Thursday, May 18, 2006

Because I Said So

I had the most delightfully self-indulgent experience this morning: I was interviewed on KPBS radio for "These Days" on a show about "mommy blogs." It all happened so fast that it still doesn't seem real: one moment I was trying to figure out why Jarrah's bibs smell so funky while she screamed in the background, and the next I was on the phone with Aaryn, who was telling me that she'd given my name to a friend of hers who was putting together this less than 24 hours. Yipes!

I was beyond thrilled. I loved the idea of getting recognition for my writing, and I loved the idea of talking about myself. When I think about it, talking about the blog is like talking about how I talk about myself. It's a double whammy of "the wonder of me." ;) What could be more delish?

The rest happened just as quickly. Aaryn gave Angela, the producer, my number, and she called me for a phone interview a couple hours later, which was really fun. I thought she asked some really provocative questions, too--about the ephemeral nature of the internet, boundaries of self-disclosure, privacy issues for Jarrah, and how I find time to actually write when I'm claiming this mommy thing is so all-consuming. Good, good stuff that I need to think about more.

I was nervous, but more excited than nervous. I was a DJ in college and looked forward to being back on the air. Also, any time I'm scared to do something these days, I hearken back to my infertility experience and ask myself, "Is this event going to result in the kind of pain that makes you certain all your internal organs were just scooped out and thrown on the floor? No? Then you might as well enjoy it." That always calms me right down.

It was a short drive to the studio, but amazingly, I have never been to SDSU before, even though I now live only one freeway exit from the campus. I managed to get myself in a lather trying to find the parking structure, becoming my own personal GPS unit by painstakingly reciting all the instructions out loud to myself as I drove. A production assistant brought me to a highly fluorescent room where I checked my bloodshot eyes in my compact and thanked my lucky stars this wasn't TV. I was confused about where I was and kept scanning the room for the "secret" audio equipment that no doubt would be revealed once other people arrived. All I could see was a TV, a sink and some couches. Maybe it's all hidden in the TV stand, I reasoned.

At 9:50, Angela came in to meet me, and she was just as warm and welcoming in person. She told me that someone would come to get me at exactly 10:00, and someone did. A silent young man led me down a hallway and now I could see that the room was actually going to resemble a studio, with headphones and a circle of microphones that for some reason reminded me of those close-ups of news flash bulletins in period movies, where you just see a big metal stand and someone's lips. I could see Angela and maybe some other people behind me in a glass room, and I was invited to sit down across from Alison, who was sitting in for the usual guy. I put the headphones on and someone pushed the microphone too close to my mouth, giving me the perfect opportunity to wipe off all my lipstick on it. That kind of broke the ice, actually. Alison said she enjoyed reading my blog, and that it surprised her because so many blogs are "not engaging." This struck me as hilarious because it was such a polite way to say that most of the blogs out there are boring as hell, and I laughed a little, the whole time thinking we were already on the air, which turned out not to be the case. First there was a 2-minute news brief, and making contact with Heather, one of the other bloggers being interviewed.

Now, here is where I started to get a bit intimidated. Heather, known as "Dooce," is famous. I'm not being hyperbolic. Her blog gets 50,000 hits a day. The mind boggles. She makes her living from her blog. It's her job! If my blog was my job, I'd be psyched, considering I'm not doing much of anything these days that makes money. I don't get residuals every time I read Hippos Go Berserk. Heather was friendly and very articulate on the phone. I'm sure she's done hundreds of interviews at this point. It was a huge honor just to be mentioned in the same sentence as her!

The other guest didn't patch in until the last 15 minutes or so. His name is Ben and his blog--which it sounds like he doesn't work on much anymore--is all about charts and graphs, apparently. He said he's interested in his daughter (he's a stay-at-home dad) from an "anthropological" perspective, and he's not much interested in "emotions." His blog includes software that helps new parents track their infants' sleep patterns. Pretty cool, though it's hard for me to imagine a blog without emotions. It puts me in mind of this guy David and I met in British Columbia who lived on a yoga commune. He said that he'd been working on excising emotions from his life completely, as they serve no purpose. "How awesome." I told him. "Emotions make me nuts."

Early on during the interview, I felt a little sad when I realized that Alison had two excerpts from Dooce to read on the air but none from mine. I understood rationally that Heather is hilarious (and did I mention famous?), and that my blog is so rambling and lugubrious that it would have been hard for her to FIND the funny stuff in the time she had available. Still, it gave me a pang. When Alison started listing all Heather's accomplishments, I had a wave of inadequacy that made me suddenly feel like the small-town comic relief who opens for the main act. Not that there's anything wrong with that. A lot of openers make it big some day. But in the moment I had to shore myself up that I might still have something to contribute.

I think I figured out what that was later on. There was a bit of talk back and forth about how blogging doesn't really violate a baby's privacy because so much of their experience (and ours in raising them) is similar. There's a lot of eating, sleeping, screaming and pooping, and it's only in the telling where you might create a distinction. I don't disagree with this idea, but I did remember to say that everthing is a bit of a mystery when you meet your child for the first time at 13 months. When she starts doing weird things with food, does it seem weird because she's a toddler, or because I just don't know her very well? Not that this addresses the privacy issue at ALL. In fact, maybe I have more reason to be guarding Jarrah's privacy in our circumstances. I think I have bumbled along naively believing that everyone who reads the blog cares about us.

There was so much I wanted to say but wasn't able to. I think I would have been funnier and more charming if I'd had more time to warm to my subject. I was very conscious of the skill with which Alison leaped between her three guests and the people calling in (one of whom made a joke that seemed to stun us all with a ray gun of non-comprehension) and, since I was the only other person in the room, not wanting to interfere.

I'll end by saying that the experience was sort of wickedly pleasurable. If knowing I have an audience for writing I already find therapeutic is incredibly enjoyable, having that relationship publicly validated only increased the juiciness, in the way that hot cherry pie doesn't require cold ice cream, but scales vast heights of fabulousness when it's there. Wasn't it Mae West who said "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful?" Oh yeah, baby.

Anyway, don't take my word for it: listen to the interview yourself! Keeping in mind that my good bits are at the end, of course. ;) I haven't heard myself yet--at the moment I'm revelling in my selective (and no doubt imaginary) memories of the experience. There will be time for wincing tomorrow.

Download link to Samantha on KPBS (38 minutes, 15.5MBytes)


Elaine said...

I thought you did a great job tackling what I feel is such a rich topic in such a short period of time. You stood up in the company of Heather very well and hey, I'm thrilled to find another blogging mama that rocks.

So yeah, thanks for sharing!

PS: I was your first caller, the one who made a comment about the whole "global community" aspect.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Sam! I knew it was just a matter of time before the press began pounding on your door! xxx, Liz

Amy said...

Again, I thought you were great. In fact when I was telling Jeff about it I noted how eloquent you sounded on radio. I am not surprised you have a DJ background. And in fact, I can see more radio work in your future. You have a great radio voice! Love ya! Hey have you checked the greatexpectations next playdate poll at my house yet? It closes tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

OOOOOO! I want to hear this! I will listen to it as soon as I can find 38 minutes. :-p

Miss J

Alleen said...

How awesome! Great job.

Anonymous said...

i found your website from ben's blog, - the male guest on the NPR show that you vaguely mention in your essay. i thought it was nice of him to recommend and link both heather's and your websites. you should check out his, too, and you will find there is indeed emotion there and that he is just being funny when he says he's only interested in the anthropological aspect of his child

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Sam! You DO have a terrific radio voice.
Best, Gail

Martha said...


You did wonderfully.

It was such a thrill to hear it after dinner when Andrew and I had time to sit and take it all in. Vincent was fast asleep for the night.

Did I mention how breathy/sexy you sounded? I think a new leopard print g-string is in order.

Kudos, my friend. I am so glad to be on this mommy journey along side you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam,
Disregard the e-mail I sent you--you answered my questions in your post. As I already told you, I, too, thought you were articulate and charming.

Jessica said...

I was out of town for the live show,a and just got a chance to listen to the podcast. You did a wonderful job! And I agree with other commenters - you certainly held your own in the company of Heather.

I'm a friend of Aaryn's and now a reader...

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone--you were superb! articulate! funny! knowledgeable! poised! velvet-voiced!

It made me miss you EVEN MORE!

Miss J

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Great job! Jarrah is your child! I finally got a chance to listen to the KPBS show, having had the worst time ever trying to download it. I apparently have some kind of super-duper ad-blocker Internet-gatekeeper something-or-other software that was not cooperating. Then I had a stoke of genius. Try my husband's computer; he would not have installed such a silly thing. Sam, you were great, with a radio-friendly voice just as sultry as your writing is engaging and as your daughter is spicy!

Love, Cheri
P.S. What WAS that whole matching sock game thing?