I stare out the window of the minivan and watch as the I-4 signs indicate we are getting closer to Walt Disney World. Normally, this is a trek that makes me really happy, but tonight it is quite the opposite. “I’m a little bit nervous, and I sort of don’t want to go,” I confess to Jackie, my fellow NDM and escort for the evening. “Why? We are going to have so much fun,” Jackie assures me, “It’s a social media event. That is what you are all about. There is no way that we aren’t going to have the best time ever!” “It’s been so long, Jackie,” I lament. “I am really out of the loop since inner mouse went on hiatus and I started working. Maybe I’m a ‘has been’ at this point. I don’t even really know how I should handle myself at this thing. I just feel incredibly awkward.”
We would arrive at Disney’s Trick or Meet-up shortly. This social media event revolving around the Haunted Mansion theme promises a great time. On the itinerary is special entrance into the Magic Kingdom after its closure, a presentation by Jason Surrell, special photo opportunities with characters, and a guided tour of the Haunted Mansion’s new queue. Attendees are expected to come in costume. I should be climbing out of the van window due to extreme excitement that invokes an inability to sit still. Instead, I just want to lean out of the window due to extreme nausea that may invoke puking.
“You will be fine, J.L.,” Jackie says with the utmost support. “It will be like riding a bike. It’s going to come back to you. And your outfit is really adorable. Everyone is going to love it.” I look down at my given attire. I had been lucky enough to score a female Mad Hatter guise from Buy Alice in Wonderland Costumes. It is a quality ensemble that is cute with just enough sass to be fun. I certainly do feel a bit more confident knowing that I’m arriving to this exclusive event dressed to the nines, but is it enough to cover my intense insecurity?
We park in the designated area, and I view a small sea of people socializing. My eyes land on a few that I haven’t spoken with in many months, and I feel clumsy. It’s time for Neurotic Disney Mom #1 to step out once again after an extended public absence, and I don’t know that I can summon her when I feel so graceless. Unconsciously, I put my hand to my neck because I’m struggling to breathe at a consistent rhythm, but instead I touch my necktie. The yellow necktie that came with the costume has a cute pattern of teapots all over it. My breathing steadies as I remember how much fun that necktie is. “I can do this,” I tell myself. A labored smile appears on my face, and I do my best to approach the event with confidence.
“Oh my gosh! Aren’t you so cute?!” I turn to find Sarah Bricker, co-creator of Disney Tourist Blog. She looks adorable standing next to her husband, Tom, as Mrs. Potts and Beast. “Oh thanks,” I say a bit sheepishly. “I love it!” she gushes and takes my hand to look at it. I glance at my plaid glovelettes along with her and acknowledge, “It is a great get-up.” I feel my “networking legs” get stronger underneath my pink petticoat and coordinating plaid skirt. Maybe I will survive this event with only a few minor bumps and bruises.
A voice yells from the crowd, “J.L.!” My eyes fall on my roommate for Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference, Ashley, from A Cup of Disney. I laugh. “I almost didn’t recognize you because of your wig.” Being that she has often played Alice to my Mad Hatter, the Alice costume she is wearing seems uncanningly appropriate. “This is awesome!”, she exclaims as she looks over my costume. I blush, look down, and see my red velvet boot spats with yellow buttons. They are my favorite part of the costume. They complete the dapper yet eccentric look, and a sense of silliness rises within me that matches my appearance. The neurotic, social media-obsessed, Disney-loving mom within me is returning and the former feelings of being inept begin to fade.
A bit to my left I hear, “There she is.” The voice is one with which I’m well acquainted. “Hey, Lou,” I giggle as I reach for a hug from one of my favorite Disney podcasters, Lou Mongello. A male voice calls out, “Lou, I thought you were reaching for me, but I understand. She is much better looking than I am.” Len Testa, from WDW Today, has crept up behind me. “Len,” I cry out, “It is so good to see you!” “You look fantastic!”, he remarks. I pretend to tip my tiny Mad Hatter headgear in his direction and thank him for the compliment. Mingling is all beginning to feel a bit more natural once again.
It’s time for the event to start, and I leave Lou and Len in search of Jackie. Once rejoined with her, I tell Jackie that I am–indeed–having a wonderful time. With her usual bubbly personality, she expresses her own enthusiasm over the event, and we become a bit giddy.
As we enter the Hall of Presidents for Jason Surrell’s presentation, Jackie notices Thomas Smith of Disney Parks Blog. She bounds over to say hello, but at once I feel all the confidence I gained leave me. I would possibly walk over hot coals to write for the Disney Parks Blog, so I look up to this man’s position within the Disney company. A feeling of inferiority takes over, and I meekly follow Jackie’s steps.
Whilst the two engage in conversation, I stand quietly beside Jackie, smiling and grinding the heel of my “spatted” boot into the carpet in a nervous fashion. Turning to me, Thomas says, “NDM#1, how are you?” Shocked by his recognition of me, I say, “You know who I am?” He says, “Yes, I’ve watched most of your episodes.” Even more shocked I ask if he has any tips to give a Neurotic Disney Mom seeking to rally the Disney masses. He is gracious enough to tell me his thoughts, and I soak up every word. As we wrap up our conversation, Thomas says, “You really have something going there. You should keep it up.”
Contributed by: JL Knopp (NDM#1) JL is the creator of The Disney Driven Life. She is also a blogger for Savvy Auntie and Touring Plans as well as a contributing writer for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.
The costume worn for this event was provided by BuyAliceInWonderlandCostumes.com . Some costumes viewed at this site are not suitable to be seen by children. Browse with care.