November 2nd, 2004


Living in a "Swing State"

I love Swing. But I mean Java Swing, yo. And, well, swing dancing is fun too.

Governor Jennifer Granholm has apparently become my Bestest Friend Forever. Seriously. She's been calling me every day now, just to chat about various issues that are important to her. Look Jen, I know it's lonely at the top, but come on. Haven't you noticed I'm not returning your calls? Can't you take a hint? We haven't even met, babe. I'm sure you're sweet and all, but this is really getting a bit creepy. Have you ever heard of stalking? I just may have to take out a restraining order on this psycho stalker chick.

Marshmallow BOF

Thursday morning when I woke up, the previous day's sore throat had blossomed into a full-scale snotty mess of a cold. That, plus a bit of after-affect of the drinks I'd had the night before, left me feeling pretty crappy. I got up on time, checked my schedule, and decided that there wasn't anything I really needed to be at. So I gave myself the morning off. I was feeling too icky to sleep, but I force-fed myself half a glass of water and a half of a protein bar.

I curled up in bed with a book and a box of tissues and relaxed for awhile. Then I took a long hot shower, and I made it to the conference just in time for lunch. Excellent timing! I was still feeling really woozy and off, but actually I found that once I'd worked up the courage to eat I felt much better. I attended the afternoon sessions with my trusty box of tissues stolen from my hotel room, and it was all good. (Except that I didn't win anything at the raffle. Sigh.)

Thursday evening I held an impromptu Marshmallow BOF. To explain this properly, we must rewind a bit to sunday evening. At the opening reception, one of the goodies provided was a chocolate fondue. The items provided for dipping included a bunch of fruit, pastries, and marshmallows. As the reception came to an end, I was sitting and talking to A, when I noticed that there were plenty of marshmallows still on the table. "Wait, I have a natural-wood fireplace," I remembered. "I should roast marshmallows!"

So I said to A, "Let's steal some marshmallows." We opened a napkin and furtively filled it up with marshmallows. I twisted the ends closed and tucked them in my pocket, leaving the marshmallows hanging out like a pouch.

After the reception, we went to the fireside bar. I enthusiastically showed a bunch of people the stolen marshmallows. Guys proceeded to buy me drinks until I realized I'd had more than I'd wanted to, so I stopped drinking them. Later, A was kind enough to walk me tipsily home. I showed off my cool condo, then he left and I went straight to bed.

Monday morning I woke up, got ready, and started to walk to the conference building. There in the parking lot, I saw something white. "Snow, already?" I thought to myself. As I came closer though, I realized it was my marshmallows! I'd forgotten all about them. My coat must have knocked the bag out of my pocket the night before, and neither A nor I had noticed their absence.

Naturally I was dreadfully disappointed. I picked up the remains and threw them away, then told a few friends about the tragic loss when I saw them at lunch. I kept meaning to ask the kitchen staff if they had any extras I could have, but I never remembered to.

Wednesday, A bought us a fresh bag of marshmallows. Yay! So thursday night, after the late keynote speech ended at 8, I searched around for people I knew and invited them over to my place to roast marshmallows. K even joined us remotely! I didn't actually call it a Marshmallow BOF, but I should have.

It was a quiet and relaxing way to spend the almost-last-night of the conference; especially since by this time my nose had essentially taken over my entire head and was holding my brain for ransom.

On Being Female

(Same place, same tech conference, but some inner thoughts.)

We walked together one afternoon up the steep hill to pick up his car. When we got to the top he commented to me, "I guess I'm not acclimated to the altitude yet. Feel how fast my heart is beating." And he tried to take my hand and put it on his chest. I resisted uncomfortably. "No it's okay, just feel my heartbeat." He took my hand and placed my palm on his sternum.

His heart was indeed beating very rapidly. I made some noncommittal comment like "Yep, that's what happens," turned away, and walked on toward the car. The palm of my hand stung with an unexpected flashback.

Different he, different place, some years ago. "Wow, feel how fast my heart is beating," he said to me. I placed my hand on his chest, and felt his heart beating quickly. Embarrassed, not wanting to make eye contact, I gave him a light hug. He pulled me tighter, began to kiss me, and I could feel him rise against me.

I pulled away. "No," I told him. "We aren't doing this."

He, a different he, was walking me back to my condo late one night. "You said you want to use my bathroom before you go," I said. "Can I trust you to be a gentleman?" He made a joke, and I insisted. "No, I'm serious. Because once I invited a man into my hotel room and it was a mistake." He assured me that he had far more morals than were needed.

I left my door wide open, and I perched on the kitchen counter in view of the door, waiting for him to finish in the bathroom. When he came out, he sat on the counter opposite me. "So tell me about this man you invited into your room," he told me, a sly and interested smile on his face.

"It's not a good story," I told him earnestly. "I let him into my room... and it was a mistake. That's why I've left my door wide open. That's why I asked you before letting you in." I watched the smile tumble from his face in partial understanding.

He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed. I fell backwards onto the bed, unresisting, in shock. I couldn't believe that this guy, a married guy, my friend, was doing this. I couldn't believe this was really happening...what was happening? He pressed his weight on top of me, trapping me. He reached under my shirt, rubbing, kissing, fondling. He stroked my crotch with his thumb and grinned at me. I shook my head, pushed his hands away, No.

The phone rang, he swore, and I pushed and wiggled my way out from under him to answer it. "I'll meet you downstairs RIGHT AWAY," I told my friend on the other line, and it was over. I don't know what would have happened if the phone hadn't rang just then.

I climbed into the hot tub at the party and he, a different he, asked what I wanted to drink. "I don't know, what do you think I should have?"

He, a different he, said, "You're in a hot tub with 20 men, and you're asking what you should drink??" We all laughed heartily.

Then I was soaking up the warmth, a scotch in my hand. He, a different he, reassured me, "We joke around, but you're okay here. We won't do anything."

"I know that," I told him. "I'm not afraid of you. Actually I feel safer with a group of men than with just one or two. Because if anything happens, I figure at least somebody will say 'stop'. I take steps to protect my safety, or at least I try to."

Then he, a different he, said, "I'm glad I'm not a girl." I nodded, then shrugged, uncertain of what to say, and the conversation turned to other topics.

But now I know what I should have told him. I should have said, "You shouldn't be glad you're not a girl -- you should be ashamed you're a guy. You should be ashamed of your gender; you should be ashamed that it is even an issue."

A hotel room is a bedroom with locks, and any invitation can be misinterpreted. It is naive to be completely trusting of everyone you meet. But when you are at a conference with around 300 men and only about 36 women, you are going to be surrounded by mainly men. So what do you do, when you want to spend time with your new friends, or maybe just 1 or 2 friends? What do you do, when they want to be polite and walk you home? I refuse to live my life in fear. But what do I do to keep myself reasonably safe at the same time? I try, but I don't really know. It's a complicated world.