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Posts Tagged ‘Oprah’

Fame and Fortune, or Just One of the Two

The Hope Diamond that I will buy next week.

This week, the Mega Millions lottery has reached $340 million dollars. Every time it reaches these outlandish amounts of money, my husband and I play the game where we decide what we are going to do with it when we win. I think the resulting breakdown tells a lot about our respective characters.

We always start by subtracting a little less than half for taxes. So for this week’s windfall we’re looking at just under 200M in take home dollars.

Aaron began by divvying it up among our families, allotting our siblings 2-5M a piece. He subsequently created trust funds for our nieces and nephews for college and beyond. This landed around 2M a piece.

As a good son, he gave all the parents including my mother a million. This time, because our fortune is going to be so large, he earmarked a select few good friends $500,000 each, then explained that they can also have whatever they want — cars, boats, new clothes. Obviously, he explained, if we go on vacation with them, we’ll pay.

Obviously.

I’m really glad my husband is so generous because my list started with an on-call masseuse and a beach house in Cabo. It ended with a privately owned tunnel system throughout the tri-state area to avoid rush hour traffic.

My name will fall somewhere under the “Now Showing” part.

I suppose this level of selfishness extends to most of the daydreaming I do. For example, I rarely meditate on the health and well-being of…anyone. But I do often plead with the universe for fame.

I know that I have already been interviewed on Q-FM96’s the Wags and Elliot show in Columbus, Ohio and one time I was a featured extra in Dune the Miniseries starring William Hurt (if you click on the link, start watching at 6:07. I am the “Mother.” Please inquire privately about autographs and special appearances). But I still hope that someday I will appear in “People Magazine,” and not because I escaped death during a natural disaster (but, frankly, I’ll take it).

There are a lot of ways a person can be famous. It’s important to be specific when asking the universe for celebrity, because things can go horribly wrong if a mistake is made. (Right, Anthony Weiner?)

I have already figured out a number of things I won’t be famous for: 1. Being the youngest to master something. 2. Mastering something. 3. Being fashion forward. 4. Starting a chain restaurant. (However, not for lack of some truly fantastic ideas including “3-Ways,” a restaurant that prepares dishes 3 ways: healthy, regular and really really bad for you. I know.)

While I am able to outline to the universe the myriad ways in which I hope to avoid fame or infamy including giving birth in a cab, giving birth to a litter (especially in a cab), becoming too fat to leave my house or accidentally triggering a series of events that lead to the breakdown of the power grid, my hopes for fame are really rather quite simple: I hope that I will someday sell so many copies of a book, I’ll get to go on Oprah for both a one-on-one interview as well as a follow up apology episode.

I want to achieve the kind of fame that lands me on a red carpet in a really beautiful dress I didn’t have to pay for. I want to help develop a recipe book based on the favorite foods of a character I wrote or wrote about. I want to swing by ILM and make sure the models they are building for the movie of my book properly reflect my vision for the alien colony (or, fine, pot island).

But before this gets too nerdy, let me just make one quick deal with the universe: If you give me the $340 million this week, I will totally give up the fame thing and go with my husband’s generous monetary allotments, forgoing the underground tunnel system. Kay. Thanks.


The Art of the Overshare with Props

Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the reason for my lack of friends in middle school…

I had very few friends in middle school. This reality applied to both real school and summer camp. I know that a lot of people feel this way about their preteen years, after all there are braces involved and, if this is the 1980’s, a perm. But I think in my case there was a bigger problem at play and it wasn’t just the mouthful of braces – it was simply just “the mouthful:” I liked to talk.

I phrased that in the past tense, not because I don’t still like to talk, but because as I grew up I discovered I liked people who liked me more than I liked talking. Therefore I had to figure out how to talk with better focus, less conviction and way, way less information.

Oversharing is a major problem in America today, made all the more prevalent by the popularity of social networking and Fox News. There are no filters. Governments break up, families break up, friends break up, you break up – all in real time, all in public.

When I run for president, this will be my central campaign focus and it will be so meta, I will lament it even as I inevitably overshare in my bid for president – like the thing about the cigar and Clinton or the Republican party and speaking.

So this week I am working on a story that might be the mother of all overshares. However, when you are being paid to do it, it’s more like Oprah talking about losing her beloved cocker spaniel, Sophie, and not like the Octomom. As such, I have had to spend the last seven days speaking candidly and intimately with a producer I have only actually known for the same amount of time. The story is about a genetic mutation in my great grandmother which causes a series of health issues exclusive to members of my family. There are only seven people known to have it and five more who have died either of it, or of something linked to it.

The thing about working with Jonathan-the-Producer is that he is a good guy. He is respectful and careful in his questions and general discourse. And of course it is safe to say that one cannot “overshare” when one is asked point blank, “So, does that totally apparent swelling in your legs piss you off?” Because anything short of, “I often say, `Fuck strappy sandals’ in public, outloud, to anyone, so yes,” would be a lie. And lying does not alleviate the pain of the overshare.

And yet somehow, even in a setting as intimate and expected as ours has been, I think I have still managed to freak Jonathan way the hell out. As a girl with boundary-issues from the outset, letting me spill only so much is akin to handing an alcoholic a mug of Johnny Walker and then challenging him to stop drinking before stripping naked and weeping while singing “Danny Boy” at the top of his lungs.

So I thought it would be fun to provide you a list of recent overshares, all in front of a producer for This American Life, and almost all actually taped for radio:

1. “I’ve done drugs!” I belt out in the middle of an otherwise staid interview with a doctor at Harvard medical school. “I mean, not like Jim Morrison,” I add, trying to fill the subsequent awkward silence, “but you know, my twenties weren’t pretty…”

2. “I wear support stockings,” I announce during a car ride when tastefully asked if I am currently having to treat any of my symptoms. Then, unprompted, I pull up my shirt and start snapping my elastic waist band while exclaiming, “I call them my rubber bands!” The drive continues in silence. (This might look crazier in my head than it actually played out…No. It looked crazy.)

3. “Want to see it?” I ask, shoving my phone in sweet-Jonathan’s horrified face, after explaining that I have what doctor’s repeatedly call “A Beautiful Liver” (this is going to be the title of my movie) despite a series of unusual veins — Because I actually carry in my iphone a picture of my liver.

4. We interview my 72-year-old aunt last Wednesday for the story. She is bemoaning the fact that another family member has never reached out to her after the illness or death of her husband. So I innocently console, “Fuck her. She’s a bitch.” (The weak laughter that ensues indicates that perhaps I’ve taken it one step too far.)

5. The liver picture. That gets two mentions because, seriously?

6. “My wife went to Tufts,” Jonathan tells me after I share that I went to Tufts for college. “Oh, I’m so sorry for her,” I say. “That school was full of the lamest people.”

This process isn’t over. There is still a whole lot of sharing and inevitably oversharing still to come. And I promise if at some point in the next few weeks I blurt out something about a chronic-low-grade yeast infection, I’ll let you know. Actually, it’d be more newsworthy if I don’t…

 


Naming Yourself (and Baby Blue Z-yonce)

Make a Wish.

A few days ago Beyonce and Jay-Z had a baby. Although the media might have reported otherwise, obsessed as they are this week with the word “Tebow” which (loosely) translated can either mean, “Tight pants, cute butt” or “Pointing at the sky makes God love you,” that isn’t what they named her. They named her Blue, a name of which I’m loath to make fun, having named my 2001 Jetta the same thing once on a long drive to San Francisco.

Jay-Z, because he is Jay-Z immediately released a single about the birth of his child. And Jay-Z, because he is Jay-Z, it turns out, wrote a really nice song. I mean, I tend to get embarrassed when people become overly sentimental in public, and this song doesn’t do that. (That’s my general if unsophisticated litmus test.) Here it is.

Lyrically it’s R-rated, peppered as it is with profanity and “adult themes.” But that isn’t why the kid shouldn’t hear it until after college. I mean, isn’t it hard enough when your parents are just normal, everyday, hard working folks? What kind of expectation is already on you just for waking up in the morning with the last name “Z-yonce?” And now, on top of it, there’s your gushing dad telling the world with some certainty that not only are you his baby, but you will be a “younger, faster, smarter” him?

Okay, young, she’s got. Nailed it, in fact. I have no idea how fast Jay-Z is since I googled his miles per minute and got some song lyrics about a violent gang attack that while disturbing, neither helps me, nor the future adult-Blue. So maybe she can win that one too. But Jay-Z is smart. I mean, I think he’s smart. He’s a really good rhymer and he owns one of the largest hip-hop/rap corporations in the world, so I’m figuring he isn’t an “I can spell t-o-m-a-t-o-e” kind of guy (again, another litmus test).

But how can we avoid being measured by our gene pool? After all, we’re measured by everything from our car to our breakfast selection (Scandinavia, I’m mostly talking to you). My father was a physician in his life – kind of like becoming a rock star for Jewish people. My mother was an early childhood educator. My sister and I were afforded liberal arts educations thanks to our parents, but came out, more or less confused. What were we?

Undergrad doesn’t give you a job title. Apprenticeships, professional degrees and joining the mafia do. Most of the people I know (myself in included) fell into unplanned careers, and even now as we sit perched behind some desk or other, we aren’t sure what we’re doing here, if we want to stay, and if we want to stay, how to do so.

I have been a professional writer for a few years now. If people need proof I can direct them to books, websites, and many other places where I repeat that I am a writer in public making it seem more real and less pathetic to all of us. However, on a daily basis I wonder how one sustains it.

After my first book was published, The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin (Plug. Check.) I probably should have hung out my “Relationship Expert” sign. I could have become a girl who helps people write their dating profiles. I could have counseled wayward couples. I could have gotten invited to weddings and been toasted during the thank you speeches.

But then I sold a second book and it was a humor book. Suddenly I found myself unable to name myself “Relationship Expert.” Maybe I was a humorist. Maybe I was like a taller, less squeaky version of all of those NPR writers who get to be on the Brian Lehrer show and talk about politics and say funny things about binge eating.

However, by then, I was a writing a business book and you can see the conflict of interest inherent in a career that makes fun of everything and one that monetizes everything. So, again, I remained non-committal.

When pressed I would proclaim, “I’m a Writer. You know how Meryl Streep can play a feisty American editor or a crazy British politician? You wouldn’t pigeon hole that lady into always playing the ingenue. Well, I’m like that except on paper. Except…you know, minus a fan base, critical reception or like…general reception.”

Then one day I was offered two weeks, seven dollars and a Fun Pass to write The Stoned Family Robinson. All of the sudden I was writing fiction. My dream job! That’s who I was, a Fiction Writer! A Fiction Writer never has to commit to anything as long as they can get on Oprah! Just call me Jane Austin! Dostoyevsky, anyone?

But when the book came out, rather than getting the coveted National Book Award, an interview with Terry Gross or even a must-read mention in People Magazine, I got a blurb in High Times and a blog on Celebstoner. I became a pot expert. An expert in pot. A coveted position to be sure, but again, not one I was certain I knew how to represent.

There is a difference between naming yourself an expert and being named one. In my case, I was nudged but never flung face first into any title. Therefore, those last steps, choosing to call myself a pot expert, a relationship guru or a marketing genius, well, other than dressed in scathing sarcasm, I just didn’t have the confidence or gene pool to back it up.

I am still searching for my title. Baby Z-yonce is going to have it just as tough if not tougher. But with every breath, every song, every book, I suppose we’re getting closer, she and I – and in the meantime, if we’re lucky, enjoying the ride.