Finding My Way In the Skeptical Community

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I had some trepidation about going to Skepchickcon. I mean, I’m not really a geek and I don’t feel like I’m as smart as your average skeptic. But I’d signed up and purchased an airline ticket so next stop…Chicago.

In order to psych myself up for the weekend, I decided to go with just one intention: show up as myself.

You might say that’s a pretty obvious intention since it would be weird to show up as someone else. Or not. There was cosplay.

I didn’t cosplay. That’s not a judgment about cosplay. I just feel awkward in costumes. And taking pictures. So, not sure what else you do when you cosplay but it would appear my choices are self-limited.

Where was I? I began the weekend feeling like an awkward outsider (in other words, the usual). At one point during my first panel, there was this discussion about the woo belief that people can exchange energy, and I was totally ready to throw down for the, um, energy exchangers. Now, I know people can’t actually exchange energy but it’s a useful metaphor for the vibes people give off. Vibes, man. I guess you can take the girl out of Santa Cruz…

So there I am in the party suite of the hotel, sipping my awkward introverted cocktail. But what the hell can I do, right? I can only be myself because, to recap, (a) I just have the one self to show up with and (b) no cosplay. I make a decision to just chill the fuck out on the couch and be open to whatever conversations come my way. You know, like, exchange some energy and shit. Conversations ensued! And before I know it, it’s 2 in the morning and I end up with the party suite all to myself. So that was amazing except that at some point during the night, my soul took possession of the room (stay with me, skeptics). I mean, the room was so totally mine that the next night I felt weirdly possessive of it. Guys, easy on the furniture.

So I stayed up way too late and then got up in the morning and made some questionable decisions about breakfast involving smoked salmon, bacon and a croissant.

I finally checked into my own hotel room and got dressed for my second panel called Food Fright about food, fear and pseudoscience. There was a lot to cover and I wondered how much I’d be able to contribute. We talked GMOs, gluten, allergies, more GMOS. Lots of GMOs. All in all, I didn’t feel as confident as I’d like, but I was good with showing up as — wait for it — myself. Still no cosplay.

Then something kind of cool happened to me during that panel. I’ve been feeling kinda down on skeptics lately. Kind of tired of the smug skeptic thing. Towards the end of the food fright panel, an audience member made sort of a joke about his friends and their penchance for toxin cleansing and at first I thought, oh, here we go. I sort of questioned him a bit, but then it hit me – he’s not here for a lecture. This is where skeptics go to be with other skeptics. It’s a much needed place to vent, connect and be inspired by our own, and that’s perfectly okay. His cleanse-loving friends weren’t there. In that moment, I needed to listen. Because he just needed to unload. Unload his toxins. You know, maybe he should consider a cleanse?

That panel was followed by the panel on how to be an outspoken woman online, and I could not have been more inspired (I was in the audience for that one). Women speaking their mind in public is apparently this crazy, controversial thing that results in death threats. And yet these women continue to show up and speak out, despite it all.

Saturday night was kind of a blur because I was so tired. I don’t know. Something, something, shwarma. There was a whiskey tasting which was beyond awesome and I wore a lab coat (but it wasn’t cosplay). I got to hang out with a lot of my fellow Grounded Parents. So much fun.

Sunday at 8:30 in the AM I was up for our Grounded Parents panel. Evaluating Parenting Information. I already covered that here.

My last panel of the weekend was Communicating Skepticism. And it was really perfect because I finally felt comfortable and like I had something to say. I talked a little bit about storytelling and the way audiences appreciate vulnerability. Stay away from stories that paint you as the savior. They aren’t that appealing. People love embarrassing, awkward stories because they reveal you to be human. And that’s where we connect. That’s where the good stuff is. Although Skeptical Saviors does have a nice ring to it.

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About Mamalicious

Writer, storyteller and mother of two living in Washington, DC. Science enthusiast and pop culture vulture. Ally. Feminist. Bitch with the best intentions. Contributor to GroundedParents.com.
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