Monday, July 27, 2009

Blogher 09: In the company of women

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.

--C.S. Lewis

I never thought I'd find myself giddy over riding public transportation. But spending this weekend in Chicago for Blogher 2009 highlighted for me how much I miss the big city. I drank in the rock and roll of the elevated train and the lurch and sway of the city bus. I stuffed myself on good wine, hummus and taboulleh at an awesome little Lebanese restaurant in Albany Park. I drove alongside my beloved Lake Michigan, which was all blue and sparkly just for me (It can be gray and angry when it wants to be.). I absorbed the varied accents and languages of my friend's neighborhood--Spanish over here, a trace of Chinese there, the Windy City squawk of a Mexican/Lebanese waitress. I loved it all. And I miss it. But this weekend helped me identify something that I miss much more than the rhythm of a major metropolitan area. I miss the company of women.

I have shared before that I have been unable to establish close female relationships here in my family's new Central Indiana home. Maybe it just gets harder to make connections as you get older. Maybe it's because I am true blue in a still-red (2008 presidential election results not withstanding) state. Maybe it's because I am, for the most part, a spot of brown in a pretty culturally and racially monolithic area...that is not brown. Maybe it's because I am a proud, late-marrying, independent womanist in a part of the country where women seem to marry young, have kids quickly, and settle into a very traditional, family-focused life (Nothing wrong with this choice. It's just not mine.). Maybe I spend too much time in my own head, in books and online. Maybe I just need to work on my personality (Though, I doubt that's the problem...hee!).

Whatever the reason, I have found myself without a close-by circle of girlfriends--women I admire; women I learn from; women I am inspired by; women I am comforted by; women who amaze me; women who get me fired up; women who make me laugh till it hurts; women who know where to get a great bargain on funky jewelry; women who appreciate "two-buck chuck" with a good meal; women who can slam a shot and tell a dirty joke; women who are down for the cause; women who know what Congress is doing today and what happened on "True Blood" last night; women who don't mind getting their geek on talking blog analytics and techie gadgets; women who consume books like some people consume oxygen; women who can talk about race and gender and priviledge and politics...and sex and hair and ice cream. I have a good life, but not being around women like this on a regular basis surely makes it less rich.

But this weekend...I felt like I was with my tribe. Of course, I learned a lot over two days at the conference. Katie Orenstein's leadership sessions on "Owning Your Expertise" and "Writing Your Op-Ed" were worth the price of admission on their own. (Visit The Op-Ed Project and if this program comes to your town, I highly recommend you participate. After getting a taste of what Orenstein does, I am eager to try the full program.) I could have listened all day to the righteous grrrls in the "Women of Color and Marketing" session, hosted by Kelly of Mocha Momma, HeatherB from No Pasa Nada, Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks, and Stefania of CityMama. Blogher also gave me the rush of being a sort-of celebrity (definitely D-list in my case). It's cool to run into folks who recognize my name and my blog and tell me that they love my work. (Back at the real gig on Monday morning, adulation is at a minimum.) I got to meet some much-admired bloggers and cyberfriends in person, like Liz of Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness and Cheryl "Jill Tubman" of Jack and Jill Politics. (right and center in the photo above). And of course, getting a chance to be in proximity to senior White House advisor, Valerie Jarrett? Priceless. But for all the great stuff I learned and experienced at Blogher, the feeling of belonging to a big group of awesome women was, I think, the best thing of all.

It is insufficient to rely on cyber connections and phone calls to far-flung friends for a feminine fix. This weekend reminded me that I MUST make time for real, live interactions with incredible women. Over the weekend, I stayed with one such woman who has been my good friend since we took a belly dancing class together seven years ago. (Yeah, I said belly dancing. What?) Her hospitality and sisterhood, including late-night snarking on "Bridezilla" re-runs, was restorative. We don't get to do that nearly enough. I know now, sitting at my computer feeling more creative and refreshed and confident than I have in a while, that for me the company of women is not just something I enjoy, it is something I need.


Sassy J said...

Tami- So glad to hear that you had a FABULOUS time at BlogHer! Maybe one day I can get there!

I am totally understand where you are about feminine connections. Since moving from California, almost a year ago, to Maryland, I have suffered the most lonely 10 months I've ever experienced. And it's not for lack of sorority sisters in close proximity, memberships in groups, and community events, but I'm finding it very hard to find, keep, and foster friendships with women (that is especially confusing when you're dating preference happens to be women--LOL). I terribly miss my divas in California, but like you said, phone calls don't always do it

S3XinthePantry said...

Sounds like a WONDERFUL time!

Satsuma said...

This seems to be a common issue with a lot of women these days.
One good thing that I've found out, is that women over 50 are now coming alive again socially.

It took me a long time to get connected in California when I first moved here Sassy J., women can feel these losses intensely I think.

Sometimes I wonder why women get so busy all the time. This constant busyness is strange, and I think we can all make more time to hang, cook for one another, and to just be.

I'm a very big city kid myself Tami, so I hear your pain at the loss of this. Ironically, it is technology that is causing this weird social disconnect.

Just today a horrifying thing happened... the mailman (a substitute not our regular guy) came by, he was blab blab blabbing on the cell phone, and robot like, he dropped the mail in the chute. Wow, mailmen have become cell yappers now! In the past, I almost always said hi, or gave our mailman a cold bottled water or chocolates in winter. Now even that last bit of personal connection is being killed by the cell phone.

We are up against some heavy duty anti-woman connecting things sisters!!

Jill said...

Ahhh - I feel SO good about you having such a great experience, Tami. I've already bought my tickets for NYC next year and cannot IMAGINE what would keep me from going - already made the hubby put it on his calendar too.

Just so glad it was as you describe. And I totally know what you mean about missing the company of women. Great point. Esp. for writers.


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