In some ways, going to BlogHer08 reminded me of high school.
WAIT! DON'T GO!
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.
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.