by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
I’m headed to BlogHer this year and I’m a bit terrified. I wouldn’t consider myself a shy person, in fact, I most likely have the opposite problem; in a room full of people I can make conversation with a wall – which can lead to some weird looks. I’ll happily attend a party where I don’t know a soul, I’m not embarrassed to raise my hand in group settings to ask a question if I have one (even if it might be stupid) and I’m more than willing to share in a 12-step meeting (yes, I do go to them…frequently). Let’s put it this way, commercials for social anxiety meds, they’re not aimed at this gal.
I haven’t always been so outgoing, even if the trait may have been lying dormant in my nature. Grade school, junior high (or middle school as I’m told it’s called these days –which is probably for the best since just hearing the words junior high together in a sentence can give me a migraine) and high school were fraught with self consciousness over the pain of being different. I was teased mercilessly over the way I walked – very pigeon-toed and sway backed which has mellowed into a slight limp noticeable mainly when I’m tired. Depending on the school I was attending, I was given a hard time for being the only white kid, the only Jewish kid, the only kid who thought it was a good idea to wear a bandana on my head tied under the chin like a Russian peasant woman (to this day I’m still petrified to try and accessorize). All of these experiences led to a fear of even crossing a room in front of a group of people let alone speaking to people I don’t know. But as an adult, I decided to fight to flip the script and find a way to make my differences work for me. Stand-up comedy seemed like the scariest thing I could ever do as a person who didn’t like to be looked at so being a masochist, I decided I’d have to try it.
My first time in front of a mic felt like diving off of a high dive into an empty pool despite the six rum and cokes swimming through my blood stream. But twenty years and thousands of crowds later I’m almost a different person. I’ve cracked wise in front of hard core tatted up bikers, even harder core evangelical Christians, drunk frat guys, teen-agers, moms, teachers, you name the group, I’ve told them a joke. Yet there is still one situation that brings me back to the self consciousness of junior high and that is a convention full of my peers; a convention like the one I will be attending this weekend: BlogHer. Thousands of women will be milling about with name tags and URL’s stuck to their tops; smart women, women I admire, women who write better than I do, run businesses better than I do, raise families better than I do, understand technology better than I do and definitely know how to accessorize better than I do. There’s something downright intimidating about all that estrogen fueled brilliance that makes me want to stick to the confines of my hotel room and watch some On Demand movies. Intellectually I know that no one is judging me, that most people are too busy worrying about what other people think of them to spend time analyzing my lack of earrings or inability to wear a smart little scarf. This is what I’ll be telling myself while I mingle with bloggers, speak on a panel and sit at a table hoping people ask me to sign my book for them (Friday at four p.m. in case you’re wondering).
Last year at BlogHer, I got good and drunk on Saturday night to cushion the insecurity. It probably wasn’t my best plan to come off as a capable, responsible, approachable writer. But this year, I will be stone cold sober with no buffer between me and a situation I may find intimidating. No matter. I plan to face this head-on as well. Just be warned that if we’re talking and I say something inappropriate or sarcastic or just not that funny, it’s not because I’m drunk. Unfortunately, the real me can sometimes come off as kind of an asshole – abrupt and abrasive (although it’s meant to be direct and honest) Nothing personal. And also know that just like in junior high, I can dish it out but I can’t take it. So if you’re going to be cutting and sarcastic to me on Friday night, give me a little smile to let me know you’re kidding and we’ll surely end up BFF’s, trading jeans and braiding each other’s hair by Sunday morning. Hope I see you there!