Why I Don’t Go To Women’s Conferences

I don’t go to many conferences these days. Well, I’m lying about that. I actually don’t go to any conferences. I especially don’t go to the conferences I’m expected to go to. You know the ones. You know. Don’t make me say it. I’ll spell it out for you. I’m a woman. I’m a Christian. Yes - those conferences.

Christian women’s conferences.

I used to go. And I used to enjoy them. They were certainly enjoyable, and I’m sure they still are, but I don’t want to go to any more. I haven’t always known this about myself. I probably kept attending women’s conferences for about two years longer than I should have. For a long time I couldn’t work out why about a week before the big date, along with my last registration instalment, I would come out in a nervous rash. It’s stupid, I know. I’ve sung on stage at these functions. I’ve even been the speaker at several of these do’s over the years. But now whenever I think about them, I feel the need to visit my doctor for a prescription for valium.

I thought for a while it was just my agoraphobia playing up - I feel the same way about movie theatres these days. I almost had to be sedated when my family and I went to see Avatar on Boxing Day a couple of years ago.  But there’s something else about women’s conferences. It’s not just the crowds, the noise and the unallocated seating that brings me out in a sweat. I think I’ve worked it out. It’s the distinct lack of men.

Large groups of just women - and Christian women particularly - make me very, very nervous. It could be just me, but it feels like there’s just way too much intuition in the room. You can never know what two, let alone two thousand, Spirit-filled women shut up inside an auditorium might do. Literally. You also never know what they might say. They seldom stick to the script, the notes, or the program, even if the script, the notes and the program are their own creation. Women at a women’s conference love an itinerary. It makes great confetti.

Men just bring a certain something to a gathering. I know that sometimes it is just poor taste in shirts and unusual smells, but there’s something else as well. They bring the ground. In the cacophony of a collective oestrogen-fueled God-adoration session, complete with swaying arms and glistening eyes, there’s nothing can bring a girl back to reality like the gentle, earthy snore of her husband in the seat beside her. His musky scent and squirming hips are enough to snap you out of any wandering, super-spiritual tangent you may have allowed yourself to drift off on during a particularly inspiring sermon.

The presence of men serves to remind we women that the world and everything in it is really all made of dirt. This is as it should be. If we had our way, everything would be shiny or sparkly, there would be no fat or hair anywhere, and all creation would vibrate at a level sounding eerily like James Blunt.

God likes men, and so do I. I like their humour. God made them funny looking too, which is always super. I also like the way men think; straight up and down - in levels, zones and and boxes. Women think like tangled string. I think like tangled string. My string needs to go in a box, onto a level, then be in a zone. That’s why I keep men handy at all times. I married one, gave birth to three and whenever they aren’t available, I go out into the street and fix my eyes on one, just to reassure myself all is right with the world; I will not be consumed by string, today.

I think that whenever too many women get together in one place and let loose with all their string, it’s the most terrifying thing in the universe. Not self-organising, like creation, more like chaos, or entropy. At women’s conferences, I feel like disarray is taking me over. I feel as though in amongst all that feeling and thinking and noise and string all I can know for certain is that at some point someone will want the building back and we will have to go. And I feel happy only because of that certainty. You see now why I don’t find it a pleasurable experience.

Please don’t take it personally when I don’t accept your very tempting invitation to a Christian women’s conference. They look great, really they do. It not you, it’s absolutely me. And I’m okay with it. While you’re all in conference mode, comparing your string, working out how to enhance your string, making your string into pretty shapes and thinking of ways to colour and kink and primp your string, I’ll just stay home with my grunting, snoring, smelly, pragmatist with the bad shirt. The one who likes string. The one who is mystified, thrilled and excited by string. The one who can’t get enough of me and my string, and likes me to wrap him in string and drag him around the house with it.....sorry, that’s probably enough of that. You all go right ahead and have a good time.

Jo Hilder

www.johilder.com

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