The male bathroom had a sign taped over the top of it: the sign read ‘Women’. Even with the number of toilets increased, the line still trailed a long way outside and down the hall. We were between sessions, or at lunch, I can’t remember, and the queue moved swiftly. Once inside, there were the stalls, the basins. It looked exactly like the female toilets. Too similar.
And there was the answer why – to our left, a thick black curtain was swathed across the urinals, hiding them from view. A woman, a few heads ahead of me, noticed this at the same time I did and doubled over with laughter.
‘What the heck?!’ she said to everyone (or no-one in particular). ‘Do they think we’ll get offended or something? Oooh, scary urinals! Unclean! Hide them from the ladies eyes!’
The rest of us chuckled. Or most of us did. There were a few people, who looked away, who I could tell were glad for a bit of… well, what was it? I’m still asking myself. Aesthetic relief?
Does this matter? Why am I opening this post about bathrooms, visibility and the tastefulness of decor? Because when it comes to festivals, events, what-have-you, they all come into play. And when you have 4000+ women, representing all facets and areas of life, these things can and do matter. Not to me, really, more than in passing anecdotal reference, but it shows that even in talking about it now I feel I need to root all reference to it in such phrases ‘In my personal opinion’ and ‘Speaking for myself’ etc.
Perhaps this means I enjoyed myself less than I felt the need to successfully navigate the waters of such a large spectacle.
And the answer to this is: Yes, maybe.
But let’s talk a little more specifically, shall we?
On the Thursday evening, we went to pick up our badges and complete our registration before heading off to the exhibitors area, just prior to the first party beginning. There, on multi-floors, were brands and companies engaging with bloggers, with food and freebies as tempting lures for starting conversations. However, as for me, I avoided eye contact as much as possible, already a bit spooked by the loud and bright brashness. Only after a drink (!) did I relax enough to do such things as talk to vendors and sit in a vibrating bath. Yes, that’s right. What does a vibrating bath feel like? Well remember when you’re a kid and you’re in a pool and you wonder what the sound of two stones being banged together sounds like? And you bang them and the sound carries through the water, strange and amplified, and with a subtle vibration. Think that, then multiply it.
Friday saw the beginning of the sessions which, honestly, I found a little disappointing. But then, I wondered if I was even in the right sessions, for me. I was in the one where they talked about how to turn blog posts into publishable essays and Maria later said to me, ‘But you knew how to do that already.’ And I thought, yes, she’s right. Then again, in another session, a panelist warned veteran bloggers not to be too complacent, and I thought, yes, she’s right too. Perhaps I should’ve been in the sessions about activism, or blogging from the heart, or celebrating small blogs.
Perhaps I don’t fit anywhere.
This is why I skipped the morning of the second day – I’m writing a travel article at the moment and needed to do a little research down in the Village and it was the liberating excitement of that choice (no, I don’t have to be there; I can miss x, y, or z session and be okay with that) that was, oddly, cheering.
But the trip was still worthwhile, oh, yes, it was. Let me explain why.
Americans are miles better at small talk than Australians. That weird, limbo time period between when you arrive at a function and it actually starts? There it went quickly. Someone will sit down, say hello, ask a question, be interested in your response and boom! Fifteen, twenty minutes gone. Inevitably, once they got wind of my accent, there was the asking of where I came from and – judging from the amazed reaction – the similar dazed question of why? Why come all that way?
My answers were thus: I’ve always wanted to, I’ve known some of these bloggers for as long as I’ve been blogging, I admire many, I read others, I’m curious, I’m here wanting to be inspired/please inspire me.
This might have all been more intense or poignant than it eventually turned out to be because now we do have our own blogging events in Australia, and I’m involved in organising them for work, so the novelty factor is less. I also can’t help but wonder if BlogHer for Australians is less of the blogging pilgrimage than it once was and now more of a professional obligation or expectation: the status of having ‘made it’ can be crowned upon a person after returning. Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
As for me, I enjoyed myself, and I won’t forget the honour of being a Voice of the Year finalist (which is being turned into an ebook, so that’s exciting). Next year, BlogHer will be in Chicago. The question is: will I save for that or BlogWorld?