Before jetting off to San Francisco for Folsom, my friends and I decided to stop in Seattle for a concert. I opted to fly in a couple days early so I could get reacquainted with this great city. I hadn’t been in 14 years, and even then, it was more of a family trip. I couldn’t really pull away to do the super gay city things that I truly wanted.
But my early arrival would also give me the opportunity to finally try and network with David Wheeler, a book critic and a fellow writer. His essays have appeared in Catapult, The Stranger, and The Morning News. We had been chatting for quite some time and it would be an amazing opportunity to connect. I’ve also been trying to lure him into writing a guest blog post on here too. You can check him out on Instagram and Twitter @daviewheeler. His tumblr is also definitely worth the look as well.
Networking is not a strength of mine though. I practically have tumble weeds blowing across my LinkedIn account. The only business cards I have ever handed out were to prospective readers. I’ve yet to make any connections that could help take my writing where it probably needs to go.
Upon meeting David at our designated coffee shop, he immediately struck my fetish for cute-nerdy guys. And as much as I wanted to pull him in a dark hallway to make out, we kept our meeting professional. We talked about the biz, our works, and where we saw ourselves in the future. When our time ended, I completely forgot to give him a business card.
On the day of our flight to San Francisco, my friends and I, being the responsible adults we are, nearly missed out flight. We rushed to the gate so quickly that I didn’t even have time to pee or get a sandwich (two very important things for me when I fly). Of course, when we actually got to the gate, I found myself still having to wait for my boarding group to get called.
As I politely snuck my way into the queue (rather than shoving my way in), I noticed a gentleman walking up to the premier boarding line. Suddenly I realized it was Dan Savage. My heart dropped straight down into my gut. For someone who wants to network, this flight just took an ironic twist. I could potentially network with one of America’s most famous gay writers (living).
But this set my gut on fire - in the nervous way, not the diarrhea way. Señor Savage was almost a little too famous. As I’ve written before, I do NOT like meeting famous people. It’s tough enough to walk up and introduce myself to dudes at the bar. How would I introduce myself to someone who gets approached all the time? Would it annoy them? What if I stutter? What if they’re dicks? The fact that his husband, and a very, very pretty young man were with him only made the idea more nerve wracking. But with them being in premier boarding, they’d get on the plane long before me anyway.
When I boarded the plane, it occurred to me that I managed to somehow lose my boarding pass AND completely forgot my seat assignment. I had to sheepishly ask the flight attendant for help. As he kindly looked up my seat assignment, I then saw Dan Savage sitting in the front row of first class right in front of me. Was now the time to try and introduce myself?
He had his headphones on and his head down focusing on his phone. This man clearly did not want any human contact. I also noticed he and his husband didn’t even sit together. Were they fighting? They both did kind of look grumpy. But then again, they were both on their phones. Now was definitely not the time.
Besides, the flight attendant would not stop talking. And he was kind of cute, and he was wearing Invisalign, and I kinda wanted to ask him about it because I've been Invisa-curious about fixing my slightly jacked up teeth. This is not a paid endorsement, by the way. I really want to know how this shit works. The flight attendant would later offer me some free alcohol to which I would have to politely decline because of my stupid sobriety. Damn. I’ve always wanted to get drunk on a plane.
After my new flight attendant friend figured out my seat, I made my way back there like a semi-normal human being. Immediately, I began texting my partner and a couple friends of my close encounter of the awkward kind.
“You should go back up to his seat and introduce yourself,” one friend wrote back.
This wouldn’t have worked. He sat by the window and I’d have to reach over the other passenger to shake his hand. Besides, we reached the point where everyone had to stay seated so the plane could taxi.
“You should tweet at him right now,” another friend said.
“NO WAY! I don’t even follow him on Twitter. Besides, what would I say? ‘I’m sitting twenty rows behind you.’ That’s so stalkery!”
Although this did give me the idea to at least go on Twitter and follow him. Dan Savage clearly had this Twitter thing down. He had 315.4k followers. I did not have this Twitter thing down. I had 304 followers (notice the lack of a “k” behind that number). Twitter just doesn’t get my boat going. I’d rather engage with people on Instagram. Regardless, a tweet would do me no good.
When my partner suggested meeting him once I get off the flight, I informed him that this wouldn’t work either. Dan Savage was sitting in the first row. He’d be long gone by the time I got off the plane.
“Baggage claim?” my partner wrote.
“Oh good point. God dammit.” I couldn't make anymore excuses.
Sure enough, when I got to baggage claim, they were standing right there waiting. I had to do this. I always talk about how facing our fears is so healthy. This would be no different.
I walked over to them and began grinning like a mentally challenged person (I can say that because I’ve worked with mentally challenged people). It was hard for them NOT to notice me. They stopped talking and waited for me to start.
“Hi. I don’t want to interrupt,” I started out. “But I just wanted to come over and say I am a big fan.”
“Oh well thank you,” Dan Savage said politely. “I would shake your hand but I have a cold right now.”
“Oh now worries. I just wanted to say that I’ve recently started my own writing career and it’s going really well, and you’ve been a big influence for me.”
My fumbling comments weren’t entirely true. While I do absolutely respect his work, I could hardly call myself a big fan seeing as how I’ve never listened to his podcast or read any of his books. I’ve just always known about him and liked what I’ve seen in his interviews. But that certainly couldn’t be my approach.
“Nice. What do you write about?” He asked.
“Oh… well… I… I write a blog. It’s on ‘baring it all.’ I know it’s just a blog but it’s going really, really well.” I always feel like I have to justify myself when I tell people I am a blogger - as if I don’t then they won’t take me seriously.
He nodded kindly. Then things went uncomfortably silent.
“Do you mind if we get a selfie really quick?” I asked.
My hands get really shaky when I try to talk a selfie as it is. Factor in my nerves here, and suddenly I had Parkinson’s (I can say that because my father has Parkinson’s). The photos kept turning out blurry and I finally gave up and pretended like a got a good one so that I didn’t wear out my already questionable welcome.
After I walked away, I kicked myself for having totally blown it. Sure I mustered up the guts to go talk to a famous person, but all I did was act like a giddy fan. In no way did I actually network.
When I explained my writing, it would have been the perfect opportunity to hand him my business card and promote myself. I could have said something like “My work is really taking off. I’ve grown a vast audience in less than a year and I think it’d be fun to collaborate with you sometime. Feel free to check out my work if you're curious at all.”
Chances are he gets stuff like that allof the time from aspiring writers. He probably would have thrown my card away at the next available trash bin. But what if I had piqued his interest JUST enough? It could have changed the course of my entire career. Oh well. I tried not beating myself up too much. There was nothing I could really do.
My friends and I got our bags and made our way to the airport concourse train. As we walked up, there was Dan Savage waiting for the same train car. I tried to casually never make eye contact just so he’d know that this was purely a coincidence - not a following.
After that train, I had to go to the kiosks to get a ticket for the BART (the San Francisco public train system). The kiosks filled up quickly and due to my impatience, I ran to the other side to see if there was less of a line. Instead, I ended up seeing Dan Savage. This was getting awkward. We exchanged smiles that said “Can you believe this?” Although I’m sure we were not believing the same thing.
As my friends and I made our way to the train, we purposefully didn’t choose to sit in the first car as to avoid yet another encounter. As we got in the third car over, there he was: more Dan Savage. As it turned out, I didn’t need Twitter to look like a fucking stalker. Any chance of re-approaching him with a business card was now officially down the toilet.
The next day, when my friend and I decided to go to the Mr. S Leather store for their big Folsom event, Dan Savage was there yet again - handing out free beer to the patrons. Perhaps they paid him to do it or maybe he did it for some charitable cause. Either way, it made me wonder if he lied about having a cold to not shake my hand, or if he was faking his health and getting his germs all over the beer. It didn’t matter. I think.
For the rest of the weekend, I successfully didn’t have anymore Dan Savage sightings to further my embarrassment. However, I did start seeing lots of those ridiculously hot Instagay celebrities. I decided to utilize them in order to improve my networking skills. They couldn’t do anything for my writing, but they’d be great practice for introducing myself to intimidating people. All of them were kind, making each one easier to talk to than the last. I even made out with one of them. Though he was fairly drunk at the time.
While I didn't let fear stop me from meeting Dan Savage, I did let my nervousness stop me from doing it well. I forgot that when we face our fears, we have to also not psych ourselves out as well. Blowing it with Dan Savage taught me that when I get another opportunity to rub shoulders with someone just as big, I need to take a deep breath, collect my thoughts, and make a half-way decent plan as to what I want to say.
Until that day comes, I’m perfectly happy networking with the brilliant, non-famous writers, like David, who really do inspire me to keep going on this journey. And if nothing else, I will at least learn to have my damn business card in my hand.
Edited by Glen Trupp
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