(Momma K of Petroville, Michelle of ShellyNoir, yours truly and the delightful and incisive Mamacita of Weekly Schiess)
Well, that’s done with and if truth be told, I will grudgingly admit that it was both inspired and fun. I anticipated that I would want nothing to do with the whole BlogHer Conference that came to town over the weekend. Big crowds, Navy Pier, hot weather-not my cup of tea. So I started with a bad attitude. Mind you, I was really looking forward to my house guests, Mamacita/Jane and Shelly Noir/Michelle because these are women I’ve come to call friends in cyberspace and I felt certain real life could only be better. That has proved true. Having them here for a visit has been a great fun. But I was equally certain I would not like BlogHer and surprise! I was wrong.
Thursday night was a bit of “I told you so” when we all tooled down to the W Hotel Whiskey Bar for a pre-party, tickets in hand compliments of Momma K. (I never did see Kimberly, until this morning when we had a convivial lunch together.) At the Whiskey Bar we fit in about as well as the geeky girls on the wall at high school dances but that was fine with me. The room was packed, shoulder to shoulder, with screaming thirty-something mommies. Screaming. Shrieking. OMG! ROFLMAO! WTF! OMG! High pitched, pierce-your-ear-drum shrieking.
We got there in the first fifteen minutes and I think we had the same high hopes as the bouncer guy working the door as he marveled at the prospects. All these beautiful women. More blond hair than I’ve seen in years. OMG! About twenty minutes into it I looked at him and he had this stricken expression as his eyes darted about for an excuse to leave and I knew exactly how he felt. Shrieking, I’m telling you. Those women had no shame and no inhibitions. They were yelling at the top of their lungs and using little penlight flashlights to look at each others
breasts nametags because it was so damn dark. (Okay, that might be a bit of sour grapes on my part. I’m old, relatively flat chested and this week marks the definitive end of my so called reproductive years.) So after a while, when we felt as out of place as West Nile Perch in Lake Victoria, Michelle suggested we reconvene in the uber chic W bathroom with flat sinks full of river rocks and that worked out okay for a bit. We got funny pretending to be washroom ladies, handing out towels: “towel? here you go. Sure- take a stone. Can I get the door for you?” but at the point that we started collecting tips it was too obviously pathetic so we taxied home.
Day 1 had Jane up and out early, working registration. Michelle and I had failed to register, convinced it was a club we didn’t really want to join, so we went out and had a grand day, right after
Sparky Michelle tried to burn down my house by heating up a Starbucks roll for one hour and thirty minutes in the microwave. (Bet you didn’t know fine French porcelain can spontaneously combust, did you?) We were at the zoo early, as everybody was waking up. The polar bears were in rare form so we stayed there for a while and then we headed to lunch at the Salt and Pepper Diner. After that we spent a couple hours in Powell’s New and Used Books and Michelle has a book fetish so we came home weighted down with nearly a dozen books each. In the afternoon we went on the Chicago River Architectural tour, which is a grand way to get acquainted with this great city. The weather was warm but clear and we had a lovely time, hiding from the sun below deck (skin issues, you know. Every one at BlogHer was very tan.) and we saw the bottom third of every architectural wonder of the 20th century.
We were too tired and
antisocial full of ourselves to go to the first official cocktail party so we were happy wallowing in our new used books when trouble returned from the conference.
Enter SCHWAG. Okay. Now I am familiar with conference schwag because Rich goes to one conference after another. But, basically, those are guy conferences for sports. Guy schwag: a sleeve of 3 logoed golf balls. A logoed cap. A logoed tee shirt. If it’s a really fancy conference, a logoed stadium butt cushion. That’s it- and we have so many butt warmers that say NFL SuperBowl number whatever that they are stacked like cordwood in Florida and I sneak them into the trash one at a time with no discernible difference in the pile.
(pile of BlogHer schwag plus, in the center, books from Powell’s bookstore purchased under the influence of Michelle.The crafty books stacked in back were more free schwag.)
Here is where you see the difference between a conference for men and a conference by and for women. At BlogHer they had incredible sponsors who realized that this was a powerful smart audience tuned in to health, food, gizmos, luggage, food, technology, media, health, hand lotion and food.
Jane came home loaded down with beautiful free padded computer bags from AOL, handsome BlogHer shoulder bags compliments of GM, fancy- I mean seriously high end- skin care kits from Dove and OnStar, computer cables, AOL thumb drives, towels, funny aprons, Butterball turkey hot pads, notebooks, pedometers, wooden puzzle brain teasers, books, gum, cereal, manicure kits. All that and she was just bubbling over about how fun it was, how much she learned, how great the food was, how many smart and innovative and cool women she met in person. Giddy. She was absolutely giddy, I tell you. She’ll tell you, I’m sure.
Saturday morning, you can guess it, we all headed off to BlogHer in a cab at 715 AM and you have no idea, if you weren’t there, how wonderful it was. Here’s a cliche: empowering. But it WAS. Here’s another cliche: networking. Women want to be connected to everybody and
everything, always. They had a sponsor printing business cards on the
spot for those of us too dense to plan ahead. Everybody had fancy colorful
business cards and walked around handing out cards and announcing, “Hi! My name is Perky Mommy!” I didn’t have any so I just collected them and on the ones I didn’t think I’d use again (Sado-Masochist Mom in Second Life.com) I crossed out the name and wrote mine in so I could enter all the free giveaways. I didn’t win anything.
The break-out sessions were on important matters: how blogging gives a voice to underrepresented populations, how women find political power in blogging, blogging and the creative arts, technical advances in blogging, blogging in the professional arena and blogging lifestyles. I think women who were, in fact, focused on substance had full plates. There were a lot of very saavy folk there.
Nevertheless, there was still too much shrieking and those mommy bloggers! God help me, was I ever so preoccupied with how much dextromethorphan is in kiddie cough syrup? Arrrghhhh. Probably. Seriously? These women of BlogHer are powerhouses. Way over the top in estrogen-charged energy. Truly
scary incredible. Plus we got every bit of that free schwag. Rich, a professional in event marketing in the largest sports markets in the world, was solidly impressed and said, “These people know what they are doing, planners and sponsors alike.” Also, they kept feeding us- breakfast, lunch, afternoon Chicago hotdog, cotton candy and popcorn break, fancy cocktail parties. It was all good.
HOW I WORKED THE BLOGHER CONFERENCE: my submission for the Work It Mom “How I worked it @ BlogHer” contest.
You know Amy Sedaris, right? Actress, comedienne, New York Times Best Selling author. Amy Sedaris is a frequent guest on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, where she demonstrates her
ridiculous clever craft items like peanuts with plastic googly eyes and old stocking “eye burritos” filled with beans. She says you can “freeze those and put them on swollen eyes or something.” So here she is on this panel with three crafty bloggers who are very seriously invested in making stuff like coasters for your craft glue and painting your luggage with stencils “so you know it’s yours coming off the baggage line.” As though I want my Tumi weekender stenciled “I am crafty” with little butterflies and ladybugs chipping off. KIDDING. Just kidding. I really thought it was, ah, cute so don’t get your panties in a knot. Anyway, there’s Amy Sedaris on this panel with her eye burritos and styrofoam birthday cakes (so the diabetic in your family won’t feel left out) and tampon cat toys. And I think, in a way, she can’t believe she’s on this panel but partly she is really enjoying it and everybody was laughing and silly at that session. At one point the three very serious panelists were having a discussion on the difference between art and craft and how they decide what to call their creations. Amy Sedaris held up one of her peanuts with googly eyes glued on and said, “I call mine art, of course.” The other three smiled and nodded politely.
(Styrofoam birthday cake with touch-up paint, autographed on the bottom by Amy Sedaris. I got it for Rich, because he has type-2 diabetes. We can use it for years to come)
After, she went up to the Yahoo Espresso Cafe to sign copies of her New York Times bestseller: I LIKE YOU. HOSPITALITY UNDER THE INFLUENCE with special chapters on entertaining the elderly, gifts for lumberjacks and so forth. I bought the book and while I was standing in line I remembered that WorkItMom was having this contest on creative ways to work the BlogHer Conference to your advantage. Work It Mom wants to see how women attending the conference were taking best advantage of the opportunity and they’re giving away schwag as a prize. I definitely need more schwag. But other than volunteering all over the place, I don’t work and I no longer need to worry about videotaping the nanny in my absence so I was trying to think of how to best work the BlogHer conference to my advantage and then I remembered that Miz S is also parting with parts this week and a good friend would send a little get well gift, right? And so, I thought it would be fitting to ask for an autograph on something I always carry in my purse but Mary and I will never be needing again. Amy Sedaris thought it was a grand idea, too. (Mary, if you sell this on eBay it will really hurt my feelings.)