the smell of my desperation has become a stench

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.

  • tracythompson

    2006/11/14 at 11:29 am

    First of all, when you go to New York, you wear black. I am surprised you did not know this. This is because everybody in New York belongs to the same religious cult, no matter what their “front” religious affiliation is.

    Second: Person of the year? Would be Donald Rumsfeld. Though personally I would prefer that it be called Asshole of the Year.

  • mrsjcatalano

    2006/11/14 at 11:27 am


    this guy:

  • booger

    2006/11/14 at 11:28 am

    I think the youtube guys should get it. They’re changing the face of the internet, you know.

    And I mean, aside from the internet.. is there really anything else to care about?

  • Madame M.

    2006/11/14 at 11:26 am

    Since you asked–

    Person of the year? The Power-Player Blogger (that’s right: with caps). I think the Blogger is slowly changing the face of America, one goofy and/or well-crafted post at a time. Then again, there is The Celebrity Mom– because man do they waste ink on all of them (not just Britney).

    What to wear– They spring for hotel and transportation but no wardrobe? Cheap fucking bastards they are. You can never go wrong with crisp white linen shirts, though, or a nice cashmere sweater and wool pants with flats. And pretty flats in a jewel tone…. mmm… shoes.

  • Megan

    2006/11/14 at 11:24 am

    Dooce, I’m thinkin’ you were a breath of fresh air in that room.

    I’m way out of the loop where I’m living right now, but if memory serves Person of the Year is supposed to be the most influential, not the most popular right? Hitler got this title from Time magazine and I think he was already doing dastardly deeds. So going on that rule, what about that nut in Iran (or the other in N. Korea)?

    As for the outfit, I would have gone Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. New Gap skinny black pants and a sweater, serious hair, slightly flirty make-up. But something subtley dangerous like a tiny handgun or switchblade charm around my neck, or baby teeth earrings. Just those those guys think twice about putting me down. Something that says ‘maybe I know how red your blood can run’, just to keep ’em on their toes.

  • Allison

    2006/11/14 at 11:24 am

    Hmm…person of the year? I’m not sure…Bono and all of the other philanthropic people trying to save the world one Gap t-shirt at a time? Definitely not George W.

    I do know what I would have worn: black, black, black. Black turtleneck, khaki-colored dress pants and black pointy toe shoes. I’m sure this O’Brien woman’s ensemble would have made me feel incredibly ratty, but at least the black is slimming!

    Can’t wait until the piece airs, so we can hear more about the conversation we won’t see on CNN.

  • mrsjcatalano

    2006/11/14 at 11:25 am

    I would say Steve Carell. He has changed my life a million times for the better with The Office alone, reaffirming my faith in comedy television.

    And I probably would have worn a tuxedo t shirt.

  • katieaubergine

    2006/11/14 at 11:20 am

    Person of the year? Yikes. No idea. And I don’t like any of their choices.

    As for what I would have worn? Probably a similar outfit. And I would have felt like a thumb, too. And, I also have no idea how people live in NYC and raise children. I get a little panic attack just thinking about riding NYC subway’s with a stroller.

  • itstara3

    2006/11/14 at 11:20 am

    Hmmm. I still like the Britney Spears idea. I think it would have been great, in light of her recent announcement that she is divorcing that loser (finally–I think she has some sense now!)

  • Megan

    2006/11/14 at 11:21 am

    Dooce, I’m thinkin’ you were a breath of fresh air in that room.

    I’m way out of the loop where I’m living right now, but if memory serves Person of the Year is supposed to be the most influential, not the most popular right? Hitler got this title from Time magazine and I think he was already doing dastardly deeds. So going on that rule, what about that nut in Iran (or the other in N. Korea).

    (Gulp) or Rumsfeld?? But please… not Tom Cruise.

    As for the outfit, I would have gone Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. New Gap skinny black pants and a sweater, serious hair, slightly flirty make-up. I’d make those pro make up people prove their salt!

  • ketty

    2006/11/14 at 11:22 am

    Clearly you should have worn a Prada shirt, Manolo shoes, a Marni coat, carried a Chanel bag and finished it off with pants from Target, cause it is just SO cool to mix and match with the big stores. Didn’t you get the memo?

  • typingelbow

    2006/11/14 at 11:10 am

    i think the stroller moms here map out exactly which subway stops offer elevator service. can’t wait to see your TV spot!

  • FeelinFroggy

    2006/11/14 at 11:13 am

    I had dream that when you came back from Chicago (I’m not sure why you were in Chicago), that you told Jon that you wanted to move there and he said okay. SO you are moving to Chicago, because Oprah needs someone new to latch onto. Maybe you could sit in on her interview with Britney Spears.

  • juliet

    2006/11/14 at 11:19 am

    none of those people nominated are pretty so i can’t possibly make an educated choice.

    but, I know that the one choosen will probably be nancy pelosi because she’s going to be the next president.

  • lawyerish

    2006/11/14 at 11:19 am

    I can confirm that living in Manhattan takes a lot of energy, although it is definitely more draining to be a visitor here than it is to live here. Keep in mind that the people who live here mostly reside on quiet residential streets, not in the frenzy of midtown, and some of us (thankfully) have elevators. To be honest, I think I have become fundamentally lazier having been here for almost ten years, because there’s a grocery store, a drug store, a deli, and a dry cleaner within fifty yards of my front door, and within a couple of blocks there’s a subway stop, a florist, a pet store, blah blah – you get my point. The thought of having to drive for twenty minutes just to pick up a Diet Coke? No. I would kill myself.

    As for your question, maybe GWB (stay with me! stay with me!), simply because he has made things bad enough for the Democrats to regain control of Congress. And undoubtedly he’s paving the way for a Dem to win the next presidential election. So, thanks, George. Thanks for making everything totally suck.

    I’d have worn my black Theory suit, but I have no doubt that if I’d been invited to some bigwig panel, whatever I wore would get spilled on or the pants would split the moment I walked on-set. Because that’s my life.

  • Deb Sawyer

    2006/11/14 at 11:13 am

    The girl in this news story should be person of the year:

    The only thing I can tell you about what I would wear is that I’m sure I would end up hating it.

  • bonkersmomof4

    2006/11/14 at 11:13 am

    I could not even believe that Kim Jong Ill will was on the list! Very very bad evil man! Wow.

    Can’t imagine what I would wear or who I would vote for, and I’m sure that I would also be the worst informed, fattest person there, which would pretty much keep me from saying anything.

    But I can’t wait to see it!

  • mania72

    2006/11/14 at 11:07 am

    No matter what I wore, or what genious person I thought to nominate… I would have sat in the room assuming I was the least informed, least fashionable, (and fattest) person there.

    Now I need to go call my therapist.

  • jeffeners

    2006/11/14 at 11:08 am

    Can I vote for a people instead of a person? I’d nominate the Amish folks whose daughters were murdered recently. In a time when organized religion has shown itself to be the divisive and oppressive force that it is, these people showed all that is divine in people (thanks, Tom Robbins).

  • DDM

    2006/11/14 at 11:08 am

    I don’t know who I would have chosen. At all. But I would have worn my Gap Outlet army green cords and black wool cable knit sweater with black slip on shoes. All purchased on clearance. Because it’s the only real ensemble I own that isn’t track pants and a hoodie.
    Can’t wait to see the piece!

  • sarahekite

    2006/11/14 at 11:08 am

    Booing? Hissing? Sounds like a typical New York day.

    And you’re right. Soledad O’Brien does not shit…ever.

  • Mike Driehorst

    2006/11/14 at 11:05 am

    “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.”

    Well, that’s why CNN invited you, Ms. Armstrong: To give some sort of reasonable, common-sense, Utah/Morman/S Cal/liberal balance!

    With your comment about Ms. O’Brien’s “What?” response to you, can’t wait to see what you actually said.
    — Mike
    (who is glad that your current whims are allowing comments!)

  • faustina

    2006/11/14 at 11:07 am

    I can’t wait to see it! I would be that nervous too, but what an amazing opportunity.

    I would say Ellen DeGeneres – I don’t know that she has done anything special this year opposed to others, but I know of no one who honestly just tries to make people happy and forget about all the crap that goes on every day in our world. I think she’s great.

  • Kevin Worthington

    2006/11/14 at 11:13 am

    K-Fed. No question.

  • faustina

    2006/11/14 at 11:08 am

    ah, I second Urs in Barack Obama

  • Teachbroeck

    2006/11/14 at 11:09 am

    Robin Williams
    A hooded sweatshirt from my school!

  • Urs

    2006/11/14 at 11:05 am

    i would have said barack obama because he’s just so
    i would have worn a black, sleevless turtleneck and a nude pencil skirt with killer heels.

  • Jill Shalvis

    2006/11/14 at 11:13 am

    As a novelist, all my clothes are sweats, so I’d have had an anxiety attack about the clothes alone. And since I have the fashion sense of a gnat, I’d have run to Target and hoped for the best.

    Oh, and my vote? For Heather Armstrong.

  • SaraSue

    2006/11/14 at 11:04 am

    Yikes! What a hot seat you were in, Mrs. Armstrong! I’m pretty sure I would have gone with Stephen Colbert! As for what I’d have worn…mmmm…NYC shopping!

    Can’t wait to see the interview!~

  • uppahand

    2006/11/14 at 11:04 am

    Emmit Smith.

  • sasha

    2006/11/14 at 11:12 am

    This is Sacha Baron Cohen’s year. I have tremendous admiration for his capacity to navigate the very edge of humor, journalism, and pissing people off.

    As for what to wear…I’m sure I would have concocted some version of my “uniform”…long flowy skirt (conceals my train-wreck-postpartum legs!) and layers of hippie goodness up top.

  • A.J. Axline

    2006/11/14 at 1:30 pm

    Person of the year: Jon Stewart.

    What I would have worn: a crotchless Mayor McCheese costume.

  • Rbelle

    2006/11/14 at 1:31 pm

    I actually DID one of those one time, and it was on BALANCING THE BUDGET. Mind you I was a college senior that could not balance her checkbook and had my phone at college cut off because my long distance bill was some ridiculous amount I could not pay. I was also president of the Student Government, and I guess that was how I was invited, but I felt like a little lost girl except I could not fly away. I have no idea what I wore, but I imagine it was my Navy blazer and khaki skirt that my mom bought me. Today I would prob. wear gray pants and a black turtleneck, and I would have picked Handy Manny. Seriously, that guy can do ANYTHING and he is bilingual AND he entertains my toddler.

  • Nefariousnina

    2006/11/14 at 1:18 pm

    I think we can all agree that Justin Timberlake is the Person of the Year. Love of God the man brought SEXY back. Is there any other choice?

  • Snickrsnack Katie

    2006/11/14 at 1:19 pm

    I meant to say John Stewart OR Stephen Colbert. See what a real brainiac I am? 🙂 Can’t wait to see what your pick was! (GO BRITNEY!)

  • Nefariousnina

    2006/11/14 at 1:19 pm

    Oh and also? I think I would have worn the “Vote or Die” P-Diddy original T-shirt. Seems fitting.

  • Lauren

    2006/11/14 at 1:22 pm

    I would have voted Ricky Martin, and gone naked; at least it’ll put everyone elses minds at rest about what the hell they look like..

    ..I don’t know why I chose Ricky Martin.

  • Hedder

    2006/11/14 at 1:22 pm

    I’m looking for funny parenting stories, like this one out of California:

    If you can top that, please do!
    Heather Wallace
    Senior Editor
    Orato Media Corp.

  • Gisele

    2006/11/14 at 1:28 pm

    That is a really hard question. Especially with the news these days being so twisted – we don’t hear about some of the great things people are doing. My choice probably would have been Angelina Jolie and/or Brad Pitt.. they are both pro-active people, who make decisions on what is right and then make a move.. and most of the time, it seems, they are right. They seem genuinely concerned with the good of everyone, everything. They give. They get involved. They get others interested in doing the same. And they’re both gorgeous, and probably wonderful parents.

    I probably would have done a little bit of shopping in NYC to pick out an outfit. Khaki pants and a sweater sounds good.. with heels or boots. Of course I would have considered also a skirt with a nice top or a casual, but pretty, knee-length dress. I don’t rule any style out – consider them all and pick the best.

  • rikki

    2006/11/14 at 1:17 pm

    I would have said Stephen Colbert because of his performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. And I’d wear my leopard print corduroy jacket because it’s professional, but not really professional.

  • mediadiva

    2006/11/14 at 1:18 pm

    If anyone else mentions the You Tube guy I will seriously go mental. It’s not earth shattering AT ALL!!! It was just a matter of time once, and something that required more people to have high-speed internet (40% of the US Families now I believe). Social internet sites have been around for years! MANY YEARS! It’s not a new invention!

    Seriously, annoys me. The guy who invented wikipedia, now that’s someone who I could see being nominated, because atleast it has a better concept driving it.

    I would have gone out to bebe and bought a totally hot outfit, black pants, high heeled fancy shoes, and a pretty top (not sleeveless) that wouldn’t show sweat!!

  • Snickrsnack Katie

    2006/11/14 at 1:17 pm

    Well, let’s see. It certainly would NOT have been George Bush, and if any of those political brainiacs even brought up that name I hope you clubbed them over the head with your Mervin’s two-fer-one shoes. Being from Texas, I could say Kinky Freidman, but that would just be wrong on so many levels, and really – I can almost guaran-freaking-tee you there will never be a person of the year with a sexual adjective for a first name. John Stewart of Stephen Colbert would be nice to see, but I still can’t say that would be my definitive pick. That is a really loaded question! You can only imagine how articulate I would be in that situation “Uh, DURRRRR, maybe Jerry Springer? Cuz he danced with his blind daughter on Dancing with the Stars”? Yeah, thank God CNN didn’t call me.

    As to what I would wear, I think some of those cute skinny pants they are selling at the Gap would be really adorable. I mean, really – if it worked for Audrey Hepburn, it should be good enough for CNN!

    Can’t wait to see you on tv!!! I’ll be in NYC this weekend – just missed you! hmmph!

  • Karan

    2006/11/14 at 1:08 pm

    Oprah unless of course y’all picked some recent dead guy like Ed Bradley

  • rivervision

    2006/11/14 at 1:09 pm

    i nominate any parent who has lost their child to a terminal illness. or any primary caregiver of someone with a terminal illness. i’m not interested in politicians or celebs. i’m interested in those who don’t get recognized. who’s daily trials are met with no great fanfare. who’s daily trials are just that – daily trials that they trudge through, hoping that the next day will be better, or maybe even simply hoping it won’t be worse.

  • Christina

    2006/11/14 at 1:02 pm

    I would have worn my wedding dress. And then said that I am the person of the year. For the reaction, of course…

  • kristinwhatever

    2006/11/14 at 1:04 pm

    hmmm… this just in: soledad got beat on Celebrity Jeopardy by a guy who does voices for “the simpsons.” she is not, it would appear, all knowing. but still very likeable :~)

    sorry if this is spoiler info for all the jeopardy watchers.

  • kjc

    2006/11/14 at 1:04 pm

    As to what to wear… clueless. I would think everything made me look fat.

    Person on the year… George W. Bush. And NOT in a GOP way. He was the most influential because of his lies, ineptness, lies, stupidity, lies and more lies. Did I mention the LIES. This country began to see the light and has voted in a Democratic Senate and Congress.

    A “good guy” choice would be Michael J. Fox… for standing up and showing us the face of a disease. Standing up to the ridicule and cruelty of naysayers. For standing up something he believes in, not just for himself, but for everyone with a disease that could be cured by stem-cell research.

  • Bucky Four-Eyes

    2006/11/14 at 1:13 pm

    I totally get your reluctance to be in a situation where your immediate words and thoughts are heard, uncensored, by other people. That’s why I much prefer teaching online to teaching in a physical classroom – less chance my students will realize what an idiot I am!

    Now, for person of the year…I’m sorry, I’m shallow and wouldn’t pick anyone political. But I would be torn between Sacha Baron Cohen, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Sedaris. I like to laugh, people.

    Although, really, I think Bettie Page should be person of the year every year.

    As for attire? I think I would have to go with a black fishnet body stocking, black Docs, and pasties made from aluminum foil spray painted black. With a funnel on my head. I almost added black lace fingerless gloves, but that would be just beyond the limits of good taste.

  • Caloden

    2006/11/14 at 1:07 pm

    The sad truth is that I have spent the better part of 2006 hiding from the world. We rarely turn on the television and I don’t read newspapers. If it isn’t a Yahoo headline, I likely haven’t the foggiest idea. And even then? I would have to make the effort to click on the headline. And that’s not gonna happen. Sluggish, ego-centric American? Guess so.

    As for the outfit? Nothing beats a pair of Gap khakis. What’s a girl to do?

  • Toyfoto

    2006/11/14 at 12:58 pm

    I probably would have said Brangelina or some amalgam of stars who are fighting for causes. Simply because while the “legitimate” newsmakers are idly sitting by making wars and cuts in social spending, they are using their clout, taking jabs for diletantism (word? No?) but doing something all the same.

    I would have looked terrible no matter what I wore. I also wouldn’t have been able to comb through my hair.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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