In one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Mean Girls,” Queen Bee Regina George tells protagonist Cady Heron that she’s pretty. Flattered, and a little bit distrusting, Cady simply says “Thank you.” Regina responds: “So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?” Cady is confused at how the seemingly genuine compliment is twisted to make it look like she is a narcissist. It is the first of many warped situations that Cady finds herself in throughout the movie as she tries to fit in with two different groups and abandons her own authentic voice in the process.
Often in my life I’ve felt like Cady Heron — a new girl, bursting with great ideas but often less refined than those who already know the ropes. Perhaps it traces back to my days as a literal new girl (I attended three elementary schools, a junior high and two high schools…. and oh yeah, was home schooled for awhile there too). But I seem to have this tendency to aim high and then freak out when I actually stick a landing. I’ve encountered very few Regina Georges in my life, yet I’m always paranoid that she is waiting just around the corner, ready to sniff out my insecurities and expose me as an amateur.
A few months ago I got an amazing email. It was from a producer at the Huffington Post. She said she had read my piece “What Pregnancy Does to Anorexics” and was interested in having me appear as a guest on host Nancy Redd’s HuffPost Live webcast. The theme was body image issues during pregnancy, and the postpartum months, and the show was scheduled for a few days later. At first I thought I was being scammed. I get a lot of weird emails as a blogger and I thought this one might be a sick, twisted joke and that somehow the emailer would try to scam me out of my credit card number by distracting me with the promise of a webcast spot.
I forwarded the email to my husband and he didn’t seem nearly as paranoid. I said I really should say “no” since it was a bad time of night for our family. He said it was no big deal and he could easily be in charge of the kids for the half hour slot. I said I didn’t have a proper place to broadcast. He threw out a few ideas. I said I didn’t have the webcam lights that all the how-to blogs told me I needed. He said we would move every lamp in the house to the spot of the broadcast and get as close to a professional lighting look as possible.
I said I couldn’t stand the idea of seeing myself on camera and he had no response. There was no easy fix for that issue.
As a blogger, the highest compliment is when another media source asks you for your opinion on a specific subject. This can happen when another blogger mentions a piece you wrote and links back to you, or shares your link via social media. Being asked to talk about something you wrote in a live video platform is a special kind of honor. The exposure a blog can get from a media giant like the Huffington Post is a big deal. Cross linking does not care what you look like on a webcam — it just works.
So I agreed to do the show. I received an email from the spot’s producer telling me she was “super excited” to have me on. I got a similar email from the show’s host, Nancy. I told my husband I felt like they were “the plastics” and I was Cady and they were clearly trying to pull me in just to play some cruel joke on me on the air. He was really lost on the metaphor and also pointed out how strange it was that I would have that sort of reaction. He pointed out the only one trying to sabotage me was me.
I was so nervous in the minutes leading up to the show that I nearly puked. But I pushed through and made a few strong points while on air. I closed my eyes when I “watched” the replay. My husband pointed out that I was looking in the wrong spot when I spoke (even after he coached me to stare AT the webcam, not the other person talking) and I almost had a nervous breakdown at my amateur mistake. I liked what I said on the show, but hated how I looked saying it. I hoped our blog would get a little spike in traffic to make it all worth it.
Host Nancy Redd emailed me afterwards to tell me that she really enjoyed my input and she hoped I would agree to come back on in the future. At first I figured she was just being nice. Then she emailed me to have me back on the very next week. I was on a third time with my husband. When I wrote to Nancy asking for book advice, she called me from California and gave me tips over the phone. I finally started to feel more at ease with the situation and even silly for being so angst-ridden.
Then I went on a fourth time. This particular show had two other incredibly articulate mom bloggers and a sex expert, all with professional lighting. I decided to let my hair just be wavy for the show — a look another one of the other guests was rocking, but it looked much better than mine and had better lighting.