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 }

    Diane July 31, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Wow, that sounds like so much fun!!! I wish I could meet all these women I spend so much time with. Lots of blogs I visit everyday, and I’m more and more blown away by the community of it.

    Madame M. July 31, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    *beams non-sarcastically at the sweetness from the drama geeks’ table all the way in DC*

    moosh in indy. July 31, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    We all only had two days to meet over 800 women, everyone knows that’s impossible. But you said it better than any of us could have. I left with dozens upon dozens of cards and have blogmet so many new friends I’ll have a whole new hot mess of women to deal with next year.

    P.S. Indiana is NOT the middle of nowhere, it’s only close to it.

    Jennifer aka Binky Bitch July 31, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Great post. I’m sure that it’s impossible to meet everyone, make everyone feel happy and welcome…

    Women tend to look at other groups of women as cliques, but what is wrong with hanging out with your friends?! It would be impossible to have lunch or sit beside, or hold hands with everyone.

    Next year, when I go to BlogHer, I hope to meet you! No expectation of a lunch date or hours spent with just the two us giggling and gossiping, though. Wink, wink!

    Mom101 July 31, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    You wrote so much of what was on my mind and articulated some of the frustrations and regret. There are only so many hours in so many days and really – the losses were ours.

    But while we were putting panties on your head, other people were getting yelled at by security, or sucking down a fourth cosmo, or eating sushi or meat on a stick, or passing out early and quietly with their babies for the first time in months. My sense was a good time was had by all.

    (and I so so so heart-friend you too)

    mothergoosemouse July 31, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    While I found BlogHer to be less overwhelming this year in that I didn’t have to introduce myself to everyone except my roommate, I found it more overwhelming in that there truly wasn’t enough time to seek out every last person I came there wanting to meet – let alone every last person whom I’d never even read before but might absolutely adore if I ever got the chance to say more than two words to them – in addition to spending time with those whom I do already consider to be my heart-friends.

    But I’m thrilled to have made the rounds as well as I did, and I know I’ll have that many more new blogfriends waiting to be met next year.

    And moosh is right – OHIO is the middle of nowhere, right next door to Indiana.

    Kaleigh July 31, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    You articulated it so well. I was one who felt a little on the outs when I first arrived, since I arrived later than most everyone. I was okay by the end of the evening, but then bummed all over again that I had only signed up for one day. It wasn’t enough time.

    But thanks for saying hi :-)

    Sarah July 31, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    As someone who didn’t get to go to BlogHer, I loved this post! It made me feel as though my absense didn’t go unnoticed (even though, in all honesty, very few people in the blogosphere even know of me).
    Thanks for this!

    Sarah July 31, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I realize the spelling errors in my comment above – but my 11 month old is trying to comment as well, and it’s hard to keep his hands off and type at the same time!

    Lena July 31, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Does this mean I win?

    ;)

    Loved having you all up in my partay, Catherine. You rock hard. Also? Thought of you this morning while applying my BE makeup.

    b*babbler July 31, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Welcome back to the greater bloggy world! The lunch table here really is large enough for everyone, even those (particularly those?) who didn’t attend BlogHer (says the girl who, once upon a time, lurked in the corridors at lunch, dressed exclusively in sad black dresses and Docs laced up to here, peeking over the edge of her Tolstoy at the Heathers passing by).

    Slackermommy July 31, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    And one time at band camp…
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist since you brought up band camp. Do you remember what movie that was from?

    I digress.

    This is a great post. I know that there was some talk about BlogHer feeling “high school”. I had some moments where I felt like odd man out in a group of women who have history and a secret handshake but that’s okay with me. Like you said, your high school was not the kind of experience that some bloggers are complaining about. My high school was like that but it didn’t get to me. I was a free spirit. I didn’t hang out with a certain group. I had friends who were popular, burn-outs, cheerleaders, nerds, goth and so on. My close friends were a little bit of all those groups. That was MY experience so BlogHer was much the same for me. I didn’t hang out with one specific group. The bloggers I feel closest to happen to not hang in the same clique. My observation about the high school thing is that those who are not good friends with those who are perceived as being on top, the most fun, the smartest, the best writers, the luckiest, blah, blah, blah, often feel left out of the group they want to be part of. Maybe a connection hasn’t been made or that group doesn’t know a particular person well enough to actively include them. It FEELS like exclusion. For example, say there is another group in the same room as the desired group. They may not actively include others in the room but it goes unnoticed because they are not as important to the jilted feeling party of the first group. Does that make sense? Basically what I’m trying to say is there are always going to be people who want to be part of a certain group and will get their feelings hurt if they feel excluded although that group did nothing to actively exclude them.

    I’ll shut up now. You wrote it much better.

    Lady M July 31, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    It was lovely to see you again. I may just have to come to Ontario to see the rest of the crazy eco-trippin crew too. :)

    amaras_mom July 31, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    After the momosphere session, in a wallflower-y, lurker kind of way I said a sheepish hello and you ran right to me to give a I’ll-be-your-friend hug.

    No, you can’t meet everyone. But a smile or some chit chat was enough for me. But damn, you, you went above and beyond. HBM rocks!

    Momo July 31, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    I was so glad to read this. I’m new to this blogging thing, and am overwhelmed by the enormous community. I’ve been feeling a lot like I’m in high school, just got a wedgie, and am lost in a sea of popular girls who all know my underwear have been yanked up my butt crack. Time to take a deep breath, have a beer, and be patient. Thanks! Oh, and Mothergoosemouse was right, uh-HI-uh (Ohio to the rest of the country) IS the middle of nowhere. Since I live in central Ohio, that puts me in the middle of the middle of nowhere!
    http://momo-fali.blogspot.com

    Leah July 31, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Well said, as usual. Thanks for being my go-to on that first-day-of-school cab ride.

    nomotherearth July 31, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    That you worry about this at all shows what a big heart you have.

    Emily July 31, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Slackermommy,
    American Pie

    ewe are here July 31, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Well, although I’m bummed I missed all the chicago fun, I’m happy to report that I had a couple of blog-her visitors come through over here last week. My own mini-blog-her of sorts. ;-)

    Glad you had a blast. I’m sure WB is delighted to have you back.

    flutter July 31, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    I so wish I could have molested you while you were sleeping!

    gingajoy July 31, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for writing this, C. I heart you too, and I also came away with a sense of guilt and regret. Realizing that there were so many people that I had wanted to have deep and meaningful relations with (oo-er) and instead only managed to talk (loudly) and not very interestingly to them–I was so fucking fried by the end, you know?

    Kyla July 31, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Your last photo made me homesick for my girls. *sob*

    Seriously, it was nice to even breeze past you, to be able to spot your iBob from across the bustling conference hall, to see how beautifully WB favors you. And your MBT friends have stolen my heart away, at least a very large chunk of it.

    It was fun, wasn’t it?

    slouching mom July 31, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Well. I guess I finally have a reason why I should feel good about not having gone to BlogHer.

    So…it’s all good. It always was.

    Blonde Chick July 31, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    This is a great post. And very good to know!

    binkytown July 31, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Sigh. It does seem just a teensy bit like high school when you are on the outside looking in.

    I can’t find a way to articulate this because I blog and I know, it’s your blog and these are your blog friends and you just spent days with them, so of course you want to post the pictures and share the love. I would do the same.

    But not being at BlogHer and wishing I was, I was hoping for more info about the conference and less of the other stuff but because I love many of the bloggers you do, it’s everywhere I look.

    So I can look away and not read, right? Yeah, I can, but I don’t want to.

    I’m just not sure I agree it’s not like high school, but regardless, it’s my problem, not yours.

    Her Bad Mother July 31, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Binky – I posted the pictures because, well, I love the pictures. But the rest of the post was about my ambivalence around the feeling of high school. I have no doubt that it can *feel* like high school. What I wanted to communicate was that *I* don’t want to contribute to that feeling, but sometimes it just might not be available. Such as, for example, when I post BlogHer pics…

    I hate to contribute to any ill feeling, accidentally or otherwise.

    xo

    Heather B. July 31, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Once again you astound the internet – or at least me – with your smarts. At first I was afraid of the ‘high school’ thing, but once there, those feelings pretty much abated. For me, I just get over those things and if I really want to talk to someone, I go up to them while they’re donning a McDonald’s hat and start speaking to them about internet communities while drunk.

    It was so great to finally meet you and talk with you and I guess we can be friends too. ;-)

    Her Bad Mother July 31, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Heather B: We are TOTALLY friends.

    (PS: is there any photographic evidence of me with that Micky Dee’s bag on my head?)

    Alex Elliot July 31, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I am so glad that I got to meet you! You’re just great! I thought what you said on the panel was very well articulated.

    I don’t think that everyone wants to get the same things out of BlogHer. That may be where some of the frustration is for people. I was really excited to go to it and I liked it a lot; I can’t wait to go next year. That being said, I’ve only been blogging since September so for me the thing I was most looking forward to (other than uninterrupted sleep :) ) was spending time with a few of my “real life” friends who blog and were going to BlogHer. I viewed it like a girls weekend away.

    I met some fantastic people. I wish I could have had longer conversations and more conversations with other bloggers. I guess in that way it was like high school for me in that in high school I tried hard to branch out and meet other people. I was always really glad that I did it and wished I could do it more, but most of the time I was happy to just hang out with my same small group of friends. It went by so quickly!

    wordgirl July 31, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I like what you’ve said here. For so many of us, blogging has turned out to be this wonderful thing. Freeing and affirming at the same time. That said, I started blogging in late 2005 and even though that seems as though it’s been a while, I constantly compare myself to those who have been doing it twice as long and that often leaves me (and others) with the feeling that I arrived too late to a party where others have already made friendships/formed alliances and exchanged phone numbers. A setting like BlogHer where everyone is already “buddied up” can be intimidating. There are many who have come away from the experience who, despite earlier trepidation, have everything good to say about it afterward. A few come away with their fears reinforced and those are the ones to whom we often listen. Because it’s easier than believing that there’s a spot for us amongst the well-known and established. Maybe one day…I’ll poke my head inside the tent and give it a try.

    dana July 31, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    While I wish I would have had the chance to talk with you other than my petite “hello”, I do understand the overwhelming feeling of not being able to be everywhere all at once.

    The fact that you took the time say how you felt and to acknowledge that you weren’t able to speak to everyone personally speaks volumes about the kind heart that you have.

    Those of us who admire you so, do not take it personally. We know how hard it is to try and meet everyone!

    I hope to see you again next year!

    Amy Jo July 31, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Even though I was severely disappointed when I found out I wasn’t going to be able to go to BlogHer this year, I think a teeny part of me was relieved. Looking over last year’s photos made me worry that I would be the girl going home having made no friends. But reading this makes me think that no matter how fleeting any meeting might have been, I would have been glad to have participated.

    Next year, damn it! I want someone to put panties on my head for once!

    WI Mommy July 31, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Loved your post… that whole “high school” thing was part of what kept me from going to BlogHer this year, especially since I am still quite new at this. Seeing how bloggers like you make an effort NOT to be exclusive makes me want to go next year even more!

    Assertagirl July 31, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Yep, Moosh has got it. Just not enough hours in those few days. I’m glad we got to spend a few minutes chatting at the W that last night. Hopefully we can have a get-together in the Toronto area soon!

    jen July 31, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    perfectly, magnificently said. i so wish we could have spent more time together, sweet and brilliant Bad.

    metro mama July 31, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    I know what you mean, there were several people I didn’t get to talk to nearly enough, and I didn’t meet everyone I’d planned to.

    We need another blogger event to hold us over until BlogHer ’08.

    Heather B. July 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Sadly no evidence at least none that I’ve seen. And I was too focused on conversing with you and trying to understand the big words coming from you, to take a picture. Though I did see a photo of us somewhere on Flickr.

    But I look pretty drunk and like I had consumed a large amount of french fries.

    Karen July 31, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    …sigh…

    WkSocMom July 31, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Wow, that was a really great post. I wanted to meet so many of you funny women/great writers, but can totally understand you wanting to hang with your friends you hardly get to see. Enjoyed you at the panel.

    Mrs. Chicky July 31, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    It was wonderful finally getting to meet you. And I was happy to get what little time I could from you… and from everyone else, for that matter. Blogher is crazy and way too short.

    KC July 31, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    I really liked your analogy of a cocktail party, with circles intermingling and overlapping- you can also choose to stand by the wall near the dip the whole night or actively mingle. You don’t expect everyone to make rounds to talk with everyone else, and if you really want to meet someone, you’ll find a way.

    I’m with you about feeling missed opportunities – love stories that could have been – but alas, if they didn’t materialize, it just wasn’t in the cards. With all love stories, I feel, comes a little bit of luck, and fate and perfect timing thrown in.

    Suzanne July 31, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    As someone new to all this, I really appreciate your post. I look forward to becoming a part of this fabulous community and having my life and my blog enriched by all of you!

    ~JJ! July 31, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    I hated High School. Blogging is WAaaaay Cooler…

    Wonderful post..yet again.

    Multi-tasking Mommy July 31, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Sounds like you guys all had an awesome time :) So glad to hear it!!!

    Christine July 31, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    i don’t know about high school and cocktail parties and all that stuf right now. all i know is you rock,. you rock for the obvious love you send out to so many people and for the amazing blog you have here.

    Chris July 31, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    What a beautiful post! Nuff said.

    Lawyer Mama July 31, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I would have loved to have spent some time with you, the Goddess of blogging, HBM, but there were 800 friggin people there. I’m going to give you, myself & everyone else a break.

    There were so many people I wanted to spend time with and just not enough time to do it. I had a fabulous time, but others were off having fabulousness too. It’s not possible to be in all fabulous situations at once.

    I have to admit there were a few times I felt all high school angsty, but then I got over myself & asked the cool kids if I could sit at their lunch table. And they said yes! So no, it wasn’t like high school. Not at all.

    Sandra July 31, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    There are only so many hours in the day, Catherine, and the conference was PACKED … I know first hand that you barely slept and yet still did your best to chat with everyone.

    But there were 800 people there! Taking time for quality time with those you know well rather than quantity time with every single attendee … is a good choice. I ended up feeling so overwhelmed and scattered.

    You have a big wonderful heart and this post is just more evidence of that.

    Jezer July 31, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Aw, honey, don’t fret! In a way, the feelings that you describe were a consolation to me while I was not in attendance–I knew that there were so many people that I would want to meet and hang out with and get to know and love, and there simply would be no way to do that in one weekend.

    Susan Getgood July 31, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Um, were you hired to provide entertainment or act as the official greeter? No?

    Ok, maybe you aggressively avoided someone to whom you owed large sums of money? No?

    Perhaps you fell asleep and your friends put shit on you? Well, yeah that did happen, but it has nothing to do with my point.

    Everyone was equally an attendee at this conference and was allowed to make it what she wanted. No one is responsible for someone else’s good time. Not even a mother her child’s.

    With 800 attendees and a packed agenda, it was hard to connect with everyone you might have wished to. Hell, I worked the BOF table the first day just so I would have a chance to at least say hello to everyone I wanted to, and I still missed some people.

    No apologies necessary, but you have the real class to write this post anyway.

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