Monday, October 16, 2006

In which I wax all sentimental about my blogfriends

Every year I go to San Francisco for a spiritual retreat of sorts. I considered not going this year because of of, well, you know, angst and stuff, but I am so, so, so glad I did. I feel the tank of my soul got a really good refill during my retreat on Saturday, and then Saturday night, my tank got the ultimate top-off.

You see, about a year ago, I started reading Sweet Juniper and vowed that the next time I took my annual trip to San Francisco, I would meet them. As you might know, though, I got to meet them on their Great Midwest Move to Detroit instead. But there was still part of me that wanted to get to know some of the bloggers I admire who live in the bay area(ish), mostly because I wanted to see if it’s something in the water that makes for such good writers and, if possible, bottle some of that elixir du blog. So I asked Ann if she was interested in a face-to-face, and she said yes. She used her Blogging Baby connections to hook up with Uncle Roger and L, and we set a time and place for a meet-up party.

Wow. First of all, I can tell you that the pictures I’ve seen over at Granny of Ann fail to reveal the way her face lights up a room when she smiles. Which she of course does often, because she’s either cracking everyone up or talking about her various loves—her beautiful girls, her children and her husband, Ray. She is radiant. Also, it is physically impossible not to hug her. I tried to resist, thinking she might be put off by being manhandled embraced by a total stranger, but I could only fight it so long. She dealt with it well, but then, she’s a pro.

And L would have you believe she’s some frumpalicious housewife in a perpetual state of disarray. This is obviously a tactic to lull one into a false sense of security, so that one will feel like she won’t have to spend an hour picking out an ensemble and choosing Just The Right Shade of Lipstick to look cool enough to hang out with her. This e-persona of L’s is also misleading, because the only person who was frumpy at this gathering was yours truly, who decided not to spend, really, any time selecting an appropriate outfit and decided to wear no lipstick whatsoever.

L. is hip, she is beautiful, and while she claims to be slightly older than me, her skin puts one in mind of that of newborn babies, in that breathtakingly perfect phase the 5 minutes between Wrinkly Newborn and Zitty Infant. Seriously. I am just the kind of person who looks for confirmation that raising three beautiful children makes one’s face look like post-Christmas tissue paper, and I could find none. None. This strikes me as unfair, if only because L is also extremely witty and charming, and such a combination of virtues leaves girls like me with absolutely no competitive edge. Thank goodness all of us were sufficiently intimidated by PostHipChick’s utter coolness to invite her, or I’d have spent the entire party whimpering in a corner.

Uncle Roger and his wife are equally charming and also have painfully adorable offspring. Had I not had a toddler of my own, I might seriously have looked into a lease agreement on their daughter. I mean, she’s two and she was an absolute doll, which suggests to me that these people either live right or have made a deal with the devil. And Roger and his wife Rachel are the kind of people who fall all over themselves with self-deprecating comments which do nothing but reveal how great they are.

You know these kind of people—they so want you to feel better about yourself that you almost believe that they really might not be world-wide-web-reknowned wordsmiths of the first order, and then you catch yourself and sort of shake your head wryly at them, as if to say, “you almost got me that time!” Rachel has this beautiful skin and these big blue eyes and you think to yourself, wow, maybe she can give me some tips on how she gets that look (like she’s, you know, an issue of Glamour and not a human being with needs other than to be objectified by total strangers) and then you find out she doesn’t, in fact, wear any makeup at all ever, and you kind of want to weep.

And so everybody was really nice and totally went out of their way feed my inner Chinese Food Monster and give me directions, rides and free toddler advice. I felt comfortable with them almost instantly, and I was struck again at how amazing it is to have friends whom you feel funny calling friends but who you probably know more about than many of your local acquaintances with whom you use that appellation. Nowhere else do you make friends who, the first time you meet them, ask about your baby and husband and cats BY NAME because, well, they know them already. It is surreal, but it is also why we read and comment and link to each other, because we are searching for connection and understanding and solace. And when we are good and at least a little lucky, we find it.

And when we’re very, very good and more than a little lucky, we get to experience it in person, over steamy bowls of shrimp with black bean sauce and the drone of spongebob squarepants in the background.