High School Confidential

July 31, 2007

I’ve said before that I don’t think that the blogosphere is like high school, or, at least, that the corner of the blogosphere that is populated by parents is like high school. Hell, I just said it just the other day, on public record, in front of a room full of bloggers, some of whom who were probably thinking that were it not for the facts that I wore no scrunchie in my hair and was not running for school president, I would otherwise bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Tracy Flick, and possibly also one or two Heathers.

(You may, in fact, be thinking that now. That’s okay. I understand. But hands off my virtual scrunchie.)

I stand by what I wrote last year, and what I said at the Momosphere panel at BlogHer: the momosphere is not like high school. It’s not like any high school that I ever attended, anyway. Nobody actively shuns or excludes anybody else. Nobody’s getting pantsed in the locker room, or spat on in the smoke pit, or shoved in a locker. Nobody is prancing down the hall, looking down their noses, swinging their hair and letting their purses knock the glasses off of freshmen who don’t know well enough to get out of the way. It’s not high school here. It’s really not.
But I have to concede that it might, for some people, feel that way. Especially now, in the wake of the party of the year – BlogHer is prom and Homecoming and grad night (and more than a little bit of band camp) all rolled into one – when everybody is talking about who did what and where and who slept with whom and why and omg were you there when they put panties on HBM’s head?
It’s feeling that way for me, a little bit. I’m saying that, obviously, as someone who was there, as someone who was in the thick of it, as someone, maybe, who swung her hair a little bit as she pranced about with her girlfriends (and – it must be said – with their babies. And their moms. Which would have cut down whatever sliver of glamour we were hoping to exude, were it not for that fact that those babies were so heart-burstingly adorable and that mom so super mega-awesome.) But I’m saying it because I felt it; because I am feeling it, now, in retrospect.
I did a lot of huddling. I didn’t circulate around a great variety of tables. I wanted to maximize time with some women that I really, really love - heart-friend love - women who I don’t see often enough, women whose friendship pushes past the boundaries of the Internet, women whose distance I keenly feel even as we text and e-mail and chat and (ever more rarely, ironically) catch up with via blog. (My Toronto girls, my real-life BFFs, are another story – I missed being glued to their sides, but had the consolation of one of them in bed and the others on our Thelma-and-Louise adventure and all of them, all of them, here, today and tomorrow in the park and around the table to hug and to kiss and to share.) And so it was that I might have breezed by some of you in the hallway, not noticed you in the washroom, only shared a word or two or three before rushing off to link arms with a BFF, or catch up to a girl-crush or two or three or four, or put up another election poster, or whatever.
And so it is that as I write this, even, some of you are cruising the halls of the Internets, listening to the whispers and giggles and feeling left out, feeling excluded, even, from the experience of not getting to know someone that you maybe wanted to get to know better. I wanted to get to know so many of you better. I missed getting to know so many of you better, so many of you who were there, in addition to the great, great many who were not. (Don’t even get me started on linking you all. CANNOT DO IT. The potential for missed-link angst is far, far too great. Also, my poor tired fingers. Many of you know who you are, most of you don’t, but I just can’t go there. Someday you’ll hear it from me personally.) So much so that I can say this in all honestly: I feel a tiny bit of relief that some of you who couldn’t make it, didn’t make it. That you weren’t there.
Because – because you weren’t there – I can’t feel that I missed an opportunity that was right in front of my nose, as I did with so many. I can avoid feeling guilty about not having spent enough time with you, about not having slowed down enough to exchange more than a few words. About having chosen to have lunch with someone other than you. About having not had the time to discover whether you and I could be heart-friends, too.
Because I really think that we could, you and I – the yous who were there and the yous who were not. Be heart-friends. But there are so many of you, and so little time and so little space in this world that we call real life. In the long, tight hallways and crowded lunch-rooms of real life, where you’ll notice if I don’t look your way. Where I notice if I haven’t looked your way.

So. I cried a lot upon my return. I cried because I felt torn by conflicting emotions. Gutted at having said goodbye to some of the dearest friends I know, some of whom are moving even further out of my real-life reach. Rueful at not having spent enough time sharing this adventure with my really-real-life girlfriends (who, it must be said, barely noticed that I was not in my usual place at their side, so much was the fun being had with the rest of you). Heart-sore at having missed so many opportunities to deepen existing friendships, and to make new ones. And this: relieved to be back in the wide-open spaces of the Internets, where the lunchrooms are bigger and the hallways wider and there is so much more room for everyone. Where you all are, always, and me, too, always, roaming and talking.

And never, ever getting lost in the middle of nowhere.

Where the whispers and giggles carry further, or can or should carry further, where we have all the time and space in the world to be, maybe, friends. Where you’ll forgive me if I sometimes seem to huddle, if I sometimes seem to not notice, if I sometimes seem to breeze by in the hallway. Because I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. It’s just, sometimes, there are so many voices, so many stories, and my heart can only stretch so far at once. Our hearts can only stretch so far at once.

At least here, in this space, there is room for stretching, and the will to stretch. That’s why it’s not like high school. Not in the ways that matter.

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    { 88 comments }

    motherbumper July 31, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Um… I didn’t nearly hump this many things in high school so I guess it’s safe to say it IS more like a cocktail party considering I hump EVERYTHING at those.

    Umm… I should just keep my mouth shut.

    I can’t believe I humped Indiana and it’s on film.

    ali July 31, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    i guess there’s my silver lining right there….

    i wouldn’t have had enough time to meet and talk to all the people i wanted to…it just wouldn’t have been enough.

    Miguelina. July 31, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    My God, that was so sweet!

    I’m glad I made it easier for you by not going to Blogher ;) but I still wish I’d found a way. Not that we would have found the time to chat (the whole thing sound pretty crazy and overwhelming)

    I don’t mind seeing the pictures and reading about the love…maybe someday, you know?

    Rocks In My Dryer July 31, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    I was so glad to meet you, and I loved what you had to say at the panel and in this post.

    Liz July 31, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    great post, catherine. and interesting to read, as well.

    the high school mentality was quite a topic of conversation. i have to say, save one or two instances, blogher was only like high school in my mind. by which i mean i immediately slunk into my socially anxious shell and surrounded myself with a half-dozen trusted friends.

    interestingly enough, i sat in one particular session–aimed towards fighting intolerance–in which the session was hijacked by a panelist who felt it very important to discuss the “A-List Status.” But, for that, we all just laughed. Just like I would’ve done when I was 16.

    I was so pleased to meet you at the Momosphere session–and I loved what you had to say. You are as eloquent a speaker as you are a writer. Cheers!

    Kimberly July 31, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Catherine, please let me say as someone who was, for the most part, the shy girl in the corner, you were incredibly gracious. You may not have had time for much of a chat, but the time you did have, you were *present*. You did not make me feel like I was intruding on your good time when I wanted to say “hi” or like I was a lowly niner getting above herself by talking to a senior. You–and many other bloggers with highly identifiable names–made me feel like I mattered.

    Of course, filming porn, hassling Americans about their chocolate techniques, and getting yelled at by security with your soul sisters helped too :) You are an amazingly generous group of women, and have nothing to apologize for.

    Christina July 31, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I’ll admit I had my moments of feeling like I was the girl sitting at the table next to the popular girls, but I got over it quickly.

    After all, there’s only so many seats at each table for lunch, only so many hours to spend time with some of the nearly 800 women in attendance, and somewhere in there we tried to pay attention to seminars, too. Two days is simply not enough time to do everything we want to do.

    And there’s always next year.

    canape July 31, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Um, what Slackermommy said.

    I could have just not commented I suppose, but I felt the need to give the second to SM.

    And by the way, I didn’t take personally that you or anyone else already had friends at the conference. It’s only all about me on the blog. Not in real life.

    It takes time to develop relationships and to fit into groups. I’m down with that.

    Her Bad Mother July 31, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Christina! Is it a cop-out to say that you should have just pulled your chair over?

    Also, Mira and I were twins. That’s sistah-bizness.

    Christina July 31, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    See, this is why I’m not bothered by the worries of being snubbed. It was all me – I could have pulled my chair over, but didn’t, because I didn’t want to barge in. No one did anything to make me feel unwelcome at all.

    I think at heart, many of us are nervous geeks shyly coming out from behind our computers, hoping no one will point and laugh. And thankfully at BlogHer, no one did.

    Oh, and I must disagree with Julie – Ohio is not the middle of nowhere. It is most certainly Indiana.

    Mocha July 31, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    The possibility of reading comments (much less linking people like you mentioned) is too much. But I saw the one from Christina (who very sweetly brought her bundle over to me and introduced – I refrained from eating the toes off that baby) and was reminded that we stayed after for a long time at the first luncheon and couldn’t stop talking.

    Basically, thanks for pulling up a chair, my dear. It was fantastic and unplanned and damn, did we try to cure the world of all ills in that space of time.

    Lara August 1, 2007 at 1:56 am

    i heart you more than words can say.

    i feel the blogosphere is actually a lot like high school – at least, it’s a lot like high school felt for me. i’m not *unpopular*, but neither am i popular. and i just keep wishing the popular girls would like me and hang out with me. and then, i get a chance to meet them (like mocha) or exchange emails (like countless others, including you), and i realize they *do* like me, and *would* hang out with me if they could. and i wonder how long it’ll take for them to realize that i’m actually not cool at all. :-P

    but i heart you all in spite of my insecurity. :)

    kgirl August 1, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Awwww.
    This is why you’re loved.

    Tracey August 1, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I can’t even read all the comments, that’s how loved you are! It’s ok to be popular. Isn’t that what we strive for, in a way, by writing and making it public? I mean, you CAN’T be good “heart” friends with 70 people! It’s almost impossible to really keep up with that many extra blogs (and I have more than that on my bloglines!)

    But that was really sweet of you to write such a nice post. And, in that respect, you are SO LIKE my h.s.’s homecoming queen: she was the nicest and sweetest girl. I think she is currently in South America doing mission work, now that she’s no longer working with the handicapped. I kid you not.

    Mimi August 1, 2007 at 10:57 am

    You look like you could use a cupcake :-)

    (I was two people away from you at the session where you Tracy-Flicked yourself, and didn’t get a chance to nudge-nudge wink-wink you. Oh well.)

    Mimi August 1, 2007 at 11:04 am

    My oh-well was meant to be breezy there. My lord the place was packed! Um, and I was busy trying not to chew the toes off Mira either. That takes focus …

    Former Dyspeptic but quite alright now August 1, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I think that it’s great that blogging begets community and that BlogHer was a celebration of this sisterhood.

    Former Dyspeptic August 1, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    I forgot that in Indiana you can drink and drive as long as your blood alcohol does not go above the legal limit. That’s something that I still can’t get my head around.

    Was there a Kurt Vonnegut memorial off the turnpike? He was from Indiana and I think that he got over it.

    Phoenix August 1, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Looks like you had a blast. I so super-dup wish I could have been there. Maybe next year. Glad to hear it’s not like HS. Makes those of us who are new to this feel like we may really belong.

    BOSSY August 1, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Sigh. Bossy would accept that level of frustration all over again to be back there slurping cocktails on the Navy Pier rooftop.

    Y August 1, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    This is a great post. But really, aren’t all of your posts great?

    I just wanted to thank you for being there for me when I sobbing because my little girl was on the phone asking me to come home and give her medicine because her tummy hurt.

    You have no idea how much comfort I took in the fact that you understood how I was feeling and didn’t judge me for being a big fat cry baby, but instead, you hugged me tightly while I cried.

    You’re wonderful.

    Her Bad Mother August 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Y – it was my honour and privilege. I totally knew how you felt. I needed that hug, too.

    Julie Pippert August 1, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    #73 well…yeah I totally feel like I missed something in a big way.

    Well…poor man’s BlogHer and my local yokels and all the other good times in life.

    Julie
    Ravin’ Picture Maven

    Redneck Mommy August 1, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    So, no bloggy crush on me eh?

    Well, that’ll be the last time I grab your boob.

    Wink, wink.

    It’s easier for me to be flip because if I think too hard about not seeing you and the rest of my fella MBT’ers, I’m gonna cry. And I look ugly when I cry.

    Not cool.

    I’m just so blessed that I had the time I did with you and my gals. So blessed.

    Her Bad Mother August 1, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    T – that was a heinous, heinous oversight, which I can only explain by saying that you are that most unusual of hybrids: heart-friend crush.

    And besides, I didn’t have to chase after you. I got to shamelessly hump you every time I saw you.

    xoxo

    TB August 1, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Hmm… I guess that would make me a high school drop out. I’m sorry to have missed you all and the ensuing hotel hijinx. It never occured to me that so many of us would be bringing their newborns along. Rookie mom mistake ;o)

    Bobita~ August 2, 2007 at 12:59 am

    HBM- I found myself in my hotel room just before the Thursday mixer hearing a small voice in my head say, “I bet there is something really good on HBO, why don’t I just stay here and find out,” rather than venture into the dark, crowded depths of the Whiskey Sky bar. But, it seems like those things that take an extra ounce or two of courage always end up feeling more rewarding.

    I had the anxiety, I felt it every second I was in Chicago…but I feel like I climbed Mt. Everest, having quieted the little voice begging me to snuggle up to the remote control, and instead hugged a few bloggy friends.

    It was so nice to have met you.

    shauna August 2, 2007 at 1:39 am

    What a great Blogher post. I can’t wait until next year (and hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet you–I’ll be all giddy and stalker-like!). Thanks for such a warm inclusive post!

    ~Kat~ August 2, 2007 at 8:35 am

    you know… I have to just say how timely this was. I’m new to blogging but it seems that the blogs I love to read most are all you “Blogher” gals. So, as you were all preparing for the con I, the humble little reader and irregular blog poster found myself, I admit, a bit miffed that the things that I had to say were JUST as important and blogher worthy too! But… like I said… I’m new to this. It’s not so much that I want to be like all of you… really, your great, love you, love your hair- it’s just that you have SO MANY PEOPLE LISTENING to what you SAY! And THAT’S what I hope for someday… because I sure as hell get enough of the cold shoulder from my two little urchins around here… I just want to be heard too. So thank you for acknowledging all us “little people”… someday we’ll wear big girl panties too.

    Busy Mom August 2, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Excellent post. I wish we could have chatted, but, there’s always next year!

    gorillabuns August 2, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    i had the usual anxiety of meeting people and being around soooo many people at once. most of the people i’ve never met or read because, i’m a lazy blogger. unfortunately or fortunately for me, on saturday evening, i felt comfortable and started to really enjoy the ride.
    then the whole show ended.

    i’m okay with this and figure, i’ll do a better job of connecting through the internet. besides, i’m better at relating to others online, when i’m not worrying about sweat poring off my face or what my next meal was going to be.

    Glennia August 2, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Catherine, it was entirely enough for me just to see you and say hello, to know that you are real and just as lovely as imagined.

    BadKitty August 3, 2007 at 1:44 am

    Thanks for your post. It made me both wistful for missing the party, and grateful that I get to know so many of you cool dames.

    (Hi Glennia!)

    Staci Schoff August 3, 2007 at 2:12 am

    So I’m breaking my rule of never commenting on posts about the politics of blogrolls or whether or not I still act like I’m in highschool, or who’s too popular or not popular enough, because such things just give me a headache.

    But I have to say that aside from meeting you, one of the best things about my experience at BlogHer was that EVERYONE (the big popular bloggers, the people I’d never heard of, the mommy bloggers and the people who blog about things I’d never heard of — did you meet the woman who blogs about pet insurance??? She was lovely, I have to see if I can figure out who she is) were all so very gracious and friendly. And it’s true, I would spend 3 and a half minutes falling in love with someone, only to not run into her again for 36 hours. But on the flip side, whenever I found myself standing alone there were several other people alone for me to be-friend, even if briefly.

    Next year, of course will be a different experience for me, because I won’t arrive having NEVER met ANY bloggers before. Still, I’ll likely manage to act like a middle-aged girlfriend and not a highschool drama queen. Difficult though that concept seems to be for some people.

    Whymommy August 4, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Wonderfully said. It says a lot that you did the conference in your OWN way, and on your own time, and didn’t get all wrapped up in it … whatever “it” is these days. Good perspective, HBM. And thanks for not making the rest of us feel so totally left out after the wonderful weekend!

    Motherhood Uncensored August 5, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    I’m all late on this. I have to say, BlogHer was so much better this year.

    Mainly because almost everyone was working the room like a $4 hooker.

    Not just me.

    Heh.

    Fairly Odd Mother August 6, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Having never made it to Blogher, I feel like I’d be like the new kid who just moved into town. It seems that everyone knows everyone already. I think I’d feel really, really nervous and self-conscious if I decided to go in the future.

    Anyway, enough about me; I’m so glad you had a great time and totally understand what you mean about not having ‘enough’ time.

    ktjrdn August 9, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I really didn’t feel like high school at all. What I felt like was that I just didn’t have enough time. poeple were always running around everywhere meeting everyone, and so was I. It’s hard to do that much socalizing without feeling a little disappointed in the quality of it. It seems like it was a lot more superficial (strictly in terms of time spent – not catty or anything) than it might have been if only there was more time. I met you briefly and you were nothing but pleasant. Thanks

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