Last week as I was walking down my sweet little New England town’s main street I saw two teenagers whispering to each other and pointing at me. Finally, one nudged the other who sheepishly approached me.
“Aren’t you the woman who had a hot flash at the Jay Z concert?”
“Yeah,” I said humbly. “That was me.”
“Can we take a picture with you?”
“Ich. I just got out of the gym and I’m all sweaty, but sure.”
They flagged down a stranger who was happy to snap a few pics with the girl’s smartphones. They giggled and squealed and within seconds I was on their Instagram and facebook pages.
“Thanks so much!” they said as they skipped to their larger group of friends waiting on the corner.
…So, that never happened. But it could have.
Two weeks ago, on a Thursday night when I was flopped on the couch in front of the tv (essentially, where I am every night) I got an e-mail that said this in the subject:
“Timely Media Request-HuffPost Live.”
I looked at it and would have deleted it as spam if it hadn’t had an actual woman’s name as the sender. Here’s what the body of the e-mail said:
I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to let you know that the Huffington Post’s video news network, HuffPost Live (live.huffingtonpost.com) will be doing a segment tomorrow (8/14/13) at 6:30pm PT/ 9:30pm ET about being middle-aged and how it means something different to everyone.
We’d love for you to join us to give your opinion and talk about your experiences. It’s very easy to join — all that is needed webcam (desktop, laptop, iPad, 4G phone — like an iPhone) and a pair of earphones. We would bring you in via Google Hangout, which is similar to Skype. The conversation will last approximately 25 minutes, will be moderated by our host Nancy Redd in Los Angeles and include members of the public.
Please let me know if you would be interested. Thank you.
I stared at it and reread it at first to myself and then out loud to my husband to see if it was actually the coolest fucking invitation I had ever received. I read Huffington Post all day and knew that it had a new live programming channel. I was stunned. Apparently, the producer (who happens to be 24-years old) Googled bloggers who write about middle age and mine was the first to pop-up. I ambushed her with questions, had an actual Skype sound check and was told that I’d be on a panel with a couple of other people. I had less than 24 hours to get it together for my groundbreaking debut.
I spread the word via facebook and e-mail and my friends who are also HuffPost regulars were as impressed as I was. I called a college professor friend of mine and asked if it was as a big a deal as I thought it was. She confirmed that indeed, it was. I adore her because she is never one to blow smoke just to make me happy.
I had a full day of work to get through (my last workshop with inmates in New Hampshire ended less than two hours before I was supposed to be Skyped into the virtual “green room,” with the other panelists). I rushed through my hour commute home and tried to gather my thoughts, making mental notes of the key points I wanted to be sure to get in.
Once home, I put on some makeup and a top that showed off my shoulders, and had a friend advise me, via Skype, how to set decorate the room I’d be doing the broadcast from. It was fabulous. I was fabulous. I had already downed one glass of wine and had another off camera. I was good to go. The producer told us we were about to go live and there I was, in split screen, with two other women, being introduced by an overly-perky hostess.
The other two women were chosen to bring a different point-of-view to the topic of being middle-aged. One of them, with a sleeping cat on a crocheted blanked behind her the entire time, didn’t believe that we actually age. The other, I’m thinking in her early sixties, well, I kind of don’t remember what she said except something about wearing comfortable shoes and riding a bike for the first time in ten years.
I managed to get two substantial chunks of air-time, one in which I happened mention, among other things, that I had had a hot flash at the Justin Timberlake/Jay Z concert days before. It was an anecdote that fit in with the main point I was trying to make about the changes my body is going through. The second chunk was much more substantive, about how I changed my career at 45, following a passion I didn’t even know I had, and entering a second marriage that is truly perfect. I talked about how my work with inmates involves telling them that it’s never too late to have a second chapter.
The 25-minute broadcast went REALLY fast and my main objective had been from the beginning to drive traffic to my blog. The hostess had a screen shot of it and there was the title of a post about aging captioned under my name. At the same time I was answering very complimentary phone calls and facebook posts, I was constantly refreshing the stats on my blog and looking at the referral sources. Although there were more hits than usual, it was a bit of a disappointment.
The next morning, when everything was feeling anti-climactic, a friend of mine uncovered this link on facebook before I did (Click on the link and see the title of the sound byte.):
At first I laughed out loud, and then, well, I was a bit uncertain about how I felt. I waited and waited to become the butt of facebook and internet jokes. I honestly feared being laughed at by strangers if by some chance, it went viral. I understood why it was a headline that would draw people in, but, it belittled a bit, the whole point of the on-air discussion.
As it sunk in, I was more than able to laugh at it and the absurdity of the whole thing. It’s funny. I wanted Jay Z’s “people” to get a hold of it and interview me. My dear friend Laura sent the link of the entire broadcast to the local paper and the editor called me, impressed that a resident in our town of 30,000 people was recognized by “Huffington Post” and had a reporter call to interview me. The interviewer was great, but I stressed the point that I didn’t want to just be the woman who had that infamous hot flash. I wanted people to know that my blog contained much more including posts about my mother’s suicide (interestingly watered down in the article by saying “her mother’s death” as opposed to that scary word, suicide), my work with inmates, and many other things. She did a wonderful job of covering those points but couldn’t resist this:
(The first paragraph appeared as the online teaser.)
In any event, the whole thing was a fantastic and rather short-lived high. I think the time has passed for something, some bigger breakthrough to come of it, but that’s okay. I have to not give up on that one big break, that one person who reads my work and bumps me to the next level. I haven’t lost patience, quite yet, and will continue to be the poster child of what it means to fully embrace the changes that I have made in my life, despite the hot flashes that temporarily stop me in my tracks.