(MARY and NELLIE BLY walk along the Central Park reservoir. NELLIE records the conversation on her iPhone. MARY wears Nike Dunk hi-tops.)
NB: Are you sure I should be here?
PG: What? Why?
NB: It may be too soon for another Nellie Bly post. You don’t want people to get bored.
PG: (Considers this.) After this, you should probably get lost for awhile.
NB: No problem. How are you feeling?
PG: Much better, thank you. It took days to feel normal after the morphine. That was bad. I’m a little spooked about what would’ve happened if I had had three injections instead of just two.
NB: You might consider wearing a medical bracelet. I wear one.
NB: Yes, I’m anemic.
PG: Hey, so am I!
NB: You told me you wanted to talk about a comment someone made online. I assume it was something hurtful?
PG: Right, yes, the comment. The comment wasn’t hurtful at all. It was a thoughtful, “get better” comment from a nice lady named Becky. But Becky said something about being surprised to learn I’ve have a chronic illness with insane complications. She said that on the outside looking in, it looks like I have “a perfect life” because of my job.
NB: What’s the issue?
PG: That is so wrong. It’s dangerously wrong.
PG: You just can’t draw conclusions like that. It made me furious at the power we give television and media.
NB: Ah. You’d better clarify that you’re not furious at Becky. This could go the wrong way.
PG: Good heavens, no! We love Becky. Becky is not the issue. Lots of other people made similar comments when I wrote about my parents’ divorce. They said things like, “Wow, you never would guessed your family endured something like that,” and “Everything seems perfect, looking at you gals on TV.” I just… I can’t believe it. I can’t believe anyone would look at me on TV or Mom on TV or both of us and think that we are somehow different from any other human beings. We’re people. We have family drama and skeletons and horrible mistakes and regrets. Well, Mom doesn’t have horrible mistakes. But we have problems and struggles like anyone does.
NB: More than others?
PG: No! The same amount! That’s the point! It’s not okay that television has the power to make people believe something impossible — namely, that there is such a thing as “a perfect life.”
NB: You’re really chewing that lip.
PG: Look, if my life is perfect, someone has a lot of explaining to do.
NB: You realize you’re doing the “celebrities are people, too” thing.
PG: It’s not healthy to graft narratives onto people just because they’re on a screen. The only difference between me and the camera crew at Iowa Public Television is that I’m on one side of the lens and they’re on the other. My life is not special. There’s no magic — there’s just more footage.
NB: It’s natural to draw conclusions from what we see, though.
PG: Yes, but I’m making quilts. All a person can deduce from watching me make quilts on camera is that I make quilts on camera. You can’t even deduce that I like it, though of course I do. I love it.
NB: I’m trying to understand the anger, here.
PG: It’s not anger. It’s animated compassion. I just want people to never, ever compare themselves to something they see on television, ever, even if it’s a friendly quilting show. Look, my dad is like totally out to lunch. I had a messy divorce after two years of being married. Just the other day, I accidentally double-booked myself for a gig in June. Do you know how bad it is to double-book yourself? It’s really bad. And last summer, I tripped on my own flip-flop.
PG: Oh, yeah. Middle of the day. Tripped on my flip-flop blam! flat on my face. I almost busted my nose. And these are all examples of things I can say online!
NB: Yeah, let’s not go into anything from 2003.
PG: It’s not like I’ve done heroin or anything. (pause.) What if I had done heroin?
NB: I’d counsel you to not bring it up here.
PG: Well, I haven’t, so it’s a non-issue. I did do —
NB: Look at the time, Mary. I’m glad you’re better.