A year ago I decided to sail about and see the bloggy part of the world. I’d already started a dad blog and begun learning the ropes. This August, I betook myself to San Diego and booked ship on the Mer de Femmes, otherwise known as BlogHer ‘11.
This is my ship's log.
BlogHer is a sea of 3,000 women. This is a very large number of women to be immersed in if you’re a man. Many more than I've ever known, seen, or imagined. Overwhelming, actually.
I met a few guys there, dad bloggers like myself. But BlogHer isn't about men. Did I mention the 3,000 women? 3,000 savvy, ballsy, kick-ass women, women of all shapes, ages and colors, mad to blog, mad to learn, mad to teach, mad to connect, mad to create, mad to dress, mad to let their hair down and dance?
Day one. At the expo hall, where sponsors are pushing their latest. A sign at one booth screams "SEX TOYS." I think a woman is examining a long, purple object on the counter. I say think because I don't look again, as it suddenly strikes me that gazing upon the face of such things may turn one to stone. The crowd current bears me away.
That night, I go to the The People's Party in a vast hall of the Marriott. I amble to a table of three women.
"May I join you?"
"A brave man," says one, shaking my hand.
They want to hear my story: When I was eight, my father died. I grew up without a dad. A year ago, when my son turned eight, I began blogging about how to be a father with no model for it.
“Why come to BlogHer?” says one.
“Because most of my readers seem to be women.”
The woman who shook my hand, Roni Noone, makes her living running five healthy-living websites. Married with two kids, she's warm, articulate, and a total web pro. I'm in awe. Awe, at BlogHer, is my new normal.
Next morning the sessions begin. I choose Blogging My Way to Self-Acceptance.
“Are you writing to connect or impress?” Shauna Ahern asks the room. Just so.
I join the throng at the stage after and talk with Mr. Lady, of Whiskey in My Sippy Cup. She’s full of sensibleness. I just know some will rub off on me. I thank Shauna for her delicious words. She gives me a big hug.
That afternoon, at the Voices of the Year Keynote, I approach a table where three women relax. By now, I’ve met 50 people.
“May I join you?” I say with confidence.
One gives me a strange look. “This is for BlogHer,” she says.
“Oh, I’m with BlogHer. See?”
She inspects my badge, then looks at me, uncertain.
Another woman says, “These seats are all saved.”
I sit alone watching fourteen women give readings that leave me thinking I really should learn to write someday. At the reception on the terrace after, hundreds of woman chat and laugh, munching cheese. I envy them. They glide and touch with easy grace. I am stiff and ungainly.
“Hey, man person,” a woman calls. “Come here.”
She introduces herself. She is, she says, a famous blogger. “I’ll say anything,” she tells me, and does.
“What’s your story?” she says.
I tell her, then say, “I was feeling invisible. Thanks for noticing me.”
“You’re pretty hard not to notice.”
I feel better.
The final day. Where are my 50 people? No matter. I meet 50 more.
I attend a last session, Humor Bloggers. I'm not a humor blogger; it's my wild card pick. I sit down next to a young woman who looks like Marilyn Monroe, if Marilyn blogged.
“I got a vibrator from the expo hall,” the moderator, Mona Hickey, says, holding it aloft. “Anyone tried this?”
It’s the purple thing I saw on the counter yesterday.
“I did,” a woman across the room says. “Works great.”
At least, I think they said this. Because humor bloggers talk very fast. Plus Mona has her back to me, so I’m not really sure. What I am sure of is that my shoelace seems untied, so I reach down to work on it discreetly while vibrator talk floats above.
The conversation turns to things you should and should not share in a humor blog. The back-and-forth is fast and funny. Then, the woman next to me shouts:
“You have to be careful. When I blogged about the fifth anniversary of my first blow job, my dad read it.”
Unlike the vibrator reviewer, who sat far away, this woman sits right next to me. She ignores me and goes on. And on. Should I look at her? Look away? I look down at my shoelaces, which are next to her naked toes.
Hysterical laughter throughout the room. I decide the best plan is to act natural and join in. I laugh a little, indicating I’m a go-with-the-flow sort of guy, a regular dude unfazed by a roomful of women talking blow jobs.
I act more natural.
What they’re laughing at, I find out later, is me.
Heather Clisby confesses afterward she was the prime laugher.
“Your face,” she says. “You should have have seen. Your eyes were big as saucers and your jaw just drooped.”
She takes my cell number.
“I’m calling you tonight to check in,” she says. “You’d better have fun at the parties.”
There are three, music and talk deafening, everyone dressed to the nines. I meet another fifty people. I see the fifty from the first day, and the second.
On the terrace a salsa band plays, and three elegant young men pull women from the crowd to dance. The men work for the party’s corporate host and are irresistible dancers. The laser show flashes on the dance floor. San Diego glistens in the night. Already, I look forward to BlogHer ’12.
(Wolf Pascoe blogs about fatherhood's persistent problems at Just Add Father)
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