hiatus, part 1
January 20, 2008
Lauren is watching “American Idol” on TV. It is one of the early episodes of the season, the ones where people audition to be on the show and the auditions are shown on air. Most of the people that Lauren knows say that these are their favorite episodes of “American Idol” or that these are the only episodes of “American Idol” that they like; these are the kind of people who say “I don’t watch ‘American Idol,’ but I do love those audition episodes”; these are the kind of people who will be saying something about how television is stupid and fake and then remember that Lauren has a television show and will sort of change the subject very quickly when she looks at them.
Lauren doesn’t like the audition episodes, but she is a devoted fan of “American Idol” so she watches the audition episodes anyway, because what if in a later episode someone made a reference to something having to do with one of the audition episodes and she didn’t understand or know about it because she didn’t watch the audition episodes. Or what if one of the auditions was so crazy it went viral and then everybody was talking about it and she didn’t know what everybody was talking about because she didn’t watch. She tivos the show, of course, and her tivo places the episodes in order in neat, properly named folders. Before tivo existed, in middle school, she was a very devoted video taper. She liked to label the video tapes she recorded her shows on. Each tape came with three labels; a label for the spine and then two labels that went on the face of the videotape, a thick rectangle and a thin strip one. Lauren never really understood what the thin strip one was for and often found that it was problematic, as the lack of adhesive surface area would often cause it to get caught by the VCR machinery and pulled at and the corners would not be neat and flat, but Lauren would always put it on. Once her labels were adhered, she would first write the name of the show in pink highlighter on the spine label and then she would write “Vol.” and then the number of the volume of tape that it was. You had to have different volumes because tapes only hold so many episodes when you record at high quality. Then she would outline the pink highlighter with black highlighter, which now she thinks is a pretty gauche color combination but when she was in middle school she thought was bold and exciting.
On the television, an obese man in a moo moo is singing/rapping an acapella version of the song “Baby Got Back” and when he yells the hook, “Baby Got Back,” he jumps around so his butt is showing and smacks it with his hand and the flesh jiggles and the fabric of the moo moo flutters. Lauren doesn’t like the audition episodes because she thinks they’re mean. She thinks it’s mean just to laugh at people on TV for trying and being themselves. These people have a dream and they think the best way to get to their dream is to be on television, because they have seen other people with similar dreams go on television and get to their dreams, and so they are trying like those people. How can you hate someone or think they’re stupid because they tried something? How Lauren feels is that people don’t try enough, that people don’t put themselves out there and see what happens, because even though sometimes what happens is bad, sometimes what happens is good and you have to be brave and have courage about things. Lauren thinks sometimes that she doesn’t try enough, that she doesn’t put herself out there, that she isn’t brave and doesn’t have courage about things, and so she can’t hate these people because it wouldn’t be right.
Sometimes the people on the audition shows are so stupid or bad at singing or so weird, like the disgusting clothes they wear or they funny ways they talk, that it makes her want to laugh, that it makes a laugh rise up from her chest cavity into her diaphragm, but Lauren controls the laugh and stops it because she thinks it’s wrong to laugh at people on television and if she was to laugh at these people herself, she would be a hypocrite. Sometimes holding in a laugh like this when it’s already started is kind of painful and makes her cough, but she deals with it, she doesn’t laugh, because it’s not right to laugh. If people don’t have principles, society will crumble.
The show goes to commercial and Lauren pauses the Tivo and goes to the refrigerator. In the refrigerator, there are a number of things. There is Evian and soymilk and Diet Dr. Pepper and a couple of half-filled cardboard-sleeved cups from Starbucks. There are numerous take-out trays and foil-wrapped things; a small box of nigiri, some lasagna, half a pizza which has been in the fridge for a while. There are tangelos and red delicious apples and there is yogurt – blueberry, strawberry, cherry – the basic American flavors. There are stale tortillas and there is a large bag of high-quality provolone cheese in thin slices. There are carrot sticks. There is whipped cream in both regular and chocolate flavors. There are various ethnic condiments.
Lauren sits back on the couch with the half a pizza and the two liter bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. The half a pizza is pepperoni and olives and green peppers. Lauren never understood why people liked cold pizza and talked about how good cold pizza is all the time except then one time she had it when she was hung over and then she understood. She fast-forwards the Tivo. One of the commercials she fast forwards through is for Jenny Craig. She remembers when Anna Nicole Smith did that Trimspa ad, the one with the fake red carpet and all the camera flashes. That poor baby.
Lauren imagines what it would be like to be fat. Some mean, negative people used to say she was fat but Lauren, thanks to her upbringing, has good judgment and a good solid head on her shoulders and she knows she has never been fat. She definitely sees a difference between the Shape cover and the pictures of her from last summer, but she wasn’t fat then, she was just less skinny. But to be really fat, to just eat and eat and eat and not have to move, not have to go to the gym, what would it feel like? To be so fat that you don’t worry about how your clothes fit because they just don’t fit at all, to be moo moo fat, how would that be? Lauren knows that it would be problematic, that it would probably make her sometimes feel sad and negative, but there are a lot of things now that sometimes make her feel sad and negative and would it be worth it to get to eat so much and not have to go to the gym every day?
Body image is such an important topic. So many girls worry about it too much and that is sad. She wishes when she worked at Teen Vogue they had covered that more. Not that she had any say in editorial or anything, not that she ever did anything even a little important, but she just wishes they would’ve covered it, for the greater good. Causes are important. Like ethical labor, that is so big right now, that is the direction she is going with her line, ethical. It’s a good cause. Also she is going to make clothes for real body shapes, that is a thing everybody is talking about. Not for like really fat people, of course, but definitely for less skinny people, because she knows what it’s like to be less skinny, she’s been there. She has a message and she can relate it to people and she can do it in a way that is attractive and stylish and she works hard and these are the reasons she knows she will be successful.
The Tivo runs too far, into the show itself, and Lauren’s thumb clicks the rewind button and her thumb is deft and practiced. She unconsciously maneuvers the Tivo back in seconds. Sometimes Tivo time bothers Lauren because with all the pausing and unpausing she’s not in sync with real time and that’s difficult because she likes to be in sync. Audrina will probably be home from her date in an hour or two, unless it goes well and then who knows. Lauren hopes that Audrina comes home so that they can talk about the evening and Lauren can, from this conversation, create a mental picture of this new guy and help Audrina understand this picture the way she sees it. At the same time, she hopes it goes well for Audrina so she doesn’t have to do all the analysis and thinking and everything, because sometimes caring about people takes a lot of work and energy, or at least it does for Lauren, because she really does care and think about people a lot. Sometimes her favorite times are when nothing happens, when she can just sit like this, still, and eat and watch.