Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jon & Kate + pain

I first started watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 this past winter, when I was living with my parents (insert snort of disbelief here) for a short time. (Explanation: I moved to a new city to start my new job, husband stayed behind 300 miles away to sell house and finish his job, I lived with my parents because, you know, it's free.) Anyway. It's possible that I got hooked on the show because, as previously stated, I was living with my parents. Whom I love, and all that, but at age 35, it's not the easiest transition in life.

I loved the first few seasons, and then I started getting a little tired of it. That probably says more about my attention span, or lack thereof, than it does about the show. The show was fine. Yeah, I thought Kate was a little bossy. And Jon was a little lazy. And Mady drove me nuts. But, if nothing else, I know that editing can create whole new realities, so I cut them some slack.

I make no secret about my love affair with People's website. It's kind of a love-hate affair, actually, because there is no greater Proclaimer of All Things Celebrity Baby-Related than People, but it's my brain candy. Since last week, however, I've been increasingly horrified at the level of Jon-and-Kate-is-he-cheating-or-is-she-cheating-are-they-staying-together coverage, which was capped off today by an actual poll asking people to vote on whether or not they should end their marriage.

I mean, come on. I know these people agreed to subject themselves to media coverage and all that, but a poll on whether they should stay married or not? Have we really stooped this low? I'm all about the brain candy, but I'll limit my voting to the hideousness of celebrity fashion.

Which all begs the question of why people agree to be featured on reality television in the first place. I watched Elizabeth Edwards' interview on Oprah this week (I really do work, I promise) and wondered about the same thing. Is this necessary? On the one hand, I welcome openness in discussing deep human problems. We connect with each other by sharing our stories, and shutting up about them in an effort to stay polite and well-mannered does not make for good community.

But then again, there is something to be said for circumspection, especially where children are involved. I think Ms. Edwards is pretty damn amazing, actually. And she was fiercely correct about saying that women should have more respect for other women than to move in on one another's husbands. I almost gave her a standing ovation in my living room for that. But do her 10-year old twins really need this interview out there? It's her story, and she has the right to tell it, but is there a time to refrain because the collateral damage is just too much?

What especially interests me is the rush to condemn Jon and Kate (especially Kate, which brings up some interesting questions about our expectations of women) for putting themselves in the limelight. Is my desire to write a blog, even anonymously, even if it's only read by a small audience - is that so different from being on reality TV? There are some important distinctions, sure. But is the instinct so different? I want to share my story. I want my story to mean something. And I want to connect with others who have the same or similar story. It will be a cold day in hell before I put myself on television, but I probably ought to be careful about condemning too quickly those who do.

But here's the thing: no matter what your story, no matter how much you believe you're in the right, no matter how much you want your version in the public and not someone else's, ask yourself whether your kids need this following them for the rest of their lives. Nothing dies on the internet, people. This shit will live forever. It will outlive you.

There is a time for every season under heaven. And there is a time to shut up. I think it's time. People magazine, I'm talking to you. Enough already.


  1. Good stuff. So true. Always fun to read your posts. Thanks for sharing...

  2. That is exactly why, even though I am vaguely curious about celebrity life, I just don't read that stuff. It irritates the hell out of me.

    Also, I have picked up on the sexism and double-standards that you mentioned, and it drives me nuts. I'd rather just live in my own little world.

    I hope you're doing ok these days ... thanks for the great posts.

  3. I never thought about being on a reality TV show and writing a blog in the ways you mentioned. I can see how in some ways the desire to share your story is the motivation for both. And I admit I get a little excited when I see the counter of how many visitors I've gotten.

    When I first heard about the Gosselins I cut them some slack for putting their kids on TV b/c I could imagine the financial burden of thinking about the future of raising 8 kids. But Kate's quote of something like "I can't believe there are people who follow you around and watch your every move and put pictures on the internet." Umm, did you not get the concept of reality TV?

  4. If Jon and Kate's show goes under, I would be willing to fill the spot with a reality show of my neurotic life with seven kids, six of which I didn't birth.

    Oh, those tabloids think KATE'S a control-freak bitch... they haven't met me yet.