Friday, July 22, 2005

Fame (Baby, Remember My Name)

Some times, I want big credit for the things I didn’t do. For example, today I didn’t hit a woman. Had the judges been there, I would have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that.

Daughter and I were hanging out in a friend’s book store. It’s tiny, with a wonderful little alcove for the children’s books and a thoughtful selection of adult fare. My friend is also fairly liberal with her air-conditioning. In short, our needs were being met in every possible way. Daughter tucked into a dead end of books and pillows and I was at the counter paging through an expensive art book, idly chatting with my friend, who was behind the counter. A woman walked in, asking long questions of the sales woman, so I took my book and moved over towards Daughter.

After a few minutes, the woman who had walked in after us came over to me.

“Pardon me,” she asked in a simpering tone “but weren’t you on television?”

The questions about being a child actor are never a favorite part of my life, but I closed the book of Vermeer paintings and smiled pleasantly.

“Yes, when I was a child” I said in a tone which I hoped implied “That should be it, right?”

She squeaked excitedly “I knew it! What show was it?” She leaned in towards me and, by extension, Daughter, who was now boxed in.

“Family” I said politely.

“I loved that show!”

“I’m really glad to hear it” I said sincerely. I mean, I don’t actually care on some basic level, but if something I did made someone happy, that’s better than finding out that something I did caused an epidemic of ear infections.

She leaned over and stared into Daughter’s face. Her voice moved up into a range usually only achieved by finches.

“Is this your daughter? Ooh, she’s so cute.”

I tried moving between them.

“Thank you. She’s reading right now.”

Apparently, that was too subtle a hint, because this woman developed a terrier-like tenacity to engage in conversation with my kid.

“Did you know that your Mommy is famous? Did you know that your Mommy used to be on TV? I used to watch her all the time, she was so cute. You’re such a cutie yourself! Did you know about your Mommy being famous? Do you know what famous means?”

The woman caught my eye, which was fairly easy as, under the guise of moving some books back into place, I was trying to create a barrier between my kid and Former-Celebrity Vampire. She giggled to me, “It’s hard to explain fame to little children”.

I thought, “Perhaps that’s because it’s not your job to explain anything to my kid. In fact, if you talk to her again, I’ll punch your nose so hard that when you inhale, you’ll breathe brain”.

But what I said was, “Yes. Well, don’t let us keep you”.

Mercifully, at that moment she happened to see someone else she wanted to annoy and scurried away. I leaned over to Daughter, who had picked up her book again, and spoke softly.

“Long story short, sweetie…I was on television when I was a kid, but older than you are. I pretended to be different people. I had fun, and I don’t do it anymore”

Daughter blinked.

“What did you look like?”

“Mostly, me.”

She went back to reading. I went back to seething.

This certainly isn’t the first time someone has said something thoughtless to me in a public place. I think one of the side-effects of having come in to people’s houses on a television is that people forget that you actually exist and might have feelings about what they say. You can say something hurtful and stupid about an end table without worrying about the end table, why should you have to stop to consider what someone who lived inside your television might think?

You want a couple of examples? Like most of my friends, I had retail jobs when I was a teenager. This provided us with pocket money and employee discounts. I remember the woman who leaned over the counter during the peak of Saturday afternoon rush, grabbed my wrist and said with faux sympathy “Are you working here because you need the money? Did you spend it all on drugs? Or did your parents use it up?” How about the woman who waited until I had finished bagging her stuff and then said to her husband in ringing tones “Can you imagine. From stardom to having to work in a place like this”. I wanted to say, “Hey, lady, you just shopped in a place like this!” But I didn’t. Mean stupid people seem to live for those moments. I am just grateful there weren’t camera cell phones and the Internet during my public career in retail. A nice, blurry camera-phone snapshot of me re-stocking the shelves at The Limited making the rounds of gossip blogs would have compounded my aggravation.

But I believe the unwritten rule which says my brief moment in the sun requires me to be eternally available and pleasant to strangers, no matter how private the moment of their intrusion, does not extend to my child. So, the question becomes: does this make me a hypocrite? I write a blog about my life, and she is a huge part of my life so she is included. Her privacy is thus compromised, but readers who are spread out all over the world, which should keep her protected to some degree. It still dazzles me that people read this in Dubai and Katmandu, but the odds of these folks seeing us while I order a soy latte at the neighborhood café are fairly slim.

I worried this particular bone for quite a while before starting the QC Report, and was prepared to live with Walt Whitman’s take on the matter:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes).

As a motto, it works. But one of the multitudes I contain is a mother who is prepared to propel a stranger’s sinus bone four inches backwards to defend my child’s right to read a book without being bothered. I need to figure out whether I can remain true to the writer in the multitude as well as the protective parent.

17 Comments:

Blogger Cathleen said...

I hear ya on the contradictions. I used to live in a small town, about 3000 people, up in the Canadian Western Arctic. Everybody knows everything about everyone.
Contradictions, yup, and also to thine own self be true.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

I imagine if this blog was causing people to bother your daughter while she was minding her own business, you'd reconsider. While it doesn't, I think you've got a good balance with your own wants. I write about my daughter online. If her life started to be worse for it, I'd stop.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At some point, you may have to stop writing about Daughter except in the most abstract way, if having her exploits, however dear, in a public forum bothers her. That's some time away; even her most computer-savvy pals won't be reading your blog any time soon. It might not even be necessary; many a writer has written about their children, and some resented it, and others shrugged it off, and still others took pleasure in it. Daughter will let you know. In ringing tones.
As for Intrusive Bookstore Customer, who felt compelled to give a stranger's child a tutorial on fame, for the latter word, please substitute "terrorism." And then I would ask her "Is it any of your business, much less your right, to instruct another's child on this particular subject?"
--Mary

9:07 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I think you DO get big credit for not knocking her block off. Amazing.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous DC said...

That woman probably also pats pregnant women's bellies. (Or perhaps only pregnant celebrities' bellies?) I wouldn't make big changes in my life over the likes of her.

I don't see any contradiction between wanting to talk ABOUT your daughter, but not wanting strangers to talk TO your daughter. That's pretty standard mama bear stuff.

Your daughter may well tell you to back off some day, but that's a whole other thing...

7:58 PM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

I believe celebrity vultures are very odd and unpredictable freaks. It is totally all right to lie to their face and say they must have mistaken you for someone else...especially when with your child.

I also believe you have keep all integrity in this blog.

There's another woman's blog I read...it uses everyone's real name, and has LOTS of pictures of the whole family. I've often thought that someday the offspring discussed will wish their whole life wasn't out there for the world to see so explicitly.

Your blog, however, is totally different. All names are hidden, and the text is much more abstracted, about the stuff we all go through. Of course some day Daughter may want out of the game, but as the others have said, she will let you know.

And it isn't like you are Sally Mann....

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so fortunate, you’re a gifted writer and steward to your child, you’re smart and quick witted, you’re pompous and judgmental, unfeeling and shallow, short tempered and suspicious. Good luck to you!

9:00 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Uh...thanks?

11:32 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Well, there you have it. Someone who remains "anonymous" spouts off. Ironic, isn't it, considering the subject of your post. At least you don't hide, Quinn Cummings. Go forth and blog. Those of us who are not anonymous love you!

4:18 PM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

Wow, I can only hope "anonymous" was trying to be ironic with that post.

And I was hoping the trolls would never find your blog. Oh well.

BTW, can you turn off the anonymous option?

And I agree with Jan, that considering the topic of this post it was particularly irksome to get a troll sighting.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

OK I have a name. Do you all feel better now? Fucking cry babies!!! This quinn guy is a class A asshole / jerk. Thats how I feel and thats how he sounds. Fuck you if you don't like what I have to say. Close your blog to "members only" if you want your own little dictatorship. Bunch of whinning little ccksuckers if you ask me! And you did by being OPEN to the public

"You're so fortunate, you’re a gifted writer and steward to your child, you’re smart and quick witted, you’re pompous and judgmental, unfeeling and shallow, short tempered and suspicious. Good luck to you!"

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Performance art. That's the only explanation.
--Mary

6:33 PM  
Anonymous DC said...

"This quinn guy"...?

That's a joke, right? You're messing with her/us, to be funny?

Celebrity or not, no one with two brain cells to rub together could read any entry in this blog and think it was written by a man. I'm not talking nuance here. I'm referring to terms like "Mommy" and "her."

Love the internet. Full of surprises...

7:30 PM  
Blogger Cathleen said...

Oh man, I am in Seoul and sitting under my aircon trying not to go heat waved crazy outa my mind, and this blog is super fun, go people, GO!!!! spout away, you got sistas from all over the world, and we're here to help defuse the trolls:)
Keep up the writing, Quinn, it's hilarious:)

8:21 AM  
Blogger Killer said...

I posted this on my blog. And thanks for checking mine out http://killersplace.blogspot.com/2005/07/bloggers-learn-price-of-telling-too.html

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next time someone asks if you were on TV or an actress, answer "Well, yes actually I was in a couple of porno movies. They were not widely distributed, so you must really be a porn connoisseur."

4:41 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Well, obviously, the deranged like to come and play here, just like the rest of us.

Quinn, after thinking it over carefully, I believe in your position I would have considered myself obligated to smite that woman.

I think... I think ... I'm generally one of the last people to want more unpleasantness let loose in the world in general, but I believe that once you have confirmed that Yes, You are Indeed Quinn Cummings ... that's the extent to which you are required to be polite. For instance, you are not required to be polite to people who are not polite to you - whether it's in person or on your blog, which is, essentially, your living room. You're polite enough to ask us in, it behooves us to respond as if our parents raised us with a modicum of manners.

This is why I will politely suggest that the ranting poster above might want to have her meds adjusted.

You are not public property. You aren't. There are just days when you want to say, "Yeah, I hear that a lot," when someone says, "You look like -"

Ego te absolvo, Quinn. If it seems like a good idea, I give you dispensation to say NO the next time someone says, "Aren't you ....?

2:02 PM  

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