Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Reality TV

It was Saturday night in Washington DC and I was so tired that I doubted I could pull it together to rally for one more night. But Molly Jean was visiting, and it was important to me that I show her a ‘good time’ and hold up the false pretense that every Saturday night I could be found out dancing on tables and picking up undergrads.

It was much more exciting than the reality that most Saturdays would find me masking a broken heart and working the double shift at the neighborhood cocktail lounge. It was much more glamorous than the fact that I was 30 years old with a Master’s degree and still waiting tables, three months out of a failed near engagement which I sabotaged like all the rest.

Molly was also tired. Even though I hadn’t seen her in five years, ten years of friendship meant that I could tell. I wondered how long we would both be able to keep up the pretense that we were still 23.

Molly moved from the couch, her long delicate legs dragging over the wood floors in my studio apartment. Her height made her tower over me in photos, her delicate beauty and womanly figure made me look fourteen. This Saturday night, she gracefully removed the stylish reading glasses from her chiseled nose and stepped effortlessly into a pair of tight jeans. She stood in front of the mirror and threw her head of long auburn hair, recently straightened with a flat iron, over her shoulder.

“I’m ready whenever you are." And she sat back down on my suede chocolate couch with her recent release paperback book.

My neighbor and his best friend arrived and instantly began ogling Molly. I’m accustomed to the attention she attracts. She took off her glasses and began to hatch under the heat of their stares. She was oblivious to her charms. She laughed at all their jokes.

We head laughing into the DC February night.

At the bar, I watched the guys throw back cocktails, weave between flirtatious glances, hand out phone numbers, and act interested in conversation that was impossible to hear over the furious pump of loud rap tunes. Molly and I danced and disappeared for a moment into a time when we wore tiny cocktail dresses, moved with bodies that were thinner and tighter and acted without fear of what other people thought about us.

We left Ouzo’s and rounded the corner of Connecticut onto 18th. I thought the two women on the corner were handing out flyers for an after hours party but they were production assistants looking for willing men and women to try out for a new reality TV series they claimed would air on MTV.

MTV looking for willing men and women to try out for a new reality TV series !
$10,000 if your cast
Come hang in Cali

'PARTY! PARTY!! PARTY!!!' was hardly my thing. I let out a snicker over my shoulder as I stepped around the PA's and continued walking down the street.

I wasn't looking for love. Recently escaped from a serious relationship, I was avoiding deep connections with the opposite sex like making eye contact with the homeless asking for change on the subway.

“You can make $10,000 dollars!” She hollered after us.

“It will only take five minutes.”

I could hear her feet on the pavement behind me.

The truth was, I was exhausted trying to entertain my BFF with DC's slim offerings and this little adventure would tie our night up perfectly.

"Yeah, sure, okay. What do I have to do?"

I thought perhaps a questionnaire, a photo... But within moments, a camera and microphone hung ominously over my head.

"So who ended the last relationship? You, or the guy?"

"Do you have any hidden talents?"

"What is your father like? Do you guys get along?"

"So, like, do you think we should be at war with Afghanistan?"

Cameras, terrify me. I focused on Molly, standing behind the camera. I used her unwavering confidence in my humor and sassiness to distract me from my fear of looking like an asshole.

I saw the red light and could feel my lip begin to quiver. Like an alcoholic tremor, the more I tried not to let it happen the more it seemed to reveal my utter insecurity. I must have been okay, because through the fog, I could hear Molly's laughter.

Then, off went the light and my face relaxed. Like Novocaine wearing off after a visit to the dentist for a root canal, I slowly came back into the moment.

I had no idea what had come out of my mouth.

But soon Molly and I werere blocks away, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, skipping down 18th street wrapped up in the warmth of our new memory.

The following Friday, I got a phone call.

"Hi, I'm a casting agent calling from LA. We saw your tape. The one you recorded in the street last week in DC. We want to talk to you more. Can you come out this weekend for a casting call?"

She told me she was casting for an MTV Bachelor take-off. Some in descript number of single men and women, all living in a house together. She wouldn't tell me how many people. She wouldn't tell me where they were filming. She wouldn't tell me the name of the show. She cautioned me that every step of this process needed to be strictly confidential.

I hung up the phone and called Molly.


When I arrived in LA, I was driven to a hotel about two blocks from LAX, told I wasn't allowed to leave my room for any reason unless escorted by a member of the crew and given $25 to survive on for the next three days eating nothing but room service.

Over the next two days of casting calls I met five other women. We were nothing alike. They were young, average pretty and innocent. They had wide eyes and giggled a lot.

The casting agent phoned two weeks later.

"Hi there. Good news. Guess what? You have totally been cast on the show. Congratulations! Are you just totally psyched or what? Oh my God. Isn't this great. Are you crying?"

I packed my bags, told my friends I was going to Liberia for two weeks and called my parents.

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