Thursday, August 03, 2006

Network TV

Five o'clock on Monday, after spending the whole day with my post-day-camp 8 year old daughter, and the baby, who no longer naps very much, amid the terrible heat wave where even a trip to the pool didn't beckon over the pleasures of air conditioning, a producer from one of the networks called. I can't remember which, she introduced herself so quickly.

She had read my blog entry (the one just below) on the motherhood-is-boring article. Would I like to come on television and defend motherhood? she wanted to know.

Hello? Maybe they could send cameras to my house. Maybe they could watch me shuttle between children, hope the neighbor's kids would get home from camp so Samira could play, attempt to do laundry, give up because it's really hard to bend over with a baby in a sling, try to find two minutes to return a phone call, focus on a paid-writing task that would take but ten minutes were I able to sit down and focus. They could watch me give up on imagining what's for dinner, wonder whether it's too late to get anyone to invite us over, jot notes about emails I need to send that evening. For the climax they could watch me get the baby down for a nap--finally--and in my one free hour try to clean up a bit, finish that writing job, find someone to deliver my spring semester student evaluations to one of my workplaces, and put soaker hoses in place so I can water my garden more efficiently in this heat.

And then they could ask me whether or not I think motherhood is boring. In real life: there's a yes or no answer. We all know that. The producer knew it too. And even though as an author I'm supposed to be craven for any kind of media publicity, there's no way I could bite on this one. Not even for network TV and another Lincoln town-car ride to NY. Not even for the fab free make-over and hair-straightening. (I can tell you after June's experience with NBC/CNBC: the stylists at the major networks do know how to keep hair off the face and out of the eyes. They don't just use hairspray: they tease, and they have the most high-end hair irons known to humankind. They are the queens of hair control.)

In my utopian and politically-engaged world of the future, this is what happens. The cameras roll. They take in my day, ask me to comment on the whole damn ridiculous debate about whether or not motherhood is boring, and I get to tell them that we're focusing on the wrong question. They pay attention and let me have my say. They want to hear the smartest and most insightful points about motherhood, fatherhood and parenting. They ask probing follow-ups, like, "Miriam, what might better questions be? What would an important, productive and humane debate about parenting at this moment in time be?"

Back to real life. The producer realized quickly I wasn't her gal for the show. I repeated that motherhood journalism has much lower standards than most other themes, and that the same patterns have been repeated for fifteen years or more. I tell her how different the May/Mother's Day reporting was: that is was smarter and more politically and policy aware than ever before. I stress that that is the new trend, not this retread "is it boring or not crap." I tell her what I know. After all, how often do I have a network TV person on the other end of the phone? She does ask me for all my contact info. She says she does lots of parenting topics. They always come up. She'd like to keep in touch.

And that was that. Six pm. Baby in my arms, older child near by. My close brush with network fame. Dinner, alas, is still nowhere in sight.


karrie said...

Miriam, I really admire your work and your ability to stay on message even if it might have benefitted you personally to do otherwise. Well done!

Miriam Peskowitz said...

Thanks, Karrie.

In retrospect, I feel like Vince on Entourage. We just won't tell my publicist, will we!

Thanks for stopping by.

Chip said...

Good for you! I love the idea of following you for a day. The problem is they seem to already have their story firmly in mind and just want confirmation of their simplified view. (In my own dealings with journalists on a different topic that is the experience that I've had).

I love how in this post you deconstruct it, and I'd have loved to hear an interview where they "let" you tell them that they're asking the wrong question. Who knows, maybe you knocked a few neurons loose and you'll get a call back to do something more in line with reality. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Jody said...

It's frustrating to realize that you can't be heard. Argh.

On another note, why HASN'T the dinner fairy taken up permament residence in our house, either?

I want a live-in cook. It's not too much to ask, is it? I'd clean the bathrooms myself. It's the damn dinner hour that slays me.

Jennifer James said...

Hi Miriam. It's truly admirable that you thought about the greater good as opposed to your own good. That's a hard thing to do, especially when there are so many authors who would kill to get on national TV.