Conferring About Conferences
Last summer I attended a writing conference attended by a few thousand women. This is the third year I’ve attended this conference, which is professional in every way, shape and form. I always return home with reams of information, great ideas, and insight into the publishing industry.
But I arrived at the meeting with a level of perplexity about women and conferences. Now I come from a guy-centric background. Grew up with three brothers. The semaphore of my childhood was a series of grunts and groans. Even now, though I’ve got two girls, I notice with intent what my husband and son are like. Boiled down to their essence, men are simple, they’re basic. Women are complex. Now I’m not here to determine which is preferable (although I’d be a traitor to my sex if I said anything other than us!), but rather put out an interesting observation in relation to my conference.
You see, many weeks before the conference—no, really months before the conference—female attendees started chattering on various online writing venues. Discussing the finer details of the destination, scouting out restaurants, shopping, transportation options, and such. Fair enough.
As the conference drew closer, the level of obsession grew to disturbing details. No longer satisfied with spread sheets of local merchants and what pharmacies were nearby, women started dispensing sage coping advice.
“Drink plenty of orange juice in the weeks leading up to the conference so that you’re in good health,” one would say. To this another would counter with advice on what cold-prevention methods are most effective. And then another would suggest the cheapest place at which to purchase it. In bulk. Echinacea, Airborne, Cold Eeze, you name it, someone knew which preventive measures were sure to beef up your auto-immune system to combat the dread Conference Physical Drain.
Soon we were being cautioned against even more fearsome doom. One author offered up helpfully, “I’ve pasted some exercises you can do to prevent the blood clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT) that can occur in some people from sitting long periods of time.”
I just thought I was going off for a few days of fun and education! I didn’t know I could well keel over from a blood clot unless I downloaded her exercises to my iPod!
There was the great jacket debate, in which a good handful of women argued over the degree of warmth they’d need for their travels from their jacket of choice. Someone actually wrote “Define jacket” when another woman suggested she pack a jacket. Um, back in my day, a jacket was a jacket! We need to clarify this?
Some more “who’d have thunk it?” tidbits from well-meaning yet perhaps a bit anal retentive attendees:
°DON’T drink from the glasses in the bathroom. Find yourself a plastic cup
°To cut down on trash that doesn’t get recycled, a better idea might be to take a tiny container of your own dish detergent. I’ve been doing that for years, & it comes in handy for other stuff that needs washed or if you want to use a glass for one thing, then need it to be clean again later for something else
Maybe it’s the three brothers’ influence on me, I don’t know. But I can’t help but cringe each time these women map out these bizarre high maintenance upkeep plans for the conference. Don’t forget your sweaters for chilly air conditioning! What’s the weather going to be like? Why does it matter? You’ll be indoors for 99% of the time! How will I deal with my computer? The same as the other several thousand people milling about the hotel do. It’ll be easy! Will there be WiFi? I don’t think a hotel exists in a large city that doesn’t have it at least in the lobby!).
Find me a man–any man–who honestly would think twice about anything more than what time the meeting is scheduled for and is he prepared for it. I don’t know if a guy really gives more than a split second’s thought to whether he’s packed enough underwear. Meh, you can get more when you get there if you don’t have it.
But thanks to these ever-vigilant ladies, I would be able to find everything I could possibly need in a city of 3/4 of a million people, where, no doubt, the concierge would have provided the same information to me in a moment’s time, were I to need it
It’s as if they need to be handheld through this world of professionalism. Now this is a group of very talented women, many hugely successful writers, many having come from previous careers as doctors and lawyers and the like.
But what is it about this group that there is this crazy-obsessive need to freak out on just about ever aspect imaginable for this thing?
I guess I should just chalk it up to the complexities of being female. After all, I’m the first one to complain when my son doesn’t change his boxers the entire week we’re on vacation. But maybe there’s a happy medium in there?