“And your name is?” asked the sandwich-maker in the green apron.
Well, I thought, that’s the question of the day, isn’t it?
Two days ago, I fished out of my spam folder a brief email from George Gurley, columnist for the New York Observer. “Hello there, I'm a writer at the Ny Observer. I like your blog a lot. Want to do an interview? Are you around this week? You can get me here or at 646-555-5550. Thanks, George Gurley,” it said.
I thought about this offer. For those of you who don’t know the Observer, it’s a weekly paper with a smallish, but extremely media intense, readership. On its fey pink pages is a smart, urbane paper filled with smart, urbane writing. It, for example, gave Candace Bushnell her start as a writer—she initially wrote “Sex In the City” as a column in the New York Observer. Literary agents, publishing houses, and media outlets read the paper when it comes out every Wednesday.
I want two things in the next year very badly: an engagement ring from my boyfriend, Donny, and a sweet book deal from a lovely, stalwart publishing house. This profile in the Observer can do sweet fuck-all for the former desire. It could, however, make the latter a reality.
And yet I felt reticent to go on paper in an interview. I hate representations of myself. I hate looking at photos. I hate seeing myself on television. I’m sure that I’ll hate reading about myself in George Gurley’s column, at least that hatred is my fear. In every case, when my 3-D me is squashed into some foreign 2-D form—especially when it’s also filtered not merely through a lens and a viewfinder but also through another living, breathing, subjective and flawed human’s point of view—I feel as if vital parts are missing. I am, I feel, distinctly less beauteous in only two dimensions.
I read the email and I slept on the hopes and the fears overnight. I discussed the possibility with a bunch of friends. The next day around noon, I emailed George and said I’d be delighted to be interviewed.
He called later that day and said he was happy that I’d do the interview. He also said that his editor wanted me to use my real name. I said I couldn’t do that. While everyone who knows me knows I write this blog—from my parents to my friends to my dissertation director—my students don’t. I don’t really need them knowing the intricacies of my intimacies. They can brew whatever kind of prurient fantasies in their little fecund imaginations they want; they don’t, in my mind, need to separate the gritty fact from the nifty fiction.
I demurred. I said, no, regretfully, I couldn’t allow them to print my name. With a heavier heart, my fantasies of my book and my name on it flitting up etherward, I snapped my cellphone shut and walked off to my office hours at school.
An hour or so George called back. His editor, he said, would let me be anonymous. We were both, apparently, delighted, and we agreed that neither my name nor my school affiliation would appear in print and set the interview date for today.
And today it happened. For two-and-a-half hours I filled in the blanks and gaps of my life for George, this stranger, this journalist. To be honest, I’m not entirely exactly sure what-all I said, which I have a crawling suspicion is something that journalists like George count on in their subjects. They know this: given a chance, humans will talk. George is affable and bland. He is like vanilla pudding with a touch of something dark. Absinthe, maybe. I definitely liked him.
I’m not sure I trusted him, and that’s probably fine and fair.
One thing that did concern me about the interview: George seemed to see me as a dynamic turbo-supersized slut, stomping through great writhing grounds of erect penises and then coming home, bespattered and bespunked, to write about my epic adventures. Which is, if you’ve been reading me for a while, not exactly the case. Sure, I have had my share of sexcapades. Sure, I have a prodigious memory. But I don’t go to orgies. I have had only a slim handful of threesomes, three fingers worth, really. I have friends who have that in a weekend. In the grand pantheon of sexual experimenters, I’m really rather a snooze.
I do have SlutFest 2004 roiling away under my belt, however, and that brief, sublime Wordsworthian spot of time seemed to stand mighty prominent in George Gurley’s imagination. There were many, many questions about SlutFest 2004. How many? How often? When? Where? And in how short a span of time?
At the end of the interview, I felt as if we’d spent about 30% talking about my generalized life, 30% talking about my philosophy about writing both sex and blogs, and 30% about sex. But I could be wrong. Writing this piece right now, I feel as if my brain had been secretly yanked out of my nostrils with a crochet hook and replaced with a fat pad of dryer lint.
About an hour after I bid George good-bye, he phoned me. The creeping horrorsloth of the apparition of the printed page had already wrapped me in its pale-pink-and-black pall; I was already beginning to feel as if I’d had my chest sliced open, prised apart and held wide open so that my still-beating heart could be exhibited to a general and hungry public. I was already regretting this choice, book deal be damned.
I was already afraid I hadn’t said to George in the interview that I love my Donny, and I do.
George called. “I’m just thinking out loud here,” he said, and I could hear the Manhattan street noise behind him, “but I think I want you to reconsider your choice about using your name.” It came down to this: with my name the piece will be 1,800-2,200 words long and on the front page, but without it, the piece will be only 1,200 words long and relegated to page 2 or 5.
I told him that I’d think about it and that we could talk about it later in the week. Somehow, though, the thought of the same words, "I do love to suck cock," for example, words that absolutely crossed my lips today during the interview, feels less comfortable for me when attributed to _______ ________, my real name, than to Chelsea Girl. Despite the fact that these words are true and beautiful.
So here I am, thinking once more. I’m imagining both the possible horror and the potential glory. And I’m relying on the advice of my friends, one of whom sagely told me these words: Remember this: The Journalist Is Not Your Friend.
And in these winds of indecision, the teeter-totter of the hem and the haw, the buffeting bouts of choices weighed, the dream twists before me, just out of reach, that shiny bauble of being paid to do what I love to do most: write.