So did you see Melissa on the Today show on Friday? As luck would have it, I was home on Friday (tending to two boys who were setting new benchmarks in gastric turbulence), so I turned on the TV at around 7:30. From the moment they started with the teasers, you knew right away how they wanted to frame the discussion. And that Melissa was screwed.
- In one teaser, a talking head said "women who have cocktails during playdates" with the same disdainful incredulity you might use to say "women who pick scabs off their dogs and eat them."
- Meredith Vieira begins the piece: "Whether you call it 'tots and tonic,' 'cocktails and chaos,' or 'booze and babies'...." Funny. I've never called it any of those things. Nor would anyone with an attached brain stem.
- "And it's got everyone buzzing." I'm not buzzing. Doesn't "everyone" include me?
- Lots of b-roll of clinking wine glasses, unfocused shots (it's DrunkVision!), and kids sitting precariously close to open wine bottles.
- Here to personify our indignance is Dr. Elegant Pantsuit, a credentialed professional and mother of four. And here to champion drunk, depressed, inept parents is ... a blogger.
- They seated Melissa on the outside, so that when the time came to sandbag her about drinking baby sitters, Meredith and Dr. Pantsuit could fix her with j'accusing looks.
I can't believe Melissa would have agreed to be on the show if the producers had been entirely truthful about the tone of the piece. Yet she held her own as well as she could in the face of this stacked deck (although she may have lost the room with the "sell my son on eBay" joke). But in the end they flew her in to be a pinata on national TV, in yet another ham-fisted attempt to wedge a complex discussion into four minutes of pap. (That fourth hour is going to be just magical.)
A few years ago, I had the singularly unpleasant experience of participating in a blog called Opinionated Parenting, in which a mom and I "discussed" differing beliefs on several parenting issues. Most of our views weren't all that different, yet the Oxygen people told us to select the most polarizing topics and have at each other, for entertainment's sake. The result was a bunch of obnoxious screeds that no one read and that rightfully died as soon as our contracts ran out (which was several weeks too long). It remains the most regrettable experience of my blogging life, and if I hadn't needed the money to pay for Robert's first year of preschool, I couldn't think on the experience without gouging my eyes with a spork.
And fwiw: Over the weekend I brought the boys to my sister's house for a playdate with their cousin, and over the course of eight (8) hours I had two (2) beers. It's a wonder no one was crippled.
What are the lessons here?
- You can't trust big media. They need to stir up trouble and then cover it in order to feed the content machine.
- If you're a male care-giver, you get a free pass. 'Cause all men can handle their liquor, and all women should be Mary Poppins.
- If you feel the need to judge other people, or marriages, or parents, don't.