Nellie Bly + PaperGirl: Conversation #00172

posted in: Day In The Life 10

(MARY and NELLIE BLY walk along the Central Park reservoir. NELLIE records the conversation on her iPhone. MARY wears Nike Dunk hi-tops.)

NB: Are you sure I should be here?

PG: What? Why?

NB: It may be too soon for another Nellie Bly post. You don’t want people to get bored.

PG: (Considers this.) After this, you should probably get lost for awhile.

NB: No problem. How are you feeling?

PG: Much better, thank you. It took days to feel normal after the morphine. That was bad. I’m a little spooked about what would’ve happened if I had had three injections instead of just two.

NB: You might consider wearing a medical bracelet. I wear one.

PG: Really?

NB: Yes, I’m anemic.

PG: Hey, so am I!

NB: You told me you wanted to talk about a comment someone made online. I assume it was something hurtful?

PG: Right, yes, the comment. The comment wasn’t hurtful at all. It was a thoughtful, “get better” comment from a nice lady named Becky. But Becky said something about being surprised to learn I’ve have a chronic illness with insane complications. She said that on the outside looking in, it looks like I have “a perfect life” because of my job.

NB: What’s the issue?

PG: That is so wrong. It’s dangerously wrong.

NB: Okay.

PG: You just can’t draw conclusions like that. It made me furious at the power we give television and media.

NB: Ah. You’d better clarify that you’re not furious at Becky. This could go the wrong way.

PG: Good heavens, no! We love Becky. Becky is not the issue. Lots of other people made similar comments when I wrote about my parents’ divorce. They said things like, “Wow, you never would guessed your family endured something like that,” and “Everything seems perfect, looking at you gals on TV.” I just… I can’t believe it. I can’t believe anyone would look at me on TV or Mom on TV or both of us and think that we are somehow different from any other human beings. We’re people. We have family drama and skeletons and horrible mistakes and regrets. Well, Mom doesn’t have horrible mistakes. But we have problems and struggles like anyone does.

NB: More than others?

PG: No! The same amount! That’s the point! It’s not okay that television has the power to make people believe something impossible — namely, that there is such a thing as “a perfect life.”

NB: You’re really chewing that lip. 

PG: Look, if my life is perfect, someone has a lot of explaining to do.

NB: You realize you’re doing the “celebrities are people, too” thing.

PG: It’s not healthy to graft narratives onto people just because they’re on a screen. The only difference between me and the camera crew at Iowa Public Television is that I’m on one side of the lens and they’re on the other. My life is not special. There’s no magic — there’s just more footage.

NB: It’s natural to draw conclusions from what we see, though.

PG: Yes, but I’m making quilts. All a person can deduce from watching me make quilts on camera is that I make quilts on camera. You can’t even deduce that I like it, though of course I do. I love it.

NB: I’m trying to understand the anger, here.

PG: It’s not anger. It’s animated compassion. I just want people to never, ever compare themselves to something they see on television, ever, even if it’s a friendly quilting show. Look, my dad is like totally out to lunch. I had a messy divorce after two years of being married. Just the other day, I accidentally double-booked myself for a gig in June. Do you know how bad it is to double-book yourself? It’s really bad. And last summer, I tripped on my own flip-flop.

NB: Really?

PG: Oh, yeah. Middle of the day. Tripped on my flip-flop blam! flat on my face. I almost busted my nose. And these are all examples of things I can say online!

NB: Yeah, let’s not go into anything from 2003.

PG: It’s not like I’ve done heroin or anything. (pause.) What if I had done heroin?

NB: I’d counsel you to not bring it up here.

PG: Well, I haven’t, so it’s a non-issue. I did do —

NB: Look at the time, Mary. I’m glad you’re better.


10 Responses

  1. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    This seems like such a elemental concept but some days sitting in the office I am blown away by what people think they know about celebrities and they are so judgmental to boot. Glad you are feeling better Mary.

  2. Lisa
    | Reply

    Mary , sorry I try to fix things… I have been programmed after being a mom of three… ninety three years of combined child raising and I turn 60 in a few days… oh no, not in my fifties anymore. Well I tried to fix PG’s chronic suffering with yogurt and honey and warnings agains GMO’s.. since most of the “gluten issues” coincide with gut troubles from the time of the introduction of GMO’s in the nineties. No matter that I don’t want bugicide genetically engineered into my food or for anyone, abstaining from them is all we can do. I was a nurse and so I understand that is a little reductionist of me to think that it might cure PG to heap on the probiotics and reduce the irritants.. but, this morn I was adding to my arsenal of “expertise” and it occurred to me that perhaps all of this could be a case of the devil in the details. What if and GMO’s, pesticides, and lack of good bacteria weren’t all that irritates, what if, added on food allergy or sensitivities, just tripped the immune system over to wreck PG’s system. Her immune system may get happier with a little coddling in these ways, and my interest in excellent health for her might just trip on over to the light side and make excellent jokes, instead of grantalk. I hope this advice is not worth what you paid for it. < : *) = ~~~ That is a Happy Pendenis.

  3. Heather K
    | Reply

    This definitely happens with celebrities or public figures because there just is so much blank space around the concrete information people do know about them that it’s so easy to fill in the blank with rainbows and sunshine. But I think Facebook and social media start to make you think this way about even more people. It’s a personal struggle anyway. I don’t think it about very close friend A who has had terrible struggles with y and z which I know about even though she had them in private. But I do think it about old high school chum M who I haven’t talked to outside of Facebook since high school but who has adorable children and a very gorgeous house and bouncy Zoe Deschanel hair (which is the world’s most perfect hair) and so obviously her life is blissful and perfect!! Obviously. Otherwise her hair would be crappier. But she probably chooses those social media photos to post so I’m only lusting after the most sanitized, prettiest snapshots of a corner of her life. On some days her kitchen might be messier than mine. Those cute kids may be raging brats. I totally have no real idea, but I get convinced that if I had only made her life choices my life would’ve been less messy and less broke in my 20s and I would be perfect now. Really M is no better at life than me. She may be better at coping or faking it than I am. But her life is probably, on average no better, just different and I don’t see any of the mundane drivel.

  4. mjb
    | Reply

    This is probably just me, but I wonder all the time which of my favorite bloggers smoke pot on a regular basis, and just don’t blog about it. Or who has had scandalous affairs, that again, don’t make the internet news.

  5. Janet
    | Reply

    Mary – Sending hugs. So glad you are feeling better. Many of us have been a bit worried about you, girl.

    Read both this post and the one about the divorce … serious good food for thought. Wasn’t it Erma Bombeck who wrote about the grass always being greener…? I think most of us think that everyone else’s life is so much better than our own because, well, it isn’t ours. Truth is, in many ways, ours can be so much better than we think it is.

    I’ve watched you and your mom for more years than any of us would care to put a number to. I love the energy, enthusiasm and just plain fun you bring to your projects. I also love your mom’s way of just being Maryanne. She has taught me a lot over the years. Her’s is a face I look forward to seeing on a regular basis. Like yours.

    Get yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and take it a bit easy for a while, then, when you are feeling better, work on that quilt that is waiting for you. We both know there is at least one, right?

    Thank you for taking the time to keep in touch – Much Enjoyed and Much Appreciated.

    Take care of yourself.

  6. Becky M
    | Reply

    I LOVE your eloquence. That’s exactly what I was getting at with my post and you just stated it WAY better than I did. It’s a good reminder as we “look up” to people on tv, that they are just like us. It’s just their JOB to be on tv. 🙂 So glad you are on the mend.

    • Mary Fons
      | Reply

      Yay! Becky, I was so afraid you’d misunderstand my point — you are lovely. But we knew that. 🙂

  7. Jennifer
    | Reply

    So so so glad you are feeling better and I hate stubbing my toe! Nellie Bly has the best job!!! xoxoxo

  8. […] written books, he’s done TV and film cameos; he’s even got his own catchphrase. Though we know people on screens are not magic, it’s plain as can be: Tim Gunn is […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *