Speed Dating at BlogHer ‘13

28 Jul

BlogHer TapiocaWe 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?”

“I do.”

“What do you blog about?

“Being a lesbian mom, an adoptive mom, a stepmom . . .”

“Oh, that’s . . . nice.”

Is it?

“What do you blog about?” I say.

 * * *

“Do you have a blog?”

“I do have a blog. Do you?”

“Yes!”

“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.

Maybe.

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.

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17 Responses to “Speed Dating at BlogHer ‘13”

  1. Shannon July 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    My friend, I’m glad you found someone new to connect with, but I hate that you felt unease at other times. All I can say is, I had a lot of fun with you and I think the world of you. You have such a kind soul and I wish that every single person in that room would have been able to see it. Love to you.

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      Thank you for the FB dialogue yesterday, my friend. It means the world to me. Hope your day — and your post-BlogHer re-entry — is going well. xo

  2. Tiffany Turner July 29, 2013 at 2:57 am #

    I’ve come to the conclusion that conferences sometimes are like everywhere else, full of clicks. Sounds like you found the besy way to work them; form your own click. Hope you made some important connections. Makes a conference worth it.

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 6:59 am #

      Conferences are tough. I knew it would be, as I’ve become more and more of an introvert over the years. But to be fair, I also haven’t put in the time to build friendships online with other bloggers, which put me outside that whole “reunion” dynamic of this particular conference.

      Anyway, I’m still glad I went. I learned a lot, came away with a few nuggets, did make some friends, and discovered amazing blogs I may not have seen otherwise.

      It’s just that this series of attempted connections was so shocking to me that I had to look at that with a bit more distance, explore how I came into each interaction, my energy, what I expected or needed, and put it out there in case other people felt at all the same way … It’s a dialogue, this blogosphere, right?

      Thank you for responding!

  3. deborahro July 29, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Huge conferences are hard for anything except a brief parallel-play level connection, and so it’s very brave to put yourself into that rapid stream, especially the first time. I personally haven’t chosen to participate in Speed Dating for years because the interactions feel weird to me, and I’m a hearty extrovert, so part of it is sampling enough to know what works for you. I’m glad you were there and found some places of connection, and I’m glad to know you because for me BlogHer is just a touch point in meeting for knowing bloggers the rest of the year.

    • deborahro July 29, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Not sure why WordPress took my name bout if that comment— Deb Rox

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      Yes. “…a brief parallel-play level connection…” True, that.

      If I learned one thing this whole weekend (and trust me, I learned plenty – most of it more smoothly), it’s to ENGAGE with other bloggers, sometime during the day-to-day of working, writing, and building/raising a family… How y’all do it on a regular basis is beyond me, but I aim to try.

      Thank you for stopping by, Deb. I really appreciate it.

  4. Alexandra Rosas July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I don’t remember our mutual friend connection, but i do remember your beautiful smile. It was great to meet you, thanks for being so warm and kind. In a sea of faces, thank you for yours.

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      I know I’m ridiculous, putting all my social anxiety out here publicly — but thank you for your comment – you were a breath of fresh air each time I saw you. And as Deb says it above – I think in the future, if I’m to survive such large scenes wholly intact, speed dating is not for me. xo

  5. donttouchmypoodle July 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    This piece was very powerful and struck a cord with me. From my perspective, you are not rediculous for putting this out there. You are honest and human. And you inspired me today. I have been sitting at my computer trying to scare up creativity and hating myself that I have nothing to write about. You just sparked a thought in my mind; your ability to share and be honest helped me see how I can open up and be honest, too.

    By the way, I think conferences suck. Egos, egos, egos, and mouths abound. There are no ears at conferences. And when you are an ear, it’s like being in — er, ummm — a sea of mouths: defening and alienating to no end.

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      I love you Mr. DontTouchMyPoodle!!! I do. Put it out there. I am learning so much from you. xoxo

  6. andjustaddwater July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I applaud your ability to put yourself out there. You are showing the rest of society that we are present and we will be heard. Well done!

    • RoiAnn July 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Thank you! Now if I can just find a bit more finesse to do it 🙂 Love your blog, BTW.

  7. ninajacinto July 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    RoiAnn, This post really touched me! Our conversation was truly the highlight of this conference. With so many people bustling around, it felt hard to be present and make real connections. And as we talked about at lunch, it was disappointing to have interactions where people want to back away from you when they find out what you blog about.

    Looking forward to reading your posts and learning more about your beautiful family 🙂

    Virtual hugs
    n

    • RoiAnn August 2, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Looking forward to more posts from you, too. I really truly love your blog.

  8. Jenna Hatfield August 5, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to connect with you. I would have loved to. I’m subscribed now!

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