the divine secrets of the BlogHer ’08 sisterhood

In ALL, LIFE OBSERVATIONS, TRAVEL by Stephanie Klein51 Comments

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It’s 3:16 am, and I cannot sleep. I’m at the BlogHer conference, and I’m finally able to put a name on this feeling: sorority. Those unfamiliar with the origin of this Greek Tragedy blog might leap to the conclusion that I’m alluding to deep friendship and a profound camaraderie among women. They’d be as wrong as anonymous inconsideration.

The divine secrets of the blogher sisterhood are these:
If you come alone your very first time to such an event, without personally knowing another person, be prepared to regress. Without at least one close friend (or roommate) be ready to be completely stripped down to your most vulnerable self, that girl raising her hand, oooh-ing, “pick me. Pick me!” Like me. Play with me. Be my friend.

Most of my social mingling moments here feel like a tangle of rejection and acceptance. I’ve certainly made my own efforts to approach people. I weave through crowded cocktail parties the way I did in college–at the beginning where I didn’t really know anyone other than the few with whom I’d arrived in an elevator, on our way to a pledging event. I’m dressed just so, wanting so much to be liked, to be complimented, for a conversation to be initiated. We all want to be liked, admired, and accepted. I don’t care how much we have going for us, how many friends and admirers, or how proud and confident we are in ourselves without validation; as social creatures, we all want to be loved.

I walk around here getting a small taste of what others, non-bloggers in my life, must feel being around a blogger. “Is she going to write about this?” Every single encounter–the ones that begin by looking down at another person’s blogher ID tag, or whether it starts with an introduction through a mutual friend—is laced with a small trace of fear. If I can’t find a dollar to tip the bartender for the water he just provided me, is someone going to blog that I’m cheap? Are people watching me? Do people even care?

Fuck, I hope not.

When people in my life preface what they’re about to say with, “you cannot write about this on your blog,” I pretty much always respond, “Don’t flatter yourself.” You’re not that important or interesting (even if you are). It’s the one thing in life we find so hard to believe: that no one notices or pays nearly as much attention to us as we do.

Yeah, but attending a blog conference, surrounded by creative women of talent, it’s hard not to think, “what’s her angle going to be on this?” Or, “how can I capture this in a different way than everyone else?” Ah, I know. I’ll write about what an asshole she was, or how unexpectedly warm she was.

It’s really like walking around a constant, 3-day, pledge class, wondering when you’ll finally be able to fully relax and be inducted into the sorority of women. It’s scary in a way that shouldn’t be. I hear way too many people mention “private parties” with apologies. “Oh, are you going to the Nintendo dinner?” she whispers. No. I wasn’t invited. “What about the private party at the suite upstairs by this sponsor? Oh, did you go to the sponsored private cocktail…” Since when did blogging become so elitist? It really is just another way, ironically enough, to feel rejected.

Until, that is, you aren’t. Until those moments where you connect immediately to someone you’ve read before. To someone who just gets it, with whom you share all the unspokens. And then it all changes. Your outlook, your enjoyment, and what you get out of it all. What I was reminded of most at my first BlogHer experience, at the most basic level, is what it’s like to go about making brand new friends, without relying on insincerity, or flattery, without bonding over mean girl moments. How fragile all of us can be, how nervous, how eager we are to be liked. And how ridiculously satisfying it is to connect with strangers who are now suddenly so much more.

There are three more posts lined up on my experiences at BlogHer, including links to many of the women with whom I eventually bonded.

Comments

  1. This is a great post Stephanie. I think every girl who has ever been to a majority female event can relate. I just went through something similiar. It's amazing how quickly you can change from feeling completely rejected to completely accepted. And how paralysingly lonely you can feel within a huge group of people.

    On a side note I would love to know your thoughts on Dooce- she's a controversial figure. Your style of writing is very different. Were you able to bond?

  2. I didn't get to go but I was able to attend the keynote in Second Life and I thought you were smart, charming and funny. I'm a new reader!

  3. I hope you met Heather Hamilton. Many months ago, someone mentioned Dooce.com here and I went over and had a look and then came back here and criticised the advertising on her site. Well, I started reading her archives, every single post, and have been blown away. She's awesome and one of the best reasons there even is an Internet.

  4. Sounds like my first go-around at our monthly Mom's Coffee here in my cushy suburban neighborhood. All of my professional and personal accomplishments faded… I just wanted to be liked by the cool girls… "But," my friend (an accomplished lawyer, mom of two and possessor of great self confidence, asked me later, "who is the prom queen here?" Great question.

  5. Can't wait to hear more about your experiences, and which bloggers you connected with… some of my favorite new bloggers are those mentioned in blogs I've read for years!

  6. Oooh. This is exactly why I'm secretly terrified to ever go to BlogHer. What if no one likes me? And all of a sudden, it's the first day of school and I've worn the wrong outfit. If I had been there, I would have hung out with you… if I had gotten up the nerve.

  7. Blogging became elitist when everybody suddenly took themselves so seriously and thought that writing about a shit eating dog and exploiting their child's privacy is so relevant that they need a sponsor.
    I stopped reading blogs and I stopped writing a blog. I read yours because it is the only honest one left.

  8. It was my first time at BlogHer, and I felt like a junior high kid again, especially when walking through the mammoth ballroom, lunch in hand, looking for a chance to join a table full of complete strangers. Talk about lucking out: On Saturday, I spotted an empty chair, said "May I join you?" and ended up meeting some of the most wonderful, talented, friendly women I've met in a long time. We ranged in age from 23 to 60-something and everyone had something interesting to share, in addition to the passing round of business cards. (Who knew that Moo cards were so popular?) Bonus moment: Finding out that one of the women at the table was someone I had just been e-mailing with last week, but had never met. ("Kathy, I just e-mailed you on the plane on the way here!") Suddenly, in a room full of 1,100 people, I wasn't alone.

  9. Steph, your interview shown on the video is nice and natural in how you present yourself and your material. You may want to consider dropping the necklace-with-medallion look, as it detracts from your full natural hair and seems too much a focus point. You have enough going that you really don't need this kind of adornment. Just a suggestion.

  10. Just "discovered you" a few weeks ago…finished reading SU&D and Moose and am now starting to read your blog from the bottom up (am only in July 04). Love your REALness. Can relate to you on multiple levels! If only I'd been at that conference we could have started our own sorrow-ity! You can visit me at jenbitz.blogspot.com anytime!

  11. If I had gone to a BlogHer years ago, I would have felt the regression you speak of and probably had a not so great time. (I never rushed a sorority in a college where Greek was BIG, because I never wanted to give those girls the satisfaction of defining how worthy I was.) Truth, I didn't trust girls. I'd already had a few too many life-altering mean-girl experiences to set myself up for any more. Now, in my mid-40's, I made a conscious effort to "manage" those insecurities while going alone to my first BlogHer. To be the one who approached people, offering genuine appreciation. And it worked. And I had a better time for having done it. It was a great lesson in you get what you give. I really enjoyed meeting you btw. It was great to meet in person a writer whose work I enjoy so much. And I loved listening to you and Dooce on the panel. Thanks for attending.

  12. If I had gone to a BlogHer years ago, I would have felt the regression you speak of and probably had a not so great time. (I never rushed a sorority in a college where Greek was BIG, because I never wanted to give those girls the satisfaction of defining how worthy I was.) Truth, I didn't trust girls. I'd already had a few too many life-altering mean-girl experiences to set myself up for any more. Now, in my mid-40's, I made a conscious effort to "manage" those insecurities while going alone to my first BlogHer. To be the one who approached people, offering genuine appreciation. And it worked. And I had a better time for having done it. It was a great lesson in you get what you give. I really enjoyed meeting you btw. It was great to meet in person a writer whose work I enjoy so much. And I loved listening to you and Dooce on the panel. Thanks for attending.

  13. I know what you mean when with the whole "You are going to write about this on your blog? Aren't you?" thing. It sort of annoys the hell out of me. Even though I feel that I have told stories with class and discretion, maintained anonymity, and done all of it in the spirit of love and appreciation for the people around me, my family jokes that they are afraid to talk around me because they don't want to see it end up on "the blog." Recently, I even found out a secret my mom had been carrying around with her since February- one she told my sister, and my sister-in-law, but not me, because she was afraid I would broadcast it to the world. Don't they think I have a sensor? That I know what is appropriate and what isn't? That I don't respect their privacy and trust?
    And at the same time, when people ask me the blog question, I can't help but think, who the fuck cares if it ends up on "the blog"? Why are you afraid to let other people read your stories, appreciate your experiences, comment on your choices, hell, even JUDGE you? Simultaneously, I think, is that all you think I am? Do you think I would use people for their stories? Take every photos just to publish it on the web?
    When I started blogging this was something I never expected so it is still new to me, and I am obviously still learning to deal with it. I think your line is fabulous.

  14. You totally read my mind. My post for tomorrow is about how BlogHer reminded me of my first day at an all girls camp when everyone in my cabin already knew each other and I was the gawky new girl with big teeth and bad hair. I'm a blogger and writer, but attended as a sponso. I was worried I'd be treated like a lepper for my "ulterior motives," but I really just wanted to meet other bloggers like me. You were so incredibly nice. So glad I met you and can't wait to read your books!

  15. Big necklaces are SK's signture, Bobby.

    Im naturally quiet when you first get to know me, I tend to observe. When I feel comfortable enough I begin to open up. I used to hate that I was this way b/c it makes it extremely difficult to make friends (female friends especially) but the close friends I do have are very close and loyal. I am that girl who claims to have more male friends than females b/c of this very subject. How we are with each other. Im just as guilty of sizing up a new female as anyone else. And if she's beautiful I immediately look for some flaw to make myself feel better, and it's not until she speaks to me and I feel guilty that I cut her a break and allow myself to get to know her.

    I guess that doesnt have much of shit to do with your blog but it just reminded me of the sorority days.

    This made me laugh:

    “Is she going to write about this?” Every single encounter–the ones that begin by looking down at another person’s blogher ID tag, or whether it starts with an introduction through a mutual friend—is laced with a small trace of fear.

    This was very well written.

    What drew me to your blogs in first place other than your book is your ability to be raw, not all of the time, but every now and then, just enough to make me want more. For a while it seemed your blogs had kind of lost that "real" factor to them but as of late you seem to be right back on track.

    Im going to purchase Moose online from amazon. Fuck it. Ive looked at Borders and Barnes and Noble and they didnt have it.

  16. Out of all the Blogher posts, yours was the one I was most looking forward to. While I think it would be absolutely fabulous to meet all these wonderful women with an amazing knack at writing who I have connected with over the past couple of years, there is something holding me back from going to BlogHer. And it's that "sorority like" feeling that you captured so well here. The elitist thing. I'm just not down with that.

    But then you go and write about finding those that you just… connect with. That get you. That understand. And that makes me sort of change my mind about the whole thing.

  17. It was great meeting you. I had never read your blog, because apparently I live under a rock. So the only thing I thought when we first met was, "Wow, great hair."

  18. Ick. Think how differently a gathering of men would be – both in good ways and in bad. Deep bonds would most likely not be formed – but that sorority sh-t would never emerge. And I would think the elitist "private party" crap wouldn't either.

  19. This was a great post!
    I think we all have that experience at various times throughout our lives. I went through that in a BIG way when I moved 2500 miles to marry and had trouble bonding with other female family members. Way left out I was, and it took about 4 years to learn it was my husband they didn't like, not me. And they didn't know ME well enough at the time to trust telling me the truth.

    But it did toughen me up a lot and now when I'm in the situation of meeting a group of women I don't know, I just walk up to whomever looks remotely approachable and introduce myself and make myself start a conversation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I feel better knowing I wasn't someone who stood in a corner feeling left out the whole time. Either they like me or they don't–I've been through worse already and lived.

    As for being blogged about, ya know what? Your friends know you, and the people you would want to BE your friends would read any unflattering blogs and realize it was only ONE person's take on you–and there's 2 sides to every story. The people who instantly believe any bad things said about you–would you really want them around you anyways?

  20. I went to the hotel Friday night, to meet a "blogfriend" who was attending BlogHer. Walking through the lobby absolutely disgusted me, and made me so very glad I never even considered attending for a moment. I saw many middle-aged women dressed averagely with bright red dyed hair (that I am positive they described to others as 'sassy'). Groups of women looked at me as I walked by and I got one of two looks, "Ooh, is she anybody?" or "Nah, that's not anybody."

    So very not at all my scene. I hate the popularity shit, the extreme cattiness that comes out in groups of women, etc. Not one person looked at me and simply smiled, not one. Not even the times I smiled first.

    Glad you had a good time, but … not for me.

  21. I am beyond happy that 1) I met you, and 2) that I had NO clue whatsoever who you were.

    because I would have been too nervous and intimidated to warn you about creepy yoga-pants-guy. And then I wouldn't have learned that you are a real life person who is genuine and nice and lovely—as well as hysterical.

    xox
    steph

  22. Bloggers have become elitist, I mean down right catty and vicious sometimes too. It's more like high school and the movie mean girls than most want to admit.

    I'm glad you finally met up with some nice woman and there are some very nice women out there too. I just know that I have watched the mommy bloggers turn into this very exclusive club of "Personal friends of Dooce." and if you're not, you're;
    a. not getting to write in a book or get a book deal.
    b. You're making speeches as keynotes. Sorry but friendship does NOT entitle you to some magical knowledge.

    I feel like the whole mommy blogging world is like an episode of friends it's so incestuous.

    I read the comment by carol isn't she dooce's friend? She goes around leaving positive comments for dooce like the best little brown noser ever.

  23. I have to admit, I was shocked when I saw you walk into Cheeseburger Party. I realize now that it was completely asshole of me to feel that way. It's just… well… you're so (and I'm going to throw up now because I hate this word with every fiber of my being…) "Popular." You know?

    But, I'm so glad that you came and that we were able to talk about the things that we talked about. You really a sweet soul and I'm happy to have spent some time getting to know you.

  24. yr like a rockstar to me. I was a mic wrangler and felt so odd at using the mic myself- but I would have loved to have had dialogue with you! Kudos for you and Heather for closing what was a magnificent weekend! xo Merci

  25. You are delightful Stephanie. Astute and delightful.

    Except of course for the necklace-with-medallion look. Which, really, what were you thinking? It's all anyone could talk about after your keynote. Definitely cast a nasty shadow over the entire weekend. I mean that both figuratively and literally. It was a very big medallion.

  26. Just read Moose (from Amazon UK) – wow I loved it! So looking forward to the film.

  27. You have summed it up perfectly. It was my second time to BlogHer and both times I've been surprised by the warmness (you included) of bloggers I feared would be too busy to be bothered by little ole me. Of course there are some who are way too self important but I figure they are the ones who are really missing out. Seriously, it was great meeting you. I really enjoyed our conversation.

  28. Wow. It sounds like fat camp all over again! I'm glad to hear some people eventually warmed up and 'let you in'. I always thought the whole point of BlogHer was for women bloggers to come together as one. Maybe I was wrong?

  29. I have to say, the first event I went to at this year's BlogHer (my first!) was the conference-eve meet-and-WII party for speakers, and it was the first time in a long, long, long time (years! decades even!) that I felt that sweaty pit-of-stomach high "carrying my lunch tray, looking for a seat" school feeling. Eeek! Blurgh! Arf!

    After standing awkwardly off to the side and smiling into the middle distance for a few minutes, I lined myself up with a big and tall drink and walked up to the only familiar face in the room, i.e., YOU! Thanks so much for kindly listening to me chatter on about outfits and writing and sleeping positions, and most importantly, for giving me an island to balance myself on in that sea of not-knowing-anyone! Best of luck with the rest of the book tour, etc., etc.! XXX, Evany

  30. Wow this kind of makes me sad. I had no idea there were snobby bloggers out there. Everyone seems so nice on their blogs…I'm glad you found some good people amongst all the "have to haves."

  31. I just linked to a few blogs off of your comments which led me to others who have blogged about Blogher and others and so forth, and wow!
    Dont ever allow me to kiss your ass the way some of these gals do with the quasi famous bloggers. Jesus.
    That's a damn shame too, and probably part of the reason you could have enjoyed the conference. I mean, if all people are going to be focused on is the kind of necklace you wore (wtf??)…oh my.

    This is going to sound crazy but it makes me feel better that you were out of your element, uncomfortable. Had you been at ease in a situation like that, I'd imagine you'd have to put on many different faces. And I dont picture you being like that…at all. I hope you'll keep giving us the true, raw Stephanie.

    Credit to you for posting this. I admire you even more.

  32. Sigh. I know what you mean. I plowed through it though because I didn't want to leave without accomplishing my goals. I hated hearing about all the parties I wasn't invited to as well (and I can't BELIEVE you weren't invited, miss keynote).

    But I have to say that YOU made me feel like a rockstar by hanging out with me so much and chatting with me and telling me really smart things about writing. :)

    Thanks for that.

  33. Sigh. I know what you mean. I plowed through it though because I didn't want to leave without accomplishing my goals. I hated hearing about all the parties I wasn't invited to as well (and I can't BELIEVE you weren't invited, miss keynote).

    But I have to say that YOU made me feel like a rockstar by hanging out with me so much and chatting with me and telling me really smart things about writing. :)

    Thanks for that.

  34. Stephanie, it was a real honor to have met you. It is a good reminder of our humanity that you who are perceived to be on a super-cala-fragalistic level of Blogger with a capital B, could feel lonely and intimidated there.

    As soon as I recover from my lack of sleep and jet lag and just utter exhaustion, I'll write something about my time there on my own blog. And I'll email you something somewhat coherent, I hope. ;-)

  35. Oh, yes, so true.

    Standing in the darkness along the periphery of one of those parties, my baby strapped to my chest, I felt foolish for having flown across the country to be ignored. The days that followed brought some of the sweet connections you talk about, but the scars of my fifth grade year came back, glowing in the dark as I tried to sleep.

    I'm glad you found moments and I'm glad I heard you speak.

  36. You were a rockstar and I was so excited to meet you. Thanks for being real, honest and sweet. HUGE fan.

  37. When I did get the courage to go up to you I could not have met a more approachable and sincere person. And Phil is a hottie as well! I'm a loyal reader and first time commentor.

  38. Green, your comments had me laughing and nodding. Eesh. Cliques happen all the time but there were 'exclusive' and private parties over…mommy blogging? Really? It made me cringe. I'm all for having a niche but damn – I'm a mother to an infant and the last thing I want to do is read about someone else's wild n' wacky trials and travails. I glaze over when someone talks about potty training or multi-tasking and working mom guilt and you name it.
    Moderation in everything but to be in a room – no – devote a whole weekend to be around that energy would drive me to drink. And I wouldn't be drinking cosmos – I'd have to do scotch, neat. I'm sure there were nice women there but from what I read here it seemed miserable. Maybe it was different as a speaker and not just as an attendee. Still.. the over enthusiastic 'You go girl' mentality makes me uneasy. It's a huge reason I never attended an Oprah taping, not even ONCE when I lived in Chicago for years : overzealous ass-kissery. Yeah I made that word up.

    And Amanda, that was so sweet/sad: you flew all the way there with high hopes (with your little baby too, darling) and felt a tad rejected. That sucks and I would have talked to you had I been there! Especially if your lil' package (baby:) was hanging out with you. How cute. Sorry it was not as much fun as you expected.

  39. Stephanie would you answer some of your readers' question here – did you meet Dooce? What did you think?

  40. Gah, I'm super-secure living here in my fish-bowl existence. It's like I've spent my whole life purposely NOT seeking out acceptance of the 'popular' girls or the 'sorority'. No doubt due to some sort of long forgotten, painful rejection at an early age. I always felt like I 'won' when one of the beautiful people would say, "oh you MUST _________, everyone would LOVE you!" That was enough for me. Sighhhh… I suppose I've missed out on a lot but hey, self esteem mostly intact!

    Clicked over to the Lea link and L.O.V.E.D. it!!! I laughed so hard, especially over her rebuttal to some negative commentors. Now THAT'S cool!!!

  41. wow. i thought iall this shit was over with in highschool. i'm so sad to hear the stories. Esp. Amanda…who i would have zoned in on and totally wanted to hang out with (along with my darling 8 month old). in fact, it turns me off to all bloggers right now. nasty catty bullshit.

  42. HI Stephanie! I just stumbled upon this post as I was seraching the internet for “what to expect at BlogHer 2009”? As the event draws near, I find myself getting nervous (as I am realatively new to this whole scene) and I wanted to let you know that this post helped.

    I have been getting caught up in rejection over my lack of private party invites and forgot WHY I wanted to attend BlogHer to begin with!

    Thanks for making me re-focus! Hope to meet you at BlogHer 2009!

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