When I thought about who I should ask to pick a favorite post from the archive, the first person who jumped into my brain was Mom. Who else has read every single word I've written for the past ten years and then called me to correct the grammar and spelling?! Here's what Mom had to say:
Blogposts about CHA generally list a catalog of products and services for sale, describe new ideas for crafting techniques, and offer glimpses of craft celebrities sighted among the crowds. "If CHA Were My Boyfriend" takes a different approach. Through the humorous and unexpected metaphor of "dating" CHA, this blogpost offers me a window into the psychology of one newcomer to the immersive experience. What could have been a flat recitation of a routine business visit to a craft trade show becomes an engaging, three-dimensional short story, to which I, as a non-crafter, can connect.
And so, here's the original post (from July 6, 2011):
In January 2009, I went to my very first Craft and Hobby Association show (CHA), and I chronicled the journey on my blog. Read the wrap-up post here. I have continued to chronicle each CHA experience since then. In many ways I use the twice-a-year event as a benchmark for my own progress, in this industry and as an artist. Reflecting on this summer's CHA (my first where product I had designed was being sold) I found myself dwelling less on the actual event and more on the progress I've made in the last two-and-a-half years. And then I started daydreaming and supposing...
For me. Not so much for him. In the beginning I was overwhelmed and impressed with his worldliness, his thousands of friends, his social networks, and the fact that he didn't let everyone hang out with him. It made me feel special to be a part of his life. I realize now that he was dating a lot of other women back then. Like Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies, there was a definite hierarchy, and I wasn't one of his main girlfriends, but more of a one night thing. Man, that CHA gets around.
I came back six months later ready to wow him with my knowledge and insight and swoon over his charisma and flashy displays.
But as many who try to make it work with a new guy find, the timing was just wrong for us. We were in Orlando. It was hot. I was dealing with a lot of personal drama. And I just had to tell him, "It's not you. It's me. I need some time for myself."
January 2010, rolled around, and I was thrilled when he asked me to do him a favor. He was throwing a party and he wanted me to be an important part of it. Wow! I finally felt I was on the inside track. I knew that only a few girls had been asked, and once again, this made me feel special. As it turns out, the favor was not one I enjoyed doing.
Oh, I liked meeting all his friends and showing them how to use his toys, but I was moored to a single location with only an hour lunch break to get away and experience the rest of the party! At the end of our four days together I promised myself that I'd never get stuck in that position again. I told him I needed a bigger commitment. I didn't want to be one of the many girls whom he had used and then tossed away. In typical male fashion, he simply grunted in my general direction.
It was up to me to take the initiative and move us along to the next rung of our relationship. First, I laid the groundwork. I filled out lots of paperwork and arranged it so that I didn't need anybody else on my arm to gain entry to his circle. I wanted him to see me. Then in July 2010, I headed to Chicago for our semiannual rendezvous. I had bought new clothes and I was ready to show off for him.
Alas, I have to admit that I was disappointed. Perhaps it was too much familiarity, but this time around he seemed really small to me. They say that size doesn't matter, but there wasn't a heck of a lot of motion in that ocean either. On the other hand, I feel that we definitely managed to further our relationship in bits: a stronger connection, more honesty, and the relationship had become more comfortable. I knew what to expect from him and he knew what to expect from me. I started to relax into the relationship. In retrospect, perhaps it was his sudden smallness that allowed me to remove him from his pedestal and begin to really see him. So, a good thing all around.
Parting was harder this time. But we promised that we'd see each other again in six months. And this time we promised to stay in touch through video chats and e-mails. It does make the long distance relationship thing so much easier, you know?
January 2011, rolled around, and I only had eyes for him. I had spent more than a month obsessively preparing for this interaction. I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles with romantic visions of the two of us making sweet sweet love in a technicolor paradise. I had visions of fireworks, angels singing, and perfect harmony.
Reality is always such a pain, isn't it? On the one hand, people had definitely started treating us like a couple. Yay! That sense of belonging was there. On the other hand, he got really distant and started pulling away every time I came near. I felt lost. I felt angry with myself for investing so much time and energy and money into this wastrel! I felt sad that I wasn't enough for him. I felt a general sense of malaise and failure. I crept away from our time together wondering if we'd ever see each other again. There was no big fight, no scarlet moment, but I had hurt feelings.
I went home and talked to my girlfriends about him. We discussed his actions and mine. And a good friend reminded me that I couldn't expect a man to make me happy. Waiting for him magically to pluck me from the thousands and take me to wife was unrealistic. But I could use him, as he was using me, and together we could both get what we wanted out of the relationship.
Well, I wiped off my tears and I took a long hard look at myself. When July 2011, rolled around, I was ready. I breezed into Chicago with a new attitude. He could love me or hate me, but this time around I was going to be irrepressibly me: irreverent, silly, artsy, Julie. He could take it or leave it. This time I came with confidence.
(this image from Julie McGufee's blog)
And you know what?
This time I think he finally knew my name. This time I think I got his attention. This time I think we made it work for both of us.
Thanks for stopping by!
Note from Julie: I will be at CHA once again in just a few weeks (January 21-23, 2017), so come by the Brother booth if you'd like to see me. Although I will also be poking into The Crafter's Workshop and Art Foamies booths. Let's take a photo together!