Confessions of a Salad Bar Loser

Posted: August 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Misc Neuroses, Scary Stuff, Travel | 6 Comments »

I loved when George Jetson commuted to work.

He’d be in that sporty little spacecraft-car of his, and he’d fly up to an endless stream of other space mobiles. It was like the worst space rush hour traffic ever. Enough to make you head back home, crawl into bed, and call in sick. But not George. George was undaunted. He’d just point the nose of his space-car at the snarling mass of traffic, merge right in, then zoom off with the crowd.

Now, I’ve never been a joiner. Or at least that’s what I sometimes tell myself. Because if you were to ask Mark, I’m sure he’d come up with tons of things my turbo-extroverted ass has joined. I guess I’ve just maintained the attitude that if there was some group out there that I wasn’t already part of, there was a probably a good reason why. So I should just steer clear.

Which is why I was so freaked out at my first prenatal yoga class. This was six years ago, mind you. But I distinctly remember walking into a large wood-floored room packed with preg-o women on yoga mats. And, despite the fact that I was pregnant too, something about them all being there together, all so… so knocked up, made me feel like an outsider. Like they were somehow pregnancy professionals, and I was an imposter.

And so, it was with that same not-a-joiner trepidation that I went to BlogHer ’11 in San Diego. A gathering of some 3,600 bloggers. Or, rather, 3,599 bloggers who all had some legitimate reason to be there, and me.

I mean, I AM a blogger. As this very thing you are reading unequivocally proves. And I was even attending this blog-fest for work. Making me somehow doubly-qualified to be there.

But let’s just say the concept of 3,600 women can be intimidating. I joked before I went that I was “girding my loins for estrogen-palooza.” I whimpered to friends that I didn’t know a soul there, and feared I’d be a lonely dork. I had nightmares about 3,600 women lunging towards me, waving business cards and crying out, “I’m Francie from Francie’s Cute Kitten Pictures dot com!” Or, “Hey, I’m Linda from I home school my 11 kids, raise chickens and llamas, and drive two mini vans at once!”

I had the fear.

And this is from the world’s most outgoing human. I mean, I talk to EV-ER-Y-ONE. I don’t scare easy. Except, I guess, when it comes to this group thing.

But then the night before I left, my friend Heather from Rookie Moms emailed that she was going too. “Bring business cards, comfy shoes and a smile,” she advised. “Most people are friendly.”

So Saturday morning I made my way into the San Diego Convention Center knowing that if a meteor fell from the sky and landed on me, pinning me to the ground, at least one of the 3,600 women there would be able to identify my remains.

Which was comforting.

In college, my Mean Girl friends and I made up the term Salad Bar Loser. Because at my teensy, pastoral liberal arts school, after you went through the cafeteria you were spat out into the dining hall, where it wasn’t always easy to find your friends. Blessedly though, the salad bar was in the middle of all the tables. So you’d often see people making salads they had no intention of eating. Blindly piling Bac-O Bits onto their plates as they searched for their posse. And we would watch, and mock them.

In rural Ohio, this is what passes for a good time.

Well, I’d love to say that karma’s a bitch. But the fact is, in a group of 3,600 no one really notices when you’re a Salad Bar Loser. So on that first morning at BlogHer, I picked my way through the breakfast buffet, scoped out the scene, and meekly walked up to a table with a few empty chairs. “This taken?” I asked.

Seconds after my butt hit the seat business cards started flying. And even though it was a taste of my worst fears, it wasn’t so bad. I took cards. I gave cards. I smiled and shook hands. I acted like it was what I do over oatmeal every morning.

Going to the conference sessions was the easy part. Anyone can sit in a chair and listen to a panel of speakers. It’s those meals, free times, “networking” events that are more tricky for us un-joiners. Though unstably at first, I eventually navigated those waters too.

I met running bloggers, food bloggers, gardening bloggers, pet bloggers. I met women with brilliant blog names like Nap Warden, The Recessionista, and Midlife Mixtape. I sat in a dark room and was dazzled by Penny de los Santos‘ photography.

I ate cupcakes with a sweet Kentuckian who blogs about adoption, and her son from the Congo. I heard an anonymous, wig-wearing blogger describe her experience eating school lunch for a year. (I wouldn’t recommend this.) And I waited in line for fake eyelashes with a gal who felt successful Latina role models were lacking, so—after having a baby at age 15, then going on to Stanford Law School—she started a video blog where she interviews powerful Latinas. (Her lashes turned out much better then mine by the way. I looked ever so slightly hooker-ish.)

And later, from the mass of strange faces, Katrina from Working Moms Break (the friend of a friend) emerged and became my BlogHer BFF. Yay!

Man, my feet hurt, but the rest of me was in the groove. I vowed to tear through my pantry at home, ridding my family of all processed foods. I got fired up to take better pictures, rename my blog, and stop mocking people who home school. I decided I should write less and read other blogs more. (Or do both, but sleep less.) I thumped women on the back who’d stood in front of huge crowds and read candid, deeply-personal posts on everything from the death of a baby to overdosing on drugs to red underwear. A few times I even told people about my own humble wee blog.

I went from a fearful, “Oh, them” attitude to a beaming, proud, “Yay, us!” state of mind.

I nudged the nose of my spacecraft into that mass of 3,600 women. And you know what? Nearly everyone I met hit their the breaks and waved me in (despite my having all the makings of a Salad Bar Loser). And for that, I thank you ladies kindly.

Thank you BlogHer for making a non-joiner part of the estrogen-palooza pack. I’ll be back next year. But just to be on the safe side, I’m taking my friend Jill along too.


6 Comments on “Confessions of a Salad Bar Loser”

  1. 1 Katrina said at 7:44 am on August 15th, 2011:

    I was so happy to be your BlogHer11 BFF, Kristen!

    It’s funny how many people were dreading the Group thing. And specifically, the Mean Girl thing. But I didn’t meet any mean girls there. And maybe we’re all secretly joiners.

  2. 2 Andrea said at 7:50 am on August 15th, 2011:

    OMG, you described to a T my experience at my first professional conference in years! I totally felt like an imposter at first, even though the professional association had accepted my credentials in my application, and I figured everyone must have much more solid chops than I. It ended up being a blast and everyone was friendly. I came home and changed the name of my blog, figured out how to take better pictures, decided I needed to read other blogs more, not be shy about commenting, and suck it up and learn about SEO! I’m so glad that I’m not alone. I love that you share just what’s on your mind and that you are still as freakin amusing as you were when we were teenagers, my friend! Keep goin, girl!

  3. 3 Amy W said at 4:24 pm on August 15th, 2011:

    Great take on the whole experience! I too would have been the bashful salad bar loser. Next year I desperately want to be able to go! So, hopefully between you & all the other bloggers I’m reading & getting to know, we’ll have our own posse.
    FYI, you have to make sure they trim the eyelashes before applying them to avoid the drag queen/ slightly hooker-ish look. ;)

  4. 4 kristen said at 8:48 pm on August 15th, 2011:

    Andrea: You are the sweetest. Thanks for the bloggery luv. And here’s the thing, next year YOU ARE SO COMING WITH ME. (And it looks like Amy will join us too!) Seriously, BlogHer is in NYC next year–so no excuses–the first weekend in August. I’ll even invite myself to your Hamptons house for a couple days before or after so I can get a wicked big dose of Reiser-ness. As for your SEO education, good on ya. I need a crash course myself. xoxoxo

  5. 5 Andrea said at 11:26 am on August 17th, 2011:

    NYC? You bet I’ll be there, baby! And you absolutely must come to SunReiser before or after. We need to cook and drink a lot of wine together! And I will look forward to meeting Amy, too. xoxo

  6. 6 Amy W said at 4:14 am on August 19th, 2011:

    Oooh… a new blog to read!!! Merci! And yes, we will definitely have our BlogHer 12 NYC non salad bar loser group. We will have a spot at the lunch table with our gals. We will be cool, or at least appear that way.
    Ladies, you’ve both mentioned this & I have been thinking a lot about it, but wondered how to do it! I really need to change the name of my blog. Not hard to do, with the exception of the whole facebook thing (yes, my silly little nobody blog has a fb page). Any advice or opintions on the matter would be greatly appreciated! amymckinneyATyahooDOTcom

Leave a Reply