I can’t sum up CatalystCon

I know I’m supposed to gush about the panels. But my favorite part of this conference was the people — and the feelings.

It began in the airport, with my iced coffee in tow, and two war vets grumbling to each other about Obama taking away all our guns. The flight was uneventful, save for the creeping, almost overwhelming sense of excitement and importance I was feeling — punctuated by surprisingly decent airplane coffee and one of the most beautiful 2 minutes of music ever made, Nancy Wilson’s “Cabin in the Air.”

Waiting for the shuttle at the airport with my turquoise suitcase and turquoise Converse.

The SuperShuttle guy totally thought I was some 16-year-old loser trying to sneak into fancy hotels, but I eventually ended up at the Marriott.

Just as I was settling in for some TV and a sandwich, my phone rang. It was a Goo Goo Dolls song, so I knew it was Tristan Taormino. I answered: “I turned off Toddlers & Tiaras for you, I hope you know.”

She wanted me to go to Bawdy Storytelling that night. While I’d planned to stay in and be an introvert, uh, who am I to argue with Tristan Taormino? She arranged for me to get a ride from the creator of Bawdy herself, Dixie De La Tour, a red-haired fireball with a Southern accent. I was the co-pilot with the iPad, laughing all the way through the bad L.A. traffic.

My outfit for El Cid. ALL OF THE GOLD THINGS.

At swanky El Cid, I met Technogeisha, Ashley Manta, and Lady Cheeky, then settled in at Tristan’s table. (Jiz Lee was also there but I was too nervous to talk to them.) My drinks were delicious; one had a blackberry on top. Watching Tristan react to MC Crumbsnatcher was the best thing ever. The stories, especially the one from Allison Moon about having a fling in Spain, were incredible — I laughed until my cheeks hurt.

Afterward, I needed a ride home and was told that Midori was going back to the hotel. Yes, that Midori. I was petrified of talking to her, but my survival instinct took over. Not only did she give me a lift back to the hotel, but we had an amazing conversation all the way there.

Thursday morning, I bought an enormous coffee, acquainted myself with the layout of the hotel, then plopped down on a chair in the lobby to work on my panel. I don’t know why — probably too much coffee — but I felt like king of the motherfucking world. I watched businessmen strut through the lobby and take business calls while I did my own scandalous business. I was delighted with life.

Being a boss in the Marriott lobby, with my laptop showing my website.

Day turned to afternoon, and I continued working on my panel in the hotel bar. As I snacked on a highly-underwhelming plate of $12 shrimp, I was joined by Kate McCombs, Annamarie, and Stella Harris. Conversation continually veered toward weird animal sex, and we all vowed to look up videos of banana slugs and koalas humping later on.

When I returned to my room, thinking I might just chill out alone for the rest of the night, I saw a tweet from someone I didn’t know named Kate Sinclaire. Despite a bit of trepidation, I invited her over to my room. BEST DECISION EVER. She is adorable, funny, and knows a thing or two about sex toys (she works for Fuze!). Her original plan, like everyone’s on earth, was to go to Gloryhole that night, but I fed her wine until she could no longer resist staying with me instead.

We eventually acquired Kynan, LoraxHope, Queeraschino, and Queeraschino’s partner. I cannot describe to you the glory of this night. We laughed all night long, sticking Bad Dragon dildos to the sliding glass door, passing around the Shit Orb, testing various pens and paper, and devouring personal pizzas and astronaut ice cream. It was the Best Night™.

Friday, I ate multiple burritos and went to Tristan’s Boot Camp basically all day. That evening, to prepare for the opening keynote, Lorax painted my nails for me like such a friend. It was the only time I wore a dress. Behold.

Me right before the opening keynote, being girly with a chartreuse dress and ampersand necklace.

Saturday, I attended panels and scarfed down tiny muffins. Right before my panel, I inhaled an apple, talked through my notes like someone on speed, and scrunched the crunch out of my hair. I assume for those reasons, the panel went great. The 70 minutes went by in a flash — a wonderful, exhilarating flash.

Close-up of my hands building a Crave Duet vibrator.

After that, I was finally able to spend some time in the exhibitors’ hall doing important things: building myself a Crave Duet, meeting the nice folks behind We-Vibe, and fondling all the dildos on the Tantus table.

That night, I somehow ended up at a sushi restaurant with some really important people, among them Danny Wylde, Sinnamon Love, April Flores, Carlos Batts, and Jane Ward (the writer of one of my favorite pieces in The Feminist Porn Book). I revealed my lack of culture with my inability to eat with chopsticks, but hopefully made up for it by being the intriguing one who tests sex toys for a living?

Also, shoulder-to-shoulder with Danny Wylde. Just quietly.

That night was another round of irresistible Bawdy Storytelling. Packed into the hotel conference room like sardines, someone poked me on the shoulder. It was Tristan Taormino, handing me her phone and asking me to hijack her Twitter account while she told the first story. I held up my mason jar of wine and asked, “are you sure?”

Similar bags, terrible carpet. Two purses next to each other, stuffed with conference paraphernalia.

Even on a foreign phone and with some wine in me, I was able to tweet a few times during Tristan’s story. Gotta say, there was something very fulfilling about being given the potential to ruin someone’s career1.

Tristan’s story2 was so good that it finished with both the crowd uproariously laughing and Queeraschino crying into my shoulder. This was followed by other wonderful stories, and more crying and laughing, and a general sense of both joy and relief. It was cathartic as fuck.

Someone poked me on the shoulder. It was Tristan Taormino, handing me her phone and asking me to hijack her Twitter account while she told the first story. I held up my mason jar of wine and asked, “are you sure?”

In the elevator, I got my chance to make up for my awkward response to the old men at Catalyst East who asked what I was there for. Some drunk dude wanted to know, and I didn’t miss a beat: “a sexuality and activism conference.”

Mona 2s in love.

I capped off the night with a blogger party with Penny, Kynan, and Queeraschino. Photos were taken; our Monas fell in love; stories were swapped; blogger and anti-rapist affinity was shared.

On Sunday, after some panels, Queeraschino and I jetted across the street to the mall, where we secured sandwiches and stumbled upon a pet adoption place that, even with the strong smell of piss in the air, almost drove me insane with cat-desire.

After the closing keynote that evening, everyone on earth was starving for some real food, so we had a big dinner at PF Chang’s. I ordered too many appetizers. The night ended in Jenna’s room, as we unwound by donning Lush face masks.

On the last morning, I partook of the hotel’s breakfast buffet with Queerie and yet again wasted my appetite and $15 on an appetizer — of fruit and yogurt.3

Lorax, me, and Queerie Bradshaw showing off our special conference manicures on top of some Tantus stickers.

Then Lorax and I shuffled up to Queerie’s room, where we sat around her epic microphone and recorded a podcast with her. My first ever podcast!

People keep asking me what my favorite part of Catalyst was. I know what I’m expected to say: the panels. But that is not really true. Yes, I loved Toxic Toys and Building a Career Talking About Sex and Top 10 Myths About Business and Moral Panic. But my favorite part was the people — and the feelings.

Because for five exhausting, wonderful days, I was outgoing, and I invited people to my room whom I’d never met, and I introduced myself to Midori, and I knew my shit, and I spoke loudly and honestly, and I felt so loved and so energized.

What I wish I could capture is each moment — and there were many — that I leaned against the nearest person whom I had met mere hours prior, feeling this stupid overwhelming kinship that I cannot possibly explain in a way that doesn’t sound like bullshit, and laughed until I cried.

In the airport, it was the reverse: after TSA got miffed at the water bottle I’d forgotten to drain, I broke down at the gate. But there, suddenly, waiting for the same flight, like a Catalyst angel, was the ever-smiling face of Kate McCombs. She asked me what I needed, brought me new water, gave me space, and then — made me laugh.

  1. OK, exaggeration
  2. which I’m not going to ruin here, in case she wants to tell it again, because she should