One of the few instances when Britney Spears is not the right answer

About a week and a half ago I got an email from a producer at CNN asking if I’d like to participate in a round table discussion in New York City about Time Magazine’s person of the year. But of course, I said, as who in their right mind would refuse a free trip to what many consider to be the world’s most exciting city, the place where anything is possible, or at least mostly possible, as long as you are willing to tip well. They were going to fly me out, hook me up with a nice hotel, and then fly me back whenever I was done having fun in the city. But the catch was that I would have to open my mouth and pretend like I have any business whatsoever giving an opinion on something like this. Because let’s be serious here, if you have ever read a word of this website you might have the impression that I think Access Hollywood is serious journalism. And you’d be very correct.

I told a few friends before I left what I was doing, and invariably their responses were the same: CNN HAS LOST ITS MIND. And I agreed. I did several Google searches on Heather Armstrong to see if there was an intelligent and articulate political blogger whom they may have gotten me confused with, but all I could find was a lovely real estate agent in Arizona who has my name. I thought about calling her up and asking if she had an opinion on this, on who had the most influence on the media in this country over the last year, and if she said anything other than Britney Spears I would steal her answer and claim it as my own. If she said Britney Spears? Then I would invite her over for dinner.

The thing about 2006, though, is that there really isn’t a clear and fast answer to this question. Everyone I asked had a hard time coming up with even one candidate, so I figured that the odds of something totally outrageous coming out of my mouth were very slim. Ah, but do I ever underestimate my own stupidity, and instead of concentrating on the “who” part of the answer I should have maybe studied up on how to talk in coherent sentences. And this is why I like to hide behind the computer, because here I can go back and re-read a thought I have written down and fix it so that it doesn’t say, “The change that we’re going toward into for that and everything,” a sentence I said out loud on Friday morning while staring directly into a camera.

Before I go any further, I should probably talk about how intimidated I felt by the city of New York itself, a feeling that was totally unexpected. I have been to New York three times in the past, and I can see exactly why it is a perfect place to live out your dreams if you’re an ambitious, single 20-something who has life by the balls. There are so many people living there, a literal ocean of humans, and the simplest task requires so much maneuvering. Because of this I think people who live there have learned how to channel an incredible amount of energy and maintain that output at a level much higher than your average human being. It’s like, if you can survive a day in New York City, you’re well on your way to conquering the world.

But I am no longer a single 22-year-old whose only major responsibility in life is making sure that I pay the rent on time, and even though I was alone on this trip I could not turn off the parent inside me. And I was completely overwhelmed with the idea that people have children in that city, that they have to push strollers on those sidewalks and down the stairs to the subway, that they have to carry those children up and down four flights every time they leave the apartment. The intricacies of day-to-day life with children in that city must feel like an hourly marathon, a race that does not ever end. I have never been more aware of the luxury it is to be able to get into my car and drive to the grocery store, or of the fact that I am a total pussy.

I have also never felt so suburban and quaint, especially when I shook the hand of Soledad O’Brien who moderated the discussion. That woman walked into the studio, and I kid you not, there was a glowing aura around her body, and it was filled with dancing leprechauns and fairies. She was exquisite in every conceivable way, perfect hair and make-up and wardrobe, and when she greeted everyone and made small talk I got the sense that her brain was wired to a digital encyclopedia of everything that has ever happened on Earth, because she spoke with authority on every topic. I know that what I am about to say is going to give my mother a heart attack, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up the other-worldliness of Soledad: that woman does not take shits. No way.

So there I am, Gap sweater and khakis that I bought on clearance, and shoes I got two-for-one at Mervyns, and even though my hair and make-up had been crafted by a professional, I felt like a five foot eleven inch thumb. It did not help that the other people who had been invited to the discussion were all male political bloggers, one of whom is currently working on his Ph.D. at Harvard. Where did I go to college? An institution whose administration was so offended by the nudity contained in some of Rodin’s finest sculptures that they stuck The Kiss in a dark basement and refused to allow their students to see it. You could say that my education was robust.

Ultimately the hour-long discussion was not all that painful, although there were several moments when I could feel my heart beating in my throat because I thought Soledad was going to turn to me and ask what I thought about the suggestion that Kim Jong Il be person of the year. Ummmmmmm… He’s a bad man! Very bad! With much badness! My instinct would have been to frown like a very sad circus clown and boo. And maybe hiss. And then sink to the floor and crawl under my chair.

Who did I say? Well, technically it was a discussion about many people, and one of my answers was apparently so awful that Soledad looked right at me and said, “What?! Do you really think that?” And I defended myself pretty well, although my insides were screaming like a pig whose head has just been severed from its body. I will tell you that I did not say Britney Spears, although her name was brought up by someone else and that was the only time you could see fire under my ass. I even interrupted the conversation at that point to say, “I’ve got dibs!”

The 5-8 minute package will run as part of a larger program toward the end of the year. Once I know exactly when it will air I’ll pass along that info. In the meantime, I’d love to know who you would have chosen, and why. And what you would have worn.

  • Valeta

    I think I would have picked the youtube guys. Even though I am still sore at youtube for not hiring my husband.

    I would have worn a dress. Whenever I am in doubt, I wear a dress.

  • Kristine

    I am NOT reading through all the 2 hundred something comments to see if he has been mentioned…but Ceasar, the Dog Whisperer.

    I have learned more about dealing with people and my life by watching him walk a damn dog than I have in all the anxiety classes and years of being alive.

  • Mahony

    There’s a reason NYC is called “The City of Only Children,” because people leave after the second child. I can attest to this. After having baby #2 in New York, the apartment was suddenly way too small, and everything was just THAT MUCH MORE of a hassle and the city went from being invigorating and exciting to exhausting.

    So here I am in the suburbs of Rhode Island. I miss NY every single day, and it is my true “home” but life is much easier and more relaxing now.

    And besides, I just took my 3 year old daughter there for a weekend, and she literally didn’t want to come home. So there will be many more visits…

  • deejay

    Oh, Heather! You’re just one of the old/young, big/small group of us who walk the earth everyday with a whip for our backs and big, ole iron to smash our foreheads with while we struggle to express a thought or opinion to the general public. Please repeat – I am NOT a big, giant stupidhead. Now for POTY, I would have gone with Team Jolie/Gates, who are doing some good in the world and have inspired others of wealth to help out, a little, while they were waiting in line for their Birkin bag. No small feat. Outfit- a blogger wears a bathrobe and slippers, but of course. However, I have always thought you looked like Kiera Knightly so pirate attire would have worked too. Carry on!

  • Jennifer Wilde

    It may sound sort of lame, but I think I would have gone with Angelina Jolie. Love her or hate her, she’s made quite a splash on the international scene and drawn a great deal of attention to children’s issues. She also seems to have sparked a veritable flood of celebrity adoptions (hello, Madonna), and I think that’s not such a bad thing.

    Oh, and I would have gone with an Audrey-Hepburn style black sheath. Can’t go wrong there.

    Looking forward to the interview!

  • Leslie

    *Loved* your reflections on what it’s like to be a parent in NYC:

    “I was completely overwhelmed with the idea that people have children in that city, that they have to push strollers on those sidewalks and down the stairs to the subway, that they have to carry those children up and down four flights every time they leave the apartment. The intricacies of day-to-day life with children in that city must feel like an hourly marathon, a race that does not ever end.”

    Just imagine doing all of this with TWINS, in a double stroller….

    I’m coming to Salt Lake City for a week in January with the lil’ monsters in tow (hanging out while hubby’s at Sundance), and just from what I’ve been reading on the web it sounds so, so, so much easier. Is there really and truly an indoor amusement park where kids can go on unlimited rides for $7.50 each? Damn.

  • srah

    I think if I’d been asked to be on TV with all those fancy NY people and it came down to picking my own clothes, I would have cried and run away. I dunno, I kind of like this sweater I have on from H&M. They have H&M in cities, so it’s fashionable, right?

    Yes, I am from the Midwest, why?

  • Erin

    Soledad O’Brien sucked on Celebrity Jeopardy.

  • patrice

    I would have said “me”. not as in if I were you, I just mean that I think I did fairly well this year all things considering. so I vote me.

    as for what I would have worn, probably something that would make my children disown me.

  • southerngirl

    Stephen Colbert. His Washington Correspondents Dinner speech was the beginning of the end for the Republican majority in Congress ad started Bush down the path to his lowest approval ratings ever. And what balls the guy has. I mean, Laura was staring daggers at him the whole time from just two feet away. (shudder)

    I just wear sweatpants– everywhere. But I do have some nice black yoga pants that I probably could have substituted for a Soledad appearance.

  • Star Shine

    I guess it wouldn’t have been appropriate to nominate yourself for 2006 Person of the Year, would it? Seriously, though, you would make a great candidate. After all, “blogging” has become a household word this year. And you are, like, the Queen of the Blog Revolution, aren’t ya?

    I vote for Dooce!

    Oh, and I’d wear my vintage-esque olive-green dress suit with a chunky brown beaded necklace and brown heels that suggest 1940s chic.

  • princessmombi

    I’m digging the Stephen Colbert response below, but I think I wouldn’t have been able to resist saying Brangelina. If she adopts one more kid I think the press will be ready to saint her, so whythefuck not name her person of the year?

    Oh Heather, please god tell me you didn’t say Elmo. Dora… maybe? But Elmo?

    And I probably would have worn a “Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Learn How to do Other Stuff Good Too” sweatshirt. You know, just so they understand where I’m coming from.

  • elizabeth

    Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee and chief architect of the dem’s bid to win back the whitehouse.

    and i would have worn black. black pants. black v-neck.

  • Fox In Detox

    Trying to pick one single person of the year is definitely a daunting task, but if I had to pick someone..I guess it would be Laura Bush for simply hanging in there through it all. Now there’s a lady who knows the meaning of “for better or for worse”.

    What to wear, what to wear…. How about a strapless vintage Valentino with opera gloves and a tiarra. Why the hell not?

  • Candice

    Dwight Schrute, assistant (to the) regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Products.

    And I would have worn…I don’t know. But I can tell you that I probably would’ve thrown up all over it.

  • Lukku Cairi

    You mean people think Access Hollywood isn’t serious journalism?


    I would have worn something red and obnoxious.

    In the spirit of satire, I would have chosen Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove, on the condition that this nickname be included in every reference to him in the segment :-) I would have chosen him for the model of propriety and statesmanship he provides to our younger generations.

    But maybe I just have a hard-on for Stephen Colbert ;-)

  • cindezio

    Dude, I felt your butterflies as I read that. I’m totally not eloquent enough to even think about being interviewed. And I certainly wouldn’t be the one to ask about what to wear.
    I’d probably say Nancy Pelosi, though…

  • wealhtheow

    Of the choices listed on that site, I’d have picked either Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, because they are actively driving the foreign policies of the most powerful countries in the world and will be instrumental in either preventing or fomenting another Cold War with Russia.

    If it were just up to me, totally and completely? I’d probably say Katie Couric, simply because I believe her promotion to anchor and the reactions to it revealed an enormous amount about the sexism women in this country still face.

  • JennJenn

    Oh and I also would have worn a solid colored deep-red Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress with black opaque tights and chunky heels.
    Minimal jewelry…

    When I actually WAS on TV that one time, being interviewed by Dick Clark, I wore black slacks, red deep v-cut blouse (WAY too low cut for TV) and black slingbacks. I loved having my hair done by the staff…oh wow. That was fun.

  • thefirecat

    When you referred to Soledad O’Brien as the woman who does not shit, I thought, “Well, okay, then you should feel right at home, as well as having an aura of goddessness about your own self!” but that probably isn’t what you meant.

    And thennnnnnn…..I looked at your Flickr photos of the event. And my first thought was, “Oh my god, that guy looks exactly like Chris Mohney, my old grad school buddy.”

    And lo and behold, there’s Mohney himself. Fear not the Mohn-ster, dooce, he’s scary smart and terribly funny, but he’s a very down to earth guy who loves him some microbrew. Hope you guys hit it off wonderfully and you weren’t horrified by his sense of humour, which is much more verbal than, for instance, mine.

    My incredible shrinking world. That’s so frightening. Who knew that my life would turn into the Six Degrees of Chris Mohney instead of The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon that everyone else uses?

  • chitlinsandcamembert

    I am always suspect of people like Soledad who seem so well informed. It makes me think that she’s wearing an earplug that is wired into a room where a team of people look things up for her on Wikipedia and feed her the answers. Even valdictorians aren’t that smart.

  • Ramona

    I would have said Britney Spears. And why not? I would look at the Harvard man and say, “Bring it, beyootch.”

  • atpanda

    There’s no doubt that The YouTube Guys have had a substantial impact…. on drunken Saturdays in my house. You see the video of the baby panda that sneezes and scares the snot out of its mother? We laughed all the 10 times we watched it. :-)

  • thefirecat

    Oh, and what I would have worn? Something that doesn’t need wrinkle when you look sideways at it. Probably in black, to make me look more serious, as opposed to the fluffy girly they think I really am inside. And lots and lots of hairspray to tame the awful fluff on my head.

    I hate it when they interview women and they have those floofy lavender pants suits on, with a big, artsy (or worse, conservative) scarf around their neck. Like, what is that? Do you think when they interviewed Kissinger he was wearing golf pants?

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to wear something that made me look like a woman in a guy’s suit. I hate that. I’m female. Deal with it.

    You can tell I have much angst about this. Good thing I’m not about to be interviewed by CNN anytime soon.

  • Hemlock

    I checked out the options at and I can’t say I really like any of them…

    If I had the option to toss in my own candidate, I would have chosen Muhammad Yunus. He’s someone who’s actually doing some good. Then again, Time just wants people who are talked about…

    I also like the vote for the guy who invented wikipedia. I think wikipedia answers my questions every day.

    What would I wear? Black. Black is slimming. Black with some good vampy makeup.

  • Megs

    OH, I thought of who I would nominate…Barack Obama…there are so many reasons to like him and I think he’ll make a great president.

  • deborah

    I’m 35 wks pregnant, live in NYC, and I AM a total pussy. Just wanted to make you aware of that. I have NO idea how I will tote my baby around, fully expect to burst into tears the first time I have to carry the stroller up 2 flights of stairs to get home, and riding the subway these days makes me feel oppressed.

    I was recently filmed here for a British TV show, and wore my funkiest Target/Liz Lange maternity top and some black pants. Because black is just SO slimming in the third trimester. If my segment ever airs, I look forward to seeing myself on TV, busting out of this top.

    I probably would have gone with Kim Jong Il. I would have gone on and on and on about how wonderful he is, just to watch the cheery discussion come to a grinding halt and Soledad get a deer-in-headlights look in her eyes and the producer wondering how to edit around this…

  • Aimee

    I asked my 2 year old who she thinks should be the person of the year and she responded very quickly with, “Caillou!”

    But, really I just wanted to comment on Heather’s experience in NYC. My best friends moved with their 3 year old and 21 month old from BFE, Texas, to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in May of this year. I, then, flew to meet them there with my then 22 month old to help them get settled in. They were needing help with the girls while they interviewed for nannies. I was there for 2 weeks in a two bedroom apartment with three toddlers. It was the longest 14 days of my entire life. I hauled those girls around town, to the park, library, etc., in a plastic red wagon. I wish I had video of the looks, stares, giggles and occasional pointing I received from the natives. I still don’t understand how or why people would choose to raise kids there. New York is my absolute favorite place in the whole world, but it is totally out of the question for us. Maybe my husband and I will retire there!

  • Nifle

    I think that Bloggers should be the people of the year. Who has dominated the media scene unlike other movement in the last decade but the blogging community. 365 days ago I didn’t read a single blog a day on a consistant basis but now I am unable to survive an hour without checking to see if there is a post on Dooce, consumerist or Gawker. Those are my main sources of entertainment, information and connection with world.

    I am able to get insight to many trains of thought in a short span of time, judging if the information presented is going to influence me or if I am going to disregard it as webfluff or ranting.

    So, thank you bloggers, my people of the year.

  • Jamie

    Your wardrobe choice sounds like what I wear daily to work. I probably would have splurged and bought a spiffy pantsuit or something at TJ Maxx. And pantsuits? I believe that is very 1990s. Fashionably I’m stuck in 1994.

    I love how you describe what it felt like to be in NYC as a parent, and not a 20-something year old with not a care in the world.

    And I would have said Chuck the dog. Or Britney. Or maybe her manny as Person of the Year. Definitely not Kfed. Good Lord I have no idea and now I feel pretty stupid.

    Just reading about your CNN interview is both exciting and nerve wracking to me. What a cool opportunity. I would have had to break into the hotel room mini bar. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I hope you did those of us with a Southern accent proud. ;)

  • Urs

    I might also mention Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!
    I completely agree that he should continue work on enriching uranium. Even though his country supports terrorism why should they be denied the same right that is given to other countries? Who are we to tell others what to do?!

  • Charlie Bathwater

    The ambassador for Red Stripe Beer. IT’S BEER!

  • JennJenn

    Two words:

    David Hasselhoff

    He resurected his career and coined the phrase “Don’t Hassle the Hoff!”

    Either him or Jake Gyllenhaal because he’s so damn dreamy…

  • Cassie

    I would have said Barack Obama. Maybe Rosie O’Donnell, as well.

    I would have worn either my BCBG pin striped pencil skirt and button down top oooorrr, Black dress pants and my fuschia, cowl neck, cap sleeved, fitted sweater with a skinny belt over it. With either outfits I would have worn my plain black pumps. Wait, though – I have been looking for an excuse to buy a DVF wrap dress and an appearance on CNN is good as any… tough question.

    And yes, I put alot more thought into the outfit than the person of the year. I’m not ashamed of that.

  • Heather

    PS — I was going to say Barack Obama, whom I’m a wee bit obsessed with as of late… but I thought that would be jumping the gun. Here’s hoping he’s POTY in 2008 after he wins the presidency. ;)

  • libby

    Wow, Heather, what a cool but intimidating task you had! Hope NYC was good to you and not too intimidating.

    Alas, I’d join in the Colbert chorus if it weren’t for my maddening, embarrassing, way-too-old-for-this crush on Olbermann. I’m happily partnered with my boyfirend — who will rid me of this meddlesome crush!?!

  • flailingmyarms

    Heather Armstrong. Really, what’s the point in going if you can’t nominate yourself?

    PS: I’ve also got a defective gene that forbids me from sounding intelligent when speaking on cue. If I could only pause conservation, construct, edit, and re-write pithy sentences for a more scripted me, the world would be a better place.

    PPS: I’m sure you were awesome.

  • ladeeda

    I have been thinking about my answer for 2 days now and I think I would have to go with Bill Gates since he gave away all that money this year to help impoverished children; maybe I am wierd but I think that is who I would go with.

  • Heather

    I used to work at Harvard; I can assure you, that the Ph.D. candidate’s shit stinks, too.

    Anyway, my PotY would be… Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ. Look him up if you get the chance. He’s amazing, and I wish he’d run for president in 2008.

  • Shiz Shiz

    I wonder if I coulda worn this:

    I’m still leaning towards Stephen Lewis – – does nobody know who he is? A second is Bill Clinton; he’s doing amazing things now:

    Oh, and Banksy:

    Love Banksy.

  • RebeccaB

    Oprah, everyone loves Oprah.

    I would have probably spent a week trying to decide what to wear, but would have just put on a button up, blazer, and some cute pants.

    wait…what about Tobin Bell? Or Peyton Manning? yep, those are my top 3 contenders.

  • meagan

    I’d have to say Stephen Lewis, he’s done some amazing stuff for Africans, especially those dealing with AIDS. He’s very passionate about Africa and creating awareness about what’s going on there. He is Canadian though so I’m not sure if he’d qualify.

  • jawnbc

    Kim Jong Il, like it/him or lump him/it

    You dressed well: what do most of the women you age look like at the local Galleria in SLC?

  • Jennifer in Ohio

    You’re not kidding about Soledad being so perfect- and she has four kids. FOUR KIDS. Can not be human.

  • Holy Schmidt! – Melanie

    I second Obama. The man’s got a lot to say and really gets me thinking…And I used to say that I was a die hard Republican.

  • Grace D

    Person(s) of the year? It would have to be the Iraqi insurgent. Any member of the insurgency, Shiite, Sunni, whoever. Iraqi insurgents brought their country – and the USA – to their knees.

    (And, hey – don’t get on me for being un-American. These people of the insurgency has us scrambling in the worst possible way. We’re out of control in Iraq. We need to get out.)

    Anyway, I would have worn all black accented with one of my two precious Hermes scarves. However, if I were really brave, I’d wear Tracey/Sweetney’s “I’m a fuckin mommyblogger, bite me” tee shirt.

  • Superkittn

    I vote for Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert combo platter. Their incessant mocking of the current administration has effected big change.

    As for wardrobe, me thinks a well-tailored black suit with a clevage-buldging blouse. And nice shoes. And tasteful jewelry. And gum.

  • namedpipe

    Knowing John Hinderaker was on I would have picked Glenn Grunwald or Markos Moulitsas Zúniga just to watch Hindrockers head explode.

  • MississippiAnna

    I would say something deep like “The Blogger,” and comment on the number and variety of blogs and how much they define and shape culture and thought, yadda yaddda yadda.

    I would wear dark jeans or khakis and a sweater set. I’m from Mississippi, and that would be dressed up enough to me.

  • doctor tongue

    I hope they do a better job of picking Person of the Year than they did the 100 most influential albums list – NO PINK FLOYD? How does THAT happen?