It’s very, very late and it’s supposed to snow like krazy tomorrow, but I thought I needed to add an addendum to the Oprah story. First off, I can’t believe I had a blog for almost four years and didn’t remember to tell the tale, for which LFMD’s Opraphilia has proven useful. I’d also like to add that Oprah herself seemed quite gracious, even though she never really met with us, there were no autographs or pictures or anything like that. Remember, this was 1994, and although her show was huge, she had not geometrically progressed to the Hera-like status she currently enjoys.
That particular show was another day at the office for her, and probably a not very satisfying one. None of us Gen X folks really stepped up to the plate, myself included, giving us months of l’esprit de l’escalier afterward. I swear to god I replayed what I WOULD have said about forty thousand times.
Some of us who were on the show remained friends for years through (the then-new technology of) email, particularly the schoolteacher Melanie, who actually did quit her job and then married a Scot and moved to Scotland, you know, where the Scots are. The European-American kayak instructor went on to instruct kayaks.
The day the show was to air, all of my friends gathered at the Purple House in Chapel Hill, and my dad had a “watching party” on the West Coast. Dotted throughout the country, several friends sat in front of the TV at the allotted time. When Oprah came on, I was horrified to learn than my show had been pre-empted for Fat Teen Week, and the only place it aired was in the Mountain Time Zone. Thank god my friend Christine in Sandy had taped it.
My dad called, my mom called, friends called, etc. until I finally had to answer my phone “I’m not on Oprah, can I help you?” The insult had been added to injury, and I’m sure a lot of folks thought I’d been lying about the whole thing.
It did air the next morning, and I was told it was repeated about ten times over the next few months. In many ways, it was a blessing nobody saw it, because when I watched the tape, I was absolutely horrified at the way I looked. Something about that year, my body had changed, and I no longer had the sharpness of my early ’20s – in fact, I thought I looked tremendously bloated, with a neck like an amphibian.
To be honest, I freaked out. I was so disgusted with my physical appearance that it was all I could think about (this was pre-Celexa, and, y’know, I was still dating). In an ironic twist of fate, my wisdom teeth erupted later that week, and I went to the oral surgeon to get them removed. Apparently, during the re-surfacing from anesthesia, I was crying inconsolably. The nurses called my mom and said, “your son is having an episode – he thinks he’s a frog.”
In the tiny molecules between the conscious and the subconscious, my image of me on television had transformed, Kafka-esque, into a frog, with a bloated neck, unable to speak, just sitting there being fat and stupid. It took me three days and about a kilo of Vicodin to get over it.
That following winter, with the help of Annie and Greg at our farm, I lost 25 pounds and began the slow turn-around of my life. Sure, there were valleys later on (’98 and ’01 were, to put it mildly, treacherous), but I had weathered my first major mid-20s/Saturn-return/nervous breakdown.
So I have Oprah to thank for that. Not many people have the opportunity to share that couch and turn limes into limeade, and for that – and my Oprah coffee mug – I’ll always be grateful.
later that year