This year, my experience with the BlogHer conference was all about the individual conversations and connections. Held in beautiful, sunny San Diego, the conference was as mellow and inviting as the host city. The weekend gave me an opportunity to meet up with some of my closest friends, and bond with a few of my personal idols of the blogosphere.
In the Lobby, by Starbucks, Thursday Night
I am sitting at a table, drinking coffee. My head is tiled down, my face reflected on my iPhone screen. I am on Twitter, avoiding real people.
An attractive, confident woman approaches, her hand outstretched.
“Hi there, just wanted to say hello. Love your instagram photos.”
“Hi. uh, do we know each other?”
“The Pioneer Woman.”
I stand up, being polite.
“Oh, wow. The Pioneer Woman,” I say. “You’re big….”
I pause for a moment, slowing down my thought process.
“…I don’t mean big in size. I mean big in popularity, It would be stupid to call a woman “big” at a woman’s conference, knowing how body image problems is such an issue nowadays. Even though, quite frankly, I like a woman with a little meat on her. Some curves. Again, I’m not saying you are too thin. You are naturally thin. You look great.”
It was time to change the topic of the conversation.
“Oh, my friend Diane invited me for dinner recently and she tried out one of your recipes from your blog!”
“I don’t remember. But she didn’t have any rice in the house, so she substituted Ritz crackers, and it came out awful. But of course, that isn’t your fault.”
Another awkward pause. She extends her hand again.
“Uh, well, it was great meeting you, Neil.”
“Yes. See you at your session. I’m looking forward to it.”
“It is over already.”
“Oh. OK, take care.”
Outside the Lobby, by the Valet, Thursday Night
I pass by “The Bloggess,” one of the funniest women online. She is sitting on a bench, her suitcase standing in front of her. I seem a whole lot more excited to see her, than vice versa.
“Hey, it’s Jenny, the famous Bloggess!”
“Uh, hello, Neil.”
I point at the suitcase.
“Where you going?”
“I’m going home early. I’m exhausted after the People’s Party.”
“I can imagine. Hey, when is the book coming out? I’m so excited.”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“Why don’t you sent me an advanced copy? I’d love to read it.”
Jenny pauses for a moment.
“My publisher decided not to send out advanced copies,” she says.
“You mean when the book comes out, you want me to BUY the book? It’s going to be like $25 dollars in stores!”
“That’s how much books cost, Neil.”
“C’mon, Jenny. Surely your old blogging friends will get a reader’s copy in the mail.”
“Not even Laura?”
“Well, Laura read it already. But she’s more of a real friend than a blogging friend.”
“What is this shit? I’m not going to pay $25 bucks on your book when I can read your blog for free.”
“The book is going to be very different than the blog. It is about my real life.”
“I see. So the plan was to put your shitty superficial material online, and then force us to buy your f*cking book?”
“Well, I do have a family to feed.”
“You’ve changed, Jenny. You come off as a sweet cutesy Texan mom, but you are a fucking shark. I bet Willian Shatner was part of your marketing plan all along.”
You know, f*ck you , little man. I could destroy you in a second with my Twitter followers.
“Suck my c*ck, Jenny.”
“Yeah, I already saw your tiny c*ck in that photo you sent me last year. Don’t make me laugh. Be happy I didn’t put it on Flickr.”
“Go to hell.”
In the Hallway, Convention Center, Friday Afternoon
I sit on the floor, in the corner by the men’s room, hidden from view, playing on Twitter rather than talking to real people, as usual.
Tanis, the Redneck Mommy, notices me. She is one of my favorites from Twitter. She approaches, a smile on her face.
I don’t bother to look up from my iPhone screen, trying to show my disapproval.
“Well, LOOK who’s coming to talk to me TWO DAYS after the conference has started.”
“I’ve been busy, Neil.”
“Oh yeah, BUSY chatting with Backpacking Dad.”
“You are such a passive aggressive asshole. Maybe if you didn’t hide in the corner like a p*ssy”
“You know my Klout score is higher than his.”
“Not everything is about Klout scores,” she says. ”I’ve been friends with him a lot longer than you.”
“You know, I was just talking with Jenny the Bloggess, and we both agree that your blog has gone downhill. You used to be funny, but you’ve LOST IT.”
“Bullshit. She would never say that. And by the way, she showed me the photo of your tiny dick. Pathetic.”
“Have a nice conference, fake “redneck” with your expensive iPad2 and expensive shoes!”
Tanis walks off. After a moment, I tweet her with an apology.
Expo, Convention Center, Saturday Afternoon
I reluctantly enter the expo center, crowded with companies selling products and women with overflowing swag bags. It is chaotic and I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I pass by the large booth sponsored by Hillcrest Farms lunch meats. There is a staff of smiling young spokespeople manning the booth, all with the energetic look of cheerleaders from a Midwestern high school. A blonde young man of about 25, with the whitest of teeth, beckons me over to the booth.
“Hello, would you like to try a Hillcrest Farms sandwich, made of only the freshest ingredients?”
There are two silver trays on a display table, with signs reading turkey and ham. There are only 4″ sandwiches on the ham tray.
“You only have ham?”
“The turkey is out.”
“Eh. Don’t like ham.”
The spokesguy doesn’t give up easily.
“Our ham is USDA…” he continues.
“Nah, it is just a weird thing of mine,” I explain. ”I’m not kosher, but for some reason I don’t like the look of ham. I’ll eat pork if it is hidden in a Chinese soup, or bacon, but ham just seems so goyish.”
“It’s a Jewish thing.”
The spokesguy cups his hands in joy.
“Ooh. I’ve never met a Jew before.
“No? Where are you from?” I ask.
“Is that where Hillcrest Farms is located?”
“No. I don’t know where they are located. Just got this job online at monster.com. But it’s so cool meeting a Jewish person.”
“Thanks,” I sheepishly reply.
“I appreciate you because Jesus was Jewish too.”
“Yes, he was. He probably wouldn’t eat Hillcrest Farms anything.”
“No, Hillcrest Farms isn’t kosher.”
“You mean Jesus wouldn’t be promoting Hillcrest Farms?”
“Holy Lord of Lords.” cries the spokesguy. ”Should I quit? What would Jesus do?”
“Well, take it easy. This is just a job. I’m sure Jesus will understand. You have a family?”
“A wife and two kids.”
“So, you are doing good.,” trying to ease his guilt. ”You are helping your family.”
“I always heard that Jews are smart. Are you a rabbi?”
“No, just a blogger.”
The spokesguy looks down at the badge on my shirt to read my name.
“Bless you, uh, Citizen of the Month. It was as if Jesus himself spoke through you.”
I notice that the other spokespeople are handing out bags filled with swag to the other attendees that are passing by.
“Can I have one of those Hillcrest Farms bags?”
“Oh, sorry. I was told I can only give our swag bags to moms who fit our demographic audience of 25-35. But nice to meet you, Jewish man.”
SeaView Room, Marriot Hotel, Aiming Low Party, Saturday Night
I’m on the patio with seven of the most prominent Daddy Bloggers. We stand in a circle of brotherhood, each drinking a beer. It is so great to finally bond with men. I spend way too much time chatting with women online, and although I love my female friends, there are issues and choices that are unique to our gender.
A young female coupon blogger walks by, wearing high heels and short skirt.
Jake: ”She’s a 10.”
Sean: “Nah. Only a 7.5.”
Another woman passes, on her way to the Latina party.
Sean: “Now SHE’S a 10.”
Sean: ”I’m a Latino. I like big asses.”
I look over at the Latino woman.
Neil: “Forget her. She’s crazy. I know. I once sent her a photo of my c*ck and she went nuts.”
Warren, a Mormon father of six, is mesmerized by one of the HOT keynote speakers.
Warren: ”Man, can you imagine taking her on that Sabra Hummus sponsored appetizer table right now.”
Jake: “So, any of you guys get lucky yet?”
We all look around, embarrassed with our lack of success.
Stephan: “Not me. Brought the ball and chain along. And my stupid step-kids.”
Stephan gives me a caring nod, and pats my arm in a paternal manner.
Stephan: ”Take my advice, Neil. If you ever get remarried, don’t marry a chick with young kids. It’ll ruin your life.”
Neil: “C’mon, Stephan. You’re a lucky man. Susan has a great rack.”
Stephan: ”I’ll give you that. But she’s like a helicopter, always hovering around. And she has a spidey-sense when it comes to me f*cking other women at work. She just knows.”
Jake: ”Women know that shit.”
Warren: ”You see all the sex toys the women got from Eden’s Fantasies this year in their swag bags? No wonder we ain’t getting lucky.”
Neil: ”Exactly. Why bother with us when the women can just go to their rooms and use vibrators on each other.”
Sean: ”It’s a sad commentary on modern technology. Some things ARE better old school.”
Jake: ”Damn right. No vibrator, even the most technologically advanced, will ever replace our real life hard-ons!”
Neil: ”You said it, brother. I love you guys.”
We all have a group hug. I have finally found my “tribe.”
Austin Mom of Twins, well-know with all the men for her “Boobie-fest” October photos, goes to the bar for a drink.
Afro-Dad: “Whoa. There’s “Austin Mom of Twins.” I’d like to hit her stat counter, if you know what I mean.”
Truth Quotient: 12% (Honestly, it was a great experience, and loved speaking with so many intelligent, passionate, and funny women… and men. Believe me, I’m not sure you want to read my heartfelt, overly-emotional authentic reaction to meeting so many cool people during the last few days, because it would just sound very corny).