A Baby Story
Right now, I’m the sidekick on a morning radio program and co-host of a weekly television show on deep, deep cable. Based on my career trajectory thus far, my next job will be a series of non-union Mobisodes.
In the parlance of street fighters, or middle managers trying to rally their sales force after a bad quarter: It’s go time. Or more specifically, it’s gonad time. I’ll explain in a minute.
A few years ago, I almost landed my dream job, filling the chair left by Lisa Ling on The View. I sat in for a couple of episodes, had some wholesome, well-lit laughs with Barbara Walters, trotted out on stage arm-in-arm with new BFF Meredith Vieira and felt an almost narcotic sense of belonging. Despite a career characterized mainly by bad, impetuous decisions to quit jobs and paralyzing self-doubt, I began to think: I could do this. I was about to link elbows with destiny, as I had with Meredith, who when you get close to her smells like a combination of baby powder, lilacs, and poise.
As my cab sped toward JFK to fly home after taping my second episode of The View, producers called my agent to say I was one of their top choices. Before I even checked my bags curbside, we agreed on contractual terms.
I spent that flight envisioning my move from Los Angeles to a furnished apartment on the Upper West Side. I fantasized about the breezy rapport and private jokes I would have with the full-time driver they promised, the non-pretentious but clearly expensive collection of Burberry trench coats I would acquire, and of course, the non-stop cold splash of “I told you so” my new post would throw in the faces of anyone who had doubted me. It would be hard to keep up my persona of self-deprecation with near toxic levels of smug coursing through my veins, but I would manage.
By the time I landed at LAX, I was out of the running.
The producers said not only did they want a conservative, but also, they really needed someone who was likely to get pregnant in the coming season. I was single at the time. Just like that, I was plunged back into an obscurity so profound it made Debbie Matenopoulos look like Gwyneth Paltrow. I cried like the babies Elizabeth Hasselbeck would eventually have, endearing her not only to her bosses at The View, but to the stay-at-home moms of America.
Sure, I can’t complain. Any jobs I get that don’t involve taking over my dad’s automotive repair business are blessings. But I can’t help thinking that if I want to ascend to the next level, I’ll need to procreate.
As it happens, I just got married six months ago and my husband and I have started trying to have a baby. Because said baby may be reading this in ten years, I want to make it absolutely plain that we want a baby for all the normal, healthy, unselfish, non-career related reasons. Still, while I’m terrified about whether or not I’ll be a good mother, or have a healthy baby, or know how to love it fully, or be able to conceive at all, I’m totally confident about one thing: being pregnant is good for business.
Babies are transformative. They make you more loving and patient. However, I’m not talking about that kind of change. I’m talking about the magical baby dust that converts, say, Brooke Burke, from an icy and unapproachable swimsuit model, to the beloved champion of popularity contest, Dancing With The Stars.
Sprinkle some magic mommy dust on Angelina Jolie, and she goes from knife-wielding, blood vial wearing, possibly home wrecking, scary force of sexual energy, to earth mother goddess breast-feeding on the cover of W magazine.
So effective is this magic dust, it has the power to make you like Nancy Grace.
A Google search for the term “baby bump” yields nearly two million hits, with most of the top ten devoted to celebrity pregnancy. Think about the following babies and ask yourself how many times you’ve seen their lovable mugs: Ryder, Shiloh, Apple, Violet, Suri, Kingston, Brooklyn, and Sean Preston.
I used to think this was a brand new phenomenon, that because women have increasing power and earning potential, that it’s somehow comforting to know that we are still partially just baby-making machines. The threat we pose is mitigated by the hours we’ll spend pregnant, nursing, changing diapers or otherwise tending to kiddies.
However, back in 1953, the country basically screeched to a halt to watch “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” which garnered a record 71.7 rating, meaning 71.7% of all television households were tuned in to I Love Lucy. Media coverage of the event was so massive, it overshadowed the inauguration of President Eisenhower the next morning. Cut to Demi Moore pregnant and nude on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, to cable sensation The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Guess what the secret is: we even love pregnant teens! And that means you, too, Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin.
With the proliferation of media outlets (People Magazine even has a Celebrity Baby Blog – read it to learn why pregnant Nancy O’Dell craves baked beans!), we can fill the need we’ve always had, to see the adorable little faces that result from celebrity DNA, to observe someone known for her svelte body, like Heidi Klum or Kelly Ripa, enlarge. Entertainment news is a now non-stop “Bump Watch.”
As a culture, we have a voyeuristic obsession with famous mothers, but we’re simply gaga for multiples. How much did we want to see the Jolie-Pitt twins, Vivienne and Knox? According to Forbes Magazine, People Magazine paid a record $14 million for first photos.
Watched TLC lately?
I remember when it used to be home decorating shows (back when I scratching for my seat on The View, I used to host TLC’s While You Were Out). Now it’s Kids by the Dozen, Jon and Kate Plus 8 and 17 Kids and Counting, which shares the life of the Duggars, who now have 18 kids with “J” names, including Jedidiah and Jinger. Don’t worry about the crazy monikers, they won’t get bullied on the schoolyard because: one, Jesus loves them and two, they are home schooled.
Aside from the miracle of childbirth being inherently interesting, and the thrill of seeing some tiny starlet get fat and thin again, and the soothing sense that even our most kick ass power women yearn for babies, there is just this: Moms are so Š maternal. Welcome to facile conjecture-ville, I hope you’ll have a pleasant stay.
Mothers know things, they have superhuman strength, and they are selfless, protective, gentle and sacrificing. Not my mother exactly – who should have named my brother and me Burden and Buzz Kill for how much she dug being a single parent – but in general, what famous woman wouldn’t want to be imbued with these qualities in the eyes of the public?
So, future child, I want you to know I’m not having you just because it will help my career. But, it probably won’t hurt.
Teresa Strasser is the co-host of “The Adam Carolla Show,” mornings on 97.1 FM. She also co-hosts “TV Watercooler” on the TV Guide Network, airing Monday nights at 8 p.m.