech conference. And a soap opera. And an artist colony. And an OB/GYN waiting room. And one of those weird retreats where people camp out in the woods and hug every time someone blows a whistle, or something.
The thing is, as I write about it now and I look at my words, it’s hard to prove to someone that it isn’t Spring Break at all. It’s not as if I walked away from the weekend with six signed contracts, a head full of statistics, or a worksheet on Search Engine Optimization.
Because see, that’s not the stuff that brings 2400 people together for a weekend, forsaking their families and their jobs and the premiere of Real Housewives of DC. Well, it might be. But even the SEO geniuses who I know and the tech geniuses and the entrepreneurs and the published best-selling authors come for something else.
They come to Blogher for community.
And God, I know that sounds so touchy-feely. So horribly girlie and intangible and weird and not like a real professional goal at all.
Which is exactly the point.
Which is exactly why, I think, Lisa and Jory and Elisa made this thing. And why we come.
Women do things differently. And in our world, community is not less important than PowerPoint, and hugging a reader for the first time is not less important than exchanging business cards.
Which is why at Blogher, what I learned wasn’t projected on a screen. The learning I got came from panelists who made me think about how and why and what I blog. It came from spontaneous hallway conversations of both the deep and shallow variety. Or a cocktail party conversation that makes me think over the direction of my life.
It came from hugs and handshakes that helped me understand people I’d never have met any other way in my life. It came from a room full of like-minded women, talking politics with Senator Gilibrand for a half hour just when I needed a strong reminder that there are still people out there fighting the good fight on our behalf and maybe I should be more too.
And it certainly came from the community keynote.
I was honored to have been selected to read in the very first one in 2008 (not the kind of essay you might expect, by the way) and maybe I’m biased in my blind support for anything Eden Kennedy does ever. But I feel the need to say that anyone who skipped it, as about half the conference attendees did, because you were at some brand-sponsored off-site party, or trying to spin a wheel on the conference floor to win a free coupon for diaper wipes, you missed something profoundly more valuable.
You missed supporting your community, as they reach into their souls and screwed up the courage to share some of the brightest, funniest, bravest, most thoughtful, most talented, most profoundly moving, most honest, and most awe-inspiring, life-changing essays.
They are the reminder why I love blogging. They are the reminder that for the most part, the community of women who blog is one that builds itself up, not tears itself down. They are the reminder why I try to keep my Twitter stream full of inspiration and humor and insight, and relatively free of branded hashtags and infighting. They are the reminder that behind the words on the screen are people.
So thank you, to all of you Blogher Voices of the Year, for giving that to me. Thank you to everyone I met or re-met or connected with in any way at all (and forgive me for not linking you all) for giving that to me.
When it comes down to it, I think so much of what you learn at Blogher is about yourself. That is, if you want to.
Is there any greater gift to us as writers?
And yes, the dancing part is important too.