Monday, December 11, 2006

The New Kids on the Block

(I have to pause before I go onto my next Christmas post to write about my experience meeting Dorr and Hobs this past Saturday.)

Bob was a little concerned when I first started blogging, wondering without face-to-face contact what sorts of people I’d “meet.” I have to admit that with an imagination like mine, it wasn’t hard to conjure up some creep who lives in a basement, surrounded by computers, chowing down on someone’s liver, and egotistically surfing the web, electronically clipping and filing articles with headlines such as “Possible Link between Serial Killings and Blogs.” But that was only one small part of me. What I really envisioned was friends of mine reading my blog and telling me I needed a really good editor.

What I didn’t envision was that very few of my real-life friends would be the least bit interested in my blog. I also didn’t envision that within a very short period of time, I would come to think of people I’d never met, never even spoken to on the phone, as friends, but that’s exactly what has happened. Of course, once that’s happened, if you’re me, you can’t help fantasizing about meeting some of these people IRL (“in real life,” as Hobs has taught me), sitting around, drinking coffee or tea or wine, and discussing books, etc. for hours on end.

I first began to suspect that Hobs and Dorr (as if their blogger identities weren’t enough, I’ve given them further nicknames, but I have a tendency to do that with friends) might live somewhere near me when one of them described taking the interstate that goes right through my town up to a bike race. However, I had them placed well north of me, so I was very surprised to discover they live in the town right next door to mine. Upon discovering this too-good-to-be-true coincidence, fantasy-immediately-turning-to-reality, I invited them to join my book discussion group, because we sometimes meet in a coffee shop in their town.

Hobs gallantly told me he wouldn’t mind being the only male member of the group. The rest of my friends in this group and I view this as our “thing to do without husbands and (for those who have them) children.” I let them know we were reading Barbara Noble’s Doreen (a Persephone reprint, but they managed to find a cool used edition, printed by Doubleday, where Noble was apparently a real bigwig in her day. We publishing geeks notice such things) and when and where we’d be meeting.

All right. That was all fine and dandy and exciting, but then, as with all fantasies, reality set in. I was married before the whole online dating thing really took off, so I don’t know what it’s like to do that, but I can only describe my feelings as Saturday drew near as the way one must feel when finally deciding to meet someone with whom they’ve been carrying on lively email and/or IM-ing conversations.

What if they didn’t like me? What if they thought our book discussion group was silly and pointless (after all, they’re both academics)? What if they were totally shocked to discover my online persona is completely different, and they just couldn’t relate this deadly dull and slightly obnoxious person to the one they thought they knew? I had to keep reminding myself that my brother has commented to me, “Your blog, Emily, is so you,” and that I’ve had other friends comment that my writing sounds just like me, to convince myself that I must not be that different in person from what I am in writing.

I even found myself doing something I never do, which was worrying about what I should wear. I envisioned both of them being exactly what they were, which is the kind of people who are so cool, you don’t even notice what they’re wearing. I promise you: that’s not the kind of person I am. I tend to throw things on and only discover halfway through the day I’ve got a big rip in the side of my shirt or something.

I found them easy to spot the minute I walked into the Borders where we met. They both looked extraordinarily familiar, which is unusual. I’ve, many times, had the experience of meeting authors with whom I’ve worked for months before I meet them in person, and they never look the least bit familiar when I finally do. They both very easily became a natural addition to our little group, and I didn’t get the feeling they’d been immediately turned off by me. In fact, I felt they were enjoying all of our company and were eager to hear what we all had to say.

Then, something new began to happen. I began to feel possessive. I didn’t want to share them. Not yet anyway. That feeling passed, though, because I really love my other friends, too, and love it when friends of mine click with each other, and then I was proud, happy that I’d found these new people who were such an asset to our discussion. The meeting was too short. I had to get back, because Bob and I had plans that evening, and our friend from Northern Ireland was coming to visit us, but as I drove home, I found myself wishing I’d thought to meet them earlier, before the book discussion began. I wanted to discuss all kinds of things with them, and I found myself thinking, “Damn! I didn’t even ask them the most basic questions.”

Not bad for a first blind date, huh? Guess what. They actually want to go out with me again. And that cannibalistic, serial-killing blogger? He must have eaten that small part of me that used to worry about him.


mandarine said...

Had I been in your shoes, such close encounters of the third kind would certainly have felt like playing with fire.

To keep on fantasizing about blog friends' real-life manifestations, Charlotte's voice can be heard in a recent podcast interview with JP.

Heather said...

How fabulous to meet fellow book bloggers!!! That's it! I have to get off my 'duff' and organize that Toronto Book Bloggers meeting. Oh how I wish you lived close by!!!

Rebecca H. said...

I'm looking forward to the next meeting too! I mean -- book club meeting and a bloggers-only meeting. I had that experience too where I expected my non-blogging friends to be interested in the blog, and they mostly weren't, and I feel like I have a lot of blog-friends whom I consider real, genuine friends, with no qualifications necessary.

BikeProf said...

Cannibalistic, serial-killing blogger...? Hmmmm... I think I see the next novel...

Anonymous said...

How fun...I'm so jealous...but how fun!

Emily Barton said...

Mandarine, "playing with fire" is a good way to describe it, but as you'll note, it turned out to be a crackling one, warming a huge living room with overstuffed chairs while a blizzard howled outside. Thanks for the heads up on Charlotte's podcast.

Ms. Blossom, what a great excuse for me to take a trip to Toronto.

Dorr, maybe it's a great way to get to know people. A lot of the superficial stuff is stripped away when you can "talk" to someone before you actually see him/her. Although, others would argue, ala serial killers pretending to be thirteen-year-old teenyboppers on Myspace, that it's also a way to hide all kinds of stuff. Hmmm...yet another topic for yet another post on yet another day. Want to take it on?

Hobs, yes, that thought crossed my mind. I've actually got a blogging ghost story that's taken up residence in my brain. I've been trying to kick it out onto some paper, but it's having none of that thus far, preferring to sit around and redecorate while reinventing itself.

Bloglily, "fun" is definitely the operative word!