We are standing in concentric circles – three or four or five thousand women, getting to know one another in 30 seconds flat, one after another after another. The idea is that somewhere in these twenty tiny conversations we are about to embark on with women bloggers from all over the country and beyond, something – or someone – will “click.”
Well, that’s my idea, anyway, misguided though it may be.
“Do you blog?”
“What do you blog about?
“Being a lesbian mom, an adoptive mom, a stepmom . . .”
“Oh, that’s . . . nice.”
“What do you blog about?” I say.
* * *
“Do you have a blog?”
“I do have a blog. Do you?”
“What do you blog about?”
“Fashion. Food. Sometimes I post recipes. How about you?”
“Life as a lesbian mom, an adoptive mom, a step –“
“I see,” she cuts me off before I finish my response. Did she not get the memo? It’s 2013. “Have you been here before?” she asks.
Clearly, I have been here before. Moments ago.
“No, this is my first time at BlogHer. Have you been here before?”
“Oh, no, not at all. Never. It’s really . . . big . . . isn’t it?” She smiles at me and shuffles her feet, her eyes now scanning the room.
What is she looking for?
* * *
“Hi, my name is — and I blog at —-. Do you have a blog? Here, let me give you my card. That’s me. Do you have a card?”
Thank God. Someone chatty. I may not have to say anything this time.
I hand her a card. “That’s me,” I say.
“What do you blog abo-“ She reads my card. It says at the top, ‘Queer mama co-parenting by love, step, adoption and the skin of my teeth.’ “Oh!” she exclaims, and I can see the steel wall come down behind her eyelids. I can almost hear the loud THUD as the steel hits cement. I want to snap my card out of her hands.
Are you kidding me?!?
“What do you blog about?” I ask, instead. This time, I’m the one eager to move on. Or out. Completely.
* * *
“What do you blog about?”
“Parenting. Poetry. Life,” I respond. “Last week, I blogged about ducks.”
* * *
I do not run screaming from the room.
I feel hollow.
I want to find my tribe. But how? And who?
There are lesbians at this conference. I know there are. I met them briefly. Maybe if I find them again, I’ll gather courage to go on telling people who I am and what I really write on my blog.
Hours later, I see them gathered in a group, so I stop for a long, deep breath. Butterflies rise through my chest and throat and scatter out the top of my head. I can do this. I know I can. I stride over with purpose before I lose my nerve. “Hello,” I begin. “How’s the conference so far?”
“Up and down,” comes the response, after a time. Yes, I know what you mean.
But I cannot say what I’m looking for, somehow. Surely, they know. Surely, they’ve all been where I am now, but I cannot explain. I have no words for this sense of… unease. Besides, they are friends already and I am just someone who writes on the internet, occasionally well.
After a moment, I wave – warmly, I hope – and walk away.
It isn’t that I am completely alone. I’m not.
My Listen to Your Mother cast mates – lovely and talented, friendly and funny – invite me to join them for lunch, dinner, drinks and parties each day. And I come, mostly. And it’s good. Really good.
It’s just that…
They are new friends, tentative friends. And I don’t have words for this “floaty” feeling, but I want to land back on the ground. In the meantime, I hardly know what to say.
Bloggers more seasoned than I share personal stories from the podium, powerful stories. I feel connected. I feel whole. After the session, I approach one of the women who spoke. She sees a friend as I open my mouth to say hi. It isn’t personal. I know that. But she just nods to me, and strides by.
I do not reach out again.
I don’t even know what I’m reaching for.
I listen to stories on stage that make me cry. I party with Listen to Your Mother friends. People sing. And laugh. Take pictures and share them all over Facebook.
I fill my plate with turkey and healthy greens on the last day, and sit with someone who’s alone at a table, scrolling through her phone. Someone I don’t know.
“Hi,” she says, introducing herself. “Do you blog?” Good God. Is there no other way to begin?
“I do. Do you?”
“Sort of,” she says. “I work for the Strong Families Initiative…” She doesn’t expect me to understand.
“You DO!?!” I ask. I cannot believe my good luck. “I LOVE Strong Families.” I have wanted to connect with them for a year.
“You’ve heard of Strong Families? You know who we are?” She turns her chair towards me, eyes hot, and this is the most present I’ve been since I arrived. She is from the Bay Area, blogging for social change, and she wants to have a conversation.
“I DO know!” I tell her. With every fiber of my being, I feel it’s true. And we talk honestly, for a long time.