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.


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