The Guy in The Man Suit at Blogher 2013

Ten to fifteen percent of Blogher conference attendees are men.  Just three percent of the 2,600 submissions for Voices of the Year were chosen to be honored.  From what I can tell, less than a handful of those are men.  I am an attendee, a VOTY honoree and a man.  I feel incredibly humbled and also?

Scared.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable around women. Between my husband and me, we have four daughters. We’re outnumbered all of the time. So I wasn’t concerned until I told a friend that I would be attending the conference and she said “Wow, you’re really going to stand out.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

“No, I mean you’re going to be a man in a sea of women.  What are you going to wear?” she asked and appeared to be genuinely concerned. Crickets. She stared at my forehead as if the answer might have been written in the deep furrows.

“Shit,” I replied.

“I’m sure you’ll look fine,” she said and then added “Oh, that jacket you wore to the holiday party with the black lapels. That was nice.”

“Everyone told me I looked like Rolfe from The Sound of Music,” I said.

“Ha! Come to think of it, you’re right.  I am sixteen going on seventeen…” She started singing and then checked her phone. “I have to go.  Good luck!” She trotted off humming Edelweiss, and I sat wondering what in the hell I had signed up for.

It’s not a fashion show” I thought and then went online to search twitter for updates.  This was the first tweet I read:

 "Coming out as a model in the Blogher '13 Fashion Show"

I uttered a word that sounds a lot like fire truck. 

But then I began to dig deeper.  I was not the only one wondering what to wear and in that moment, I felt a sense of solidarity.  It was refreshing.  I have been to plenty of work conferences and I’m pretty sure I have never heard one of my male colleagues ask “Bro, what are you going to wear?” We all know what to wear, the man suit: khakis and a blue button down shirt.

Feeling confident, I began to read the VOTY honoree posts:  Alexandra’s post about her beautiful Colombian mother, Allison’s viral post about how the mother stays in the picture, C.J’s touching account of how she bought her son a Christmas dress and Kate’s story of her courageous son’s journey without her and then I stopped. 

“Shit,” I whispered.  What am I doing here?    

I went back to read my post to try and figure out how I could possibly be in the same league. Then it became clear. There are two reasons why I’ll be going to Chicago: Nancy and Brenda.  They are two strong, beautiful women who loved me even when I didn’t love me. It’s not about fashion choices and first impressions.  It’s about love, heart, laughter, opinions and celebrating a life well said.  It’s about showing my daughters how important and influential they are and how they can change the world. 

I hope you’ll say hello to me when I attend on Friday.  It’s my first time and we all know how nerve wracking first times can be.  I should be easy to spot.  I’ll be the guy in the blue shirt.    

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