My First Internet Appearance

I have never been at the centre of any controversy before but I had yet to write an article about bridal shower games. I hate them. Apparently other people love them. I learned this after I published a piece on the Huffington Post that attracted personal email messages sent directly to my account with such non-personal attacks as: “You’re an asshole,” “I would never want you at any party of mine,” and “I hope you die alone.” Evidently, what Braveheart meant to say was “you may take our lives, but you’ll never take our shower games.” 

So when I received an email from a HuffPost Live producer asking me to appear on a panel discussion I was extremely hesitant. HuffPost Live is the site’s new live-streaming network where really good looking people moderate a discussion between panelists on a given topic. This terrified me. As Nabakov once said, “I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, I speak like a child.” I don’t think or write on any genius or distinguished level but I definitely do both these things much better than I speak. I speak like a child who is performing well below grade level and will likely be held back.   

 The problem is, not only am I painfully shy in person but when nervous I tend to say whatever comes into my head and these nuggest are not always on topic or even true. When I clerked at the court as a law student, a judge I was particularly fond of asked me what kind of music I listened to. I told him The Ramones without hesitation.

“Interesting,” he said, “I never would have pegged you as a punk fan.”

That’s because I wasn’t. I had never  listened to The Ramones, couldn’t name a single Ramones song, didn’t own a single Ramones album. I have absolutely no idea how this  came out of my mouth. Experiences like these reinforce my need to be as prepared as possible before speaking. I set out preparing for this new challenge, determined to tackle it head on. I immediately called my best friend Sarit, who is far more beautiful and charming than I, to ask her if she would appear on the segment for me, as me.

“Come on,” I begged, “You’re such a good actress. Just play me, only better. No one will know.” 

“You’re going to be great,” she said, as only a best friend could. “You just log onto that computer and be fierce!”   

Ferocity, got it.

It was with much trepidation that I emailed the producer and agreed to do it. As nervous as I was, I thought it might be a good opportunity to improve my speaking abilities in a contained space. It would just be me, alone in a room with my computer. That is how I spend much of my life. As soon as I said yes, however, all positivity exited stage left.

I tossed and turned the night before the segment with “Judy is a Punk,” playing in my head. I was horrified at the bags drooping under my eyes the following morning and began researching tips for minimizing black circles on camera. The websites all suggested “cover up” which I slathered on in layers. I agonized over my hair, wondering if I should pin back my newly cut bangs or if this accentuated all my cover up. Lest you think I’m vapid, I was also consumed with more substantive things like: which of my two pairs of glasses looked better on me. This took much of the afternoon. Then I had to worry about where to set up the computer. The most natural light in the house fell in front of my bookcase but it was the half with all the books I didn’t like. I couldn’t broadcast lame books across the Internet! This wouldn’t do. I quickly switched all the books from one side of the room to the other. Having broken out in a sweat, I then changed my shirt for the third time    

When it is finally time to log on, I take a deep breath, sit back and try to greet the producer with confidence and poise.

“Um, Wendy, there seems to be some sort of pitter patter coming from your mic.”

I look down at my cat, Olympia, pawing with the wires.  

I grab at Olympia, wrestling her out of the room, filling the camera with clouds of cat hair and indignant meows. I am the consummate professional.

I sit down again, smoothing out my kitty clawed shirt.

Waiting for our segment to begin, we spend twenty minutes listening to the one before us, this one about a girl who was raped in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. We then hear from her lawyer who is lobbying for legislative changes that would offer more protection for female soldiers serving in the military. I think I’m going to be sick. I used to be a human rights lawyer. Now I talk about bridal showers.

I think about ripping out my headphones, finding the cat and hiding under the covers with her but our segment begins. The pretty host reads out a portion of my article and then turns to me.

“So Wendy, why so much hate for bridal showers?”

This is my chance. My chance to be self-assured. My chance to be charismatic, to bring up real issues of gender discrimination. They want me to be controversial, tell it like it is as I did in my article.

I look into the camera: “Well, I wouldn’t say I hate bridal showers,” I say meekly.

Yes you do! I yell at myself. You hate them! You think they’re boring, awful, sexist!”

“…I just think we need more meaningful bridal showers.”

Take that?

The next twenty odd minutes are spent listening to two girls talk about how much they loved their multiple bridal showers! How much fun they were! And even pictures of their shin-digs! Throughout I hear a fuzzy audio feedback and my inner voice yelling at me, pleading with me, to speak up, speak well, speak like a confident grown up.

I don’t. I didn’t “Wanna be Sedated;” I was.

I see the little box projecting myself on the screen and I feel ashamed. I hate the way I sound and I hate the way I look.

When the segment ends, I spend the next hour with my head in my hands lamenting my meekness, wishing I was a different kind of person. I try and tell myself all the usual cheer up platitudes about living and learning, about how next time, if there is a next time, I’ll be better. I know Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become really proficient in something, but sometimes I wish I could just be really great at something straight from the start. I wish I could have sat up with my shoulders back, looked straight at the camera and spoken with a commanding presence. I wish I didn’t extinguish my own fire.

The producer emails the segment, thanking me for participating. I notice some viewer comments on the sidebar and decide to torture myself by looking at them. And then I see it.

darklovesong writes: “I love her hair and late 50s glasses.”

Human rights abuses? Gender discrimination? Lack of self-esteem? Blah, blah, blah, someone liked my hair! I really needed that. Darklovesong is my new favourite tune.