You know it’s no ordinary conference when you need both hands to count the number of people who approach and ask, “How are your boobs?”
(They were (are) fine, by the way. After skipping feeds both Sunday and Monday morning, I was fearing death-by-chest on Monday afternoon, but then a few Twitter friends suggested I do a final feed just until I was physically comfortable (they actually said I should pump, but I don’t even know where it is anymore), and then after that I should be fine, no need for special sage teas or cabbage leaves or binding or agonized despair. I followed that sage (yet sageless) advice–but oh, the tears!–and wore a tight sports bra to bed that night, and ever since have had zero issues, save for a certain tiny person who still occasionally paws at me and says, “Boobies, boobies,” although he just as often says “Boobies no! Boobies no!” which is proof he understands the situation. Anyway, we’re done and we’re fine.)(*sob*)
When I went to my first BlogHer, in 2006, I knew it was no ordinary conference. Catherine was weaning Emilia, I remember, and in addition to talking freely about how it felt (in all senses of the word)–not exactly your everyday cocktail chatter–she was also wearing star-shaped pasties on her tank top, which, again, I doubt you’d have much of at most other conferences. As a chronic oversharer and a person whose personal boundaries are generally thin and permeable, I knew that this was where I belonged, that these were my people. How lucky that I should end up in this place when This Place didn’t even exist when I first began writing about my life on the Internet, right?.
When I started blogging, in 2003, I never thought it would lead to five years (and counting) of meeting–and then immediately hugging–”strangers” from across the continent. Nor did I think having a blog would result in my one day being taxied down the Avenue of the Americas while smooshed in a two-seater pedicab with an accountant and mother of three from British Columbia and a young lobbyist from all over the East Coast while our driver huffed to get us to the Central Park Boathouse, even as his fellow pedicabbies were heckling him for being dressed like Mario, giant felt moustache and all.
(As a Nintendo Brand Ambassador, I was invited to attend Brand About Town’s annual dinner, and a caravan of Marios was our transportation. (I tried to take what photos I could, but the ones from the event’s official photographer’s full set are better.) There was whiskey at the Boathouse, and filet mignon and friends, and if that wasn’t enough we (and our guests) each left with a DSi and a car ride down Fifth Avenue past the Met and the Guggenheim and the Plaza. This, when all I wanted to do so many years ago was get online to post pictures of my cat!)
Now that everyone and her grandma has a blog, I wonder how often the newbies get into this with the intention to just write. BlogHer itself has influenced the community’s emphasis on monetization and branding and blogging-as-business (just look at this year’s panels), and although there’s nothing wrong with that (and indeed much good to come of it), I do think we personal bloggers sometimes get the side-eye for doing what we do simply because we are compelled to share. I can see the words caught behind pursed lips: “You mean you just want to write about your feelings? For free?” They seem to imply that there’s something creepy about opening yourself up to the world gratis, but, I don’t know…shouldn’t it be the opposite? Isn’t there something dirtier about only getting intimate if the price is right?
(Obviously, I do get a small monetary kickback for what I do here, but that has never and will never be my motivation. Contest winners make more than contest hosts on most campaigns, and the ads have never driven content on my main site. I have no qualms getting paid for something I’d do in the absence of pay.)
During the conference, I was invited to stand up with a handful of other bloggers at a private meeting with several dozen CEOs of major (MAJOR) corporations to talk about why I blog. I was last, following, among others, a food blogger who turned her site into a book deal within her first year and one of the cofounders of a big Hollywood gossip site. And then there was me. Who blogs about hookers and how infrequently I bathe my child. Who blogged through a broken engagement and a miscarriage and–much less tragic–finding out our imaginary girlchild had a penis. Stuff that I care about.
So what was I doing there? What business had I being one of a handful of faces to stand for the thousands and thousands of others out there doing thousands and thousands of different things on and with their sites? Lisa Stone called me an “influencer,” a “leader in the community.” I responded with a charming gutteral and then looked away. Now, obviously I’m not the most popular or most successful or most ambitious or hardest working or longest-running blogger out there, but I am, to an extent, representative of what I imagine is still the biggest population of bloggers: people writing about their lives, and not for fame or profit or awards or RTs but because, really, truly, we do just want to talk about our feeeelings. If that’s what I’m known for–being an old-school life blogger–I’m proud as hell of that.
I usually come home from the conference full of ambition and inspired to make my blog bigger, more substantial, filled with more capital-C Content–stuff you’d want to Digg or Stumble or “Like” on Faceplant. This year I only attended one panel, and the rest of the time I spent with friends, talking about things like…well, like how my boobs were doing. It was a different conference for me because of that. I feel more centered and less frantic and desperate because of that.
That’s not to say I’m shunning opportunities because I’m certainly not (major corporations, tweet me!), but the fact that I’m not beholden to some larger goal outside of wanting my blog, first and foremost, to be a journal, means that more often than not that’s what I’m able to share with you–personal things, things that might resonate with you because they’re familiar, or things that might resonate because they’re foreign. Not just stuff I want you to buy.
When I started this site, I was twenty-four years old. I’ve grown up in this world, and it’s as much a part of me now as where I went to school and how long I took piano lessons and what kind of music I listen to when no one else is around to hear. I respect the work others do in using their blogs to become community leaders, activists, voices for important messages, but I’m equally (albeit in a different way) proud of those of us who do it on a smaller, more insulated scale. It doesn’t mean we care less or work less hard, or that we’re less important. Standing up in front of those CEOs and CFOs and CBOs talking not about the brands I’ve worked with or the sites I’m paid to write for or the special privileges I’m allowed but about the people in this community, all of you who have shared your lives with me as I’ve shared mine with you…that, to me, is what makes personal blogging distinct from anything else out there in the world (including chat rooms and message boards and even Twitter).
I love to be important, but it’s more important to be loved. Last I checked, money and fame and popularity don’t hug back.