I Went On "Good Morning America" To Talk About Eating Disorders And I'm Pretty Sure I Won't Be Asked Back
Exactly the night before I'm scheduled to have an interview on "Good Morning America," I have a migraine that lands me in the ER. When I wake that morning to get ready, my head feels like a scooped-out cantaloupe, my saliva hints metal, and I'm so exhausted I don't have the energy to be nervous. I put on a pilgrim style dress and forget to eat breakfast.
When I arrive at ABC, I text Producer Jill from the lobby. In person, like on the phone, I quite like her.
Waiting for the elevator she says, "Sorry I'm harried. Just got a pass out of jury duty. I'm still nursing."
"Congratulations," I say impressed, "Your first?"
"My fourth." She answers and the elevator arrives.
In the taping room, which is windowless and filled with equipment and two chairs in front of lit screens, I meet the crew for the shoot.
Producer Jill tells me the camera guy, Gregor, talked himself out of detainment during Arab Spring. My eyes widen.
"I used logic," he says smiling, "and did not let them know how scared I was."
Producer Jill tells me the interviewer should be there any minute.
"Wait," I say, clapping together my palms. "You're not asking the questions?"
Correspondent Lynne, upon arrival, is supremely well groomed. I hear Jill ask Lynne if she read the email. Yes, but she has a few clarifying questions. I swear it's a whispered, "Who is this person?"
Lynne, I gather, like me, forgot to read my article beforehand. Lynne, unlike me, does not seem concerned about what's about to go down. She sits in the canvas chair across from me, extends a soft hand.
"Ready?" she asks, "Comfortable?"
I nod and show my teeth. Spotlights rise on us, disappearing the rest of the room.
"Say your full name into the camera," Lynne encourages. "Then spell it out letter by letter."
Near the "e" in "Annakeara," I'm filled with the dreadfully familiar tingle of regretting a decision.
Let me put this in context. A few weeks ago, I receive an e-mail with this subject line:
"Hi From Good Morning America/ We'd Love to Talk with you Right Away!"
The email is from "Producer Jill." She read a piece of mine on xoJane, and wants to talk ASAP about an interview for the show. Here's her number. If it's easier for her to call me, send digits and a time. She knows I must be busy.
My gut response to the offer? A breathy chuckle and firm "No, thanks." Immediately after, my gut stuttered.
Quite new to and slow in the world of Internet publishing, the business side of parlaying creativity into career is counterintuitive to me, and the opportunities and consequences that arise from writing about the personal in public reveal themselves bit by bit. I'm befuddled when presented with requests like this one, uncertain of the motivations and potential results.
Maybe this caution reeks of a primary wound, the daughter of frustrated show-biz creatives, but my go-to is opting out of anything that isn't the actual act of writing. For the sake of experience, I'm trying to re-evaluate that response.
So I send Jill my number. Free tomorrow afternoon.
Minutes later, she's on the phone. "GMA is doing a piece on the gluten-free diet craze, I read what you wrote, loved it, we want to talk to you on the show."
Jill and I launch into a conversation about cultural ideas of what "being healthy" means. We discuss how nutrition and self-care are most often talked about in relation to what you look like and how much you weigh. We talk about how challenging it is, especially for women, to develop a relationship with food that is productive and nourishing, how this can make it easy for disordered eating to be rampant, under the radar, par for the course.
Jill tells me we'd be talking on the show just like we're talking right now, quite casual. I agree to come next week.
Over the weekend, anxious, I cancel. A family member in PR explains they're looking to get soundbites and a face for a story they've already written.
Second thought, Jill, sorry, not comfortable. Don't want to send a message I don't intend to.
Jill calls again the next day. By the end of our conversation, palms wet and head blank, I'm coming next Wednesday.
Correspondent Lynne leans forward in her chair as the questions begin. Questions I don't want or really know how to answer on camera. Questions that were not like my phone conversation with Jill.
"You said your gluten-free diet felt like a trap. Can you tell me about that?"
"I said that?"
I hear Jill's voice from the dark. "You wrote in your article your diet started to feel like a trap -- tell us about that."
Ideas fill my head but they're random and useless. Dog team sleds. My childhood town and the good people I knew there. Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Lynne breaks my pause. "How long were you on the diet?"
I point my index finger in the air as if on to something.
"You said you lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time." Her brow is knit, voice velveteen. "Could you have used to lose it?"
"Tricky question," I say, immediately aware of my thighs, as a tangent begins. I try dissecting what she means by "using to lose." From the darkness, my cellphone rings.
"It was Conor," the sound guy announces, turning it off. My brother. He must have received my psychic smoke signal. Have reconsidered your offer to drop everything and open PB & J themed children's museum.
Back to Lynne. "Was your gluten-free diet a veil for an eating disorder?"
I itch my scalp, one too-deep breath from crying. Another tangent rolls out on what we consider to be healthy or disordered eating, what is or is not "diagnosable," how to observe your intentions around food and exercise. Lynne eyes Jill.
"What advice do you have for American men and women on gluten-free diets?"
My body has withered completely.
"No advice, per se."
Lynne, after silence.
"Did you end up gaining the weight back?"
My mouth opens, closes.
"I'm sorry." I say, looking to remove my mic. "This isn't going to work."
Over the sink in the ABC bathroom I heave a sob, and ask my reflection what the fuck its damage is. A flush sounds behind me. Casual flats wait in the stall.
In the hallway, Jill is leaning against the elevator.
"Lynne's questions were a bit more black and white than I had anticipated."
My right arm flails towards her with an airborne life of its own.
"She asked me what advice I have for American men and women on gluten-free diets."
She puts her hands up.
"I realize we talked about how disordered eating is a big grey area--"
My voice raises, the tears. "THAT'S THE STORY, JILL! THAT'S WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID!"
I apologize. I don't want to yell at Jill, mother of four, who's smart and seems great. No one should yell at a mother of four unless she's left them at Big Lots forever.
"How about we go to the park, just you, me and the guys. I ask the questions this time."
I nod and smooth out my pilgrim dress.
Despite the change in scene, it doesn't work in the park either. I walk Jill back to ABC, telling her my intention in writing that article was not to comment on gluten-free diets, just to share an experience that led me to consider a bigger issue.
"I think we had different ideas about this," I sigh. I apologize for my discomfort. For screwing it up.
Jill just looks at me, concerned, in front of the revolving front doors. "It's hard enough for women. Don't be so hard on yourself."
"Well, thanks Jill," I say, though she's already gone.
At a market down the street from the studio, starving, a bit dazed, I scan my options. Kid you not Everybody Plays the Fool sounds out overhead. Surprisingly, I feel pretty good, relieved that it’s over, even with the prospect of looking warm and absurd on morning TV.
At the very least, I think, choosing a sandwich, some fruit, a little chocolate, I'm excited for lunch.