Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Read More Than Just the First Sentence

In some ways, going to BlogHer08 reminded me of high school.


I know, some of you reading (I'm looking at you Ms. Send Chocolate) are thinking, "Not another post whining about how BlogHer is like high school!" But a) this post is not whining about anything, and b) I promise there are legitimately worthwhile thoughts in here if you just read on.

A lot has been said on this subject, and I've been debating with myself about whether throwing in my two cents is really worth it. But I eventually accepted that I had wanted to write this post before I read any of the negative stuff out there, because it really was on my mind. I'm not going to let the fact that other people got melodramatic and - maybe it's harsh, but it's true - whiny about the conference stop me from blogging something I want to blog.

When I was in high school, I was not technically in "the cool crowd;" I was, however, really damn close by my senior year. I was one of "the smart kids" - the kids who took all the honors and AP classes and were on the fast track to great four-year colleges. Being one of "the smart kids" automatically excluded you from being in "the cool crowd" at my high school, so I was never going to be truly popular.

But here's the thing: I hung out with the popular kids. I went to their parties. I stayed in their hotel suites after formals and got drunk with them. (That guy with me in the dance photo? He was voted "Most Attractive." I kid you not.) I wasn't doing that stuff because I liked tagging along with them - I did it because they invited me. They liked me. And I liked them. I bet there were some kids at my school who would have said I *was* in the cool crowd, or I *was* popular. Hell, I was a runner-up for Prom Queen for crying out loud! But none of this changes the fact that when it comes down to it, I WAS NOT IN THE COOL CROWD. I just wasn't.

I wanted to be. At the time, I even considered "dumbing down" and taking fewer "smart kid" classes. (Yeah, I was swimming in self-esteem issues in those days.) But eventually, I decided that my life would be better in the long-run if I stayed true to myself and enjoyed my sideline popularity. Most of those popular kids were sweet and friendly, and I learned to enjoy their friendship from my separate status.

I feel that my place in the blogosphere now is similar to my place in the social ladder in high school. I'm not one of "the cool kids" and people don't put me on top 100 lists of the "popular" bloggers. I know who those bloggers are, though, and I like them. I think they're amazing women (and the occasional amazing man) with talent and verve and important things to say. So I read them, and I talk to them (via email and comments), but I don't ever expect to be one of them. I expected to go to BlogHer, meet them, and have them be friendly but a bit distant. After all, I'm not really their friend. I'm not really one of them.

Boy, howdy, was I stupid.

Hi, I'z Lara and sumtimes I'z not so smrt.

It was just like my high school experience all over again. The "popular" bloggers were totally friendly and welcoming. When I talked to my mom at one point late in the weekend, I explained it this way: "I keep falling in with the cool crowd and I'm not totally sure how that keeps happening." After reflecting on it some more, I know exactly how it kept happening - I had genuine conversations with other human people who didn't act like bitchtastic robots and turn me away for no good reason. Why would they? Did some of them occasionally have somewhere else to be? Yes. Did one of them maybe have to ignore me to care for an infant once or twice? Yes. Did they have honest-to-goodness friendships with other women that were deeper than the acquaintanceship they shared with me? Yes. Did any of that make me feel insecure and unloved? NO.

I ate lunch with Bossy and OTJ and Redneck Mommy and Yvonne. I danced at Ruby Skye with Moosh in Indy and Mocha Momma and Jennster. I ended up in a picture with Her Bad Mother and Sweetney and Ali. (And a picture with Mom-101, too, if you'll kindly look to your left.) Hell, Sweetney flat-out dragged people over to meet me and hear me tell them a story (it's long and complicated, but it involves me telling Sweetney that she is awesome because she's preventing a Ray Bradbury-esque dystopia from forming around us) - people like Amalah, for example. All these people tend to show up on the lists when people try to categorize bloggers as "cool" and/or "popular," but they never snubbed me, they never judged me, they never asked me to show site credentials to prove I deserved a little bit of their time or conversation. I'm not one of them, but they like me.

At this point in my life, that matters a lot more to me than actually being one of the "popular" bloggers. Oh, sure, I'd love to have hundreds of comments on every post, and I'd love even more to make gobs of money from this blog and never have to work again. But I'm certainly not going to change who I am, and I'm not going to let it keep me up at night. I'm honored that there are women and men out there who think I'm a damn fine writer, and who find my thoughts and feelings interesting enough to share here with me. And I'm grateful for the relationships that I *do* have with the "popular" bloggers - not because of their popularity, but because of their personality.

So yes, BlogHer reminded me of high school. It reminded me that popularity is a lot of perception, and that I have worthwhile contributions to make.

Even to the cool kids.


Anonymous said...

Um. We are the same person. I read this thinking, "Heather, did you write this in some sort of drug-induced haze?"

I wish we could have hung out. I only saw you briefly in the lobby as Ali and I were on our way to get coffee. Next year, for SURE.

Anonymous said...

Did some of them occasionally have somewhere else to be? Yes. Did one of them maybe have to ignore me to care for an infant once or twice? Yes. Did they have honest-to-goodness friendships with other women that were deeper than the acquaintanceship they shared with me? Yes. Did any of that make me feel insecure and unloved? NO.

That bit says a lot about you. This is the first time I have visited your blog (from a link from Julaberry) and if that sums up your attitude to the world around you, I may come back sometimes.

Ali said...

that's why i cannot understand why there's so much hate going around. i'm not a "popular" blogger either...but all of them were nothing but ridiculously nice to me.

next year? more time!

Mojo said...

I just wanna know when does BlogHim happen? I demand equal time!

On another note, I'm trying to spread some love around today. Maybe this falls in the category of "self-promotion", but really I'm just trying to gather some good karma for a friend who could really use it right now.
Can you take a moment to visit here and share some?

Amanda said...

Well said. And, for the record, you look like a young, brunette Geena Davis in the picture with Mom 101.

unmitigated me said...

Wow, you make me wanna go next year! Very nicely written. You made me remember what a chip I had on my shoulder as a high school student. If one of the 'populars' had been nice to me, I would have thought they were making fun of me and been a bitch about it. Hmmmm. Sounds familiar.

Run ANC said...

Yeah, but was there a group at BlogHer that you would consider "the drama geeks"? That's where I was. I'd like to go to BlogHer, but I keep thinking people would be like "you're nomo-what??"

This is one of the better post BlogHer posts I've read. Gives me hope.

Issa said...

I think you may be my favorite person right now. Loved this. I too wasn't "popular" but had awesome friends who were, best friends even. I always said that I dabbled at popularity. I think people get it in their head that popular means that you can't speak to them, if you aren't one of them. That they are untouchable and unhurtable. If the posts since BlogHer have shown anything, it's the opposite of that.

I've never been (before or now) considered a popular blogger (even though I've followed some of them since they started) and I'm coll with it and it's okay that some of them may never comment at my site, I still feel like it's okay to comment at theirs and send them tweets. I really hope I can go to BlogHer next year, just to be able to say, Hi (squee), I super like you to a few of them.

So yea to you for putting it so eloquently. Hopefully, I can meet you next year too.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post. I'm really glad you decided to write it.

I had a similar experience in high school. I called myself a kind of floater. I was friends with anyone really, including the popular kids.

I think what makes the difference in meeting new people and making friends, is knowing that they are people too. I think sometimes it's easy to assume that when someone has to, say...feed their kid or make it to another appointment (as you pointed out), that they're snubbing you. The fact of the matter is, they have places to be. It's nothing personal.

I'm so glad to hear you had a great time. I fully intend on going to Blogher next time around and was getting pretty bummed at all the nasty posts about it. This is wonderful! And girl, you are totally one of the "cool kids".

Bree Wilder said...

I didn't go to BlogHer. I'm new to the blogging community. I read about BlogHer and was interested in going but wasn't able to make it. And then after there was all this bitterness. From grown women. I don't get it. I wasn't there. I can't speak to what did or didn't happen but shouldn't we, as women, be each other's biggest cheerleaders?

Julie said...

Love you Lara.
This was an awesome post.

Lara said...

aurelius - it took me a long time to get there, but yes, i'd say that these days, that sums up my attitude towards the world around me. i'm not the insecure person i once was, and i'm SO glad. life is easier when you're not always reaching for other people's prizes.

ali - liar. you're totally a "popular" blogger. :-P

mojo - you should talk to neil (citizenofthemonth.com). he'll plan blogHIM with you for sure.

and self-promotion for worthy causes is welcome. i'll head over now.

nomotherearth - there is a group of EVERY type of woman/blogger at blogher. you will find many friends who will know exactly who you are and love you, and you will meet many others who don't know you yet, but will love you quickly. :)

wifey - yes, we should. and in many cases, we are. but sometimes, when some women out there are hurting, they lash out in the hopes of feeling better. i've done it too - i think most of us have - but that doesn't excuse it. we've all just got to love and forgive.

flutter said...

I wouldn't say you aren't popular, L. You ARE like stunning in person

BetteJo said...

Bitterness? Nastiness? I missed all the angsty posts obviously.

Great post - I think a lot of us can relate to this.

lu said...

cheers to AP classes in high school and managing to be friends with all types of people!

i agree with the others' sentiments here - popularity is all about perception and is difficult for everyone at times, even those considered 'popular'

great writing!

Anonymous said...

Luv you for being honest and frank about the BlogHer extraveganza. I'm pretty new to the whole scene and I don't get that whole "I'm not popular" gig that cause huge, Incredible Hulk sized chips to grow from shoulders all over the blogosphere. Really, people, if you measure your self-worth by how many comments you get on your site, you GOTS bigger problems!

See you in '09, not caring about stats and all about having a great time.

j.sterling said...

i think i hate the word popular. it's just so..... i don't know? perceptual?? varies by each person? depends on your mood? maybe that's what perceptual means jennster, you tard. anyway, i don't consider myself a popular blogger- but i know that i rock in real life, so it's all good. it's too bad my blog doesn't always reflect the awesomeness that is me. HA!

Lara said...

jennster - "it's too bad my blog doesn't always reflect the awesomeness that is me." AMEN, SISTER! :-P

María said...

"It reminded me that popularity is a lot of perception, and that I have worthwhile contributions to make."

Goddamnitt if that wasn't the most prolific thing I've read about BlogHer thus far I'll shoot myself. I'm stealing it. And clamining that you stole it from me.

So delete this comment. After you read it. So there's no record that you didn't steal it. Hmph.

María said...

I'll also be claiming it. Not just claminamamaming it. Whatever that is.

Delete this too!:P

Anonymous said...

Wow! I think you made your point beautifully. Popular or not, I think your pretty damn cool. And I'm not one of the cool kids either. :)

Z said...

Well, I wasn't at BlogHer, so no comments on that bit. But the you in highschool? Could've been me. And your perspective of it all? I loved reading it.

BTW, I came over from AM to say hello and now I've commented on a few posts so just wanted to say "hi!" and "I've added you to my reader!" - I just love finding new blogs to read! ;)