Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.

  • obama, obama, obama
    and obama.

    or colbert, because he makes me snicker.

    and you’re right, Soledad O’Brien is a femme-bot. She can’t be human.

  • Blue.

    I’m Canadian, and I find that these things are often American-centric. However, my first thought was Donald Rumsfeld… You can’t argue that he’s certainly made an “impact”.

    Reading all of these comments, though, simply makes me feel stupid. I don’t know who half these people (nominated by others) are. Dooce, I would’ve joined you by being the little fat pinky finger in your entourage. No doubt I would have worn something totally inappropriate — pink and fuzzy with killer high heels that I could’t afford.

  • Urs nailed the wardrobe. Black turtleneck, camel pencil skirt, killer heels.

    I’d nominate “The Blogger” or “The American Mother” – because there are some moms around who have done amazing things this year — or endured the unbelievable. Or? The Blogging Mother.

  • Hello Heather, this is Chris Mohney. It was a pleasure to meet you at CNN, and while I am male, it hurts me deeply to be called a “political blogger.” I only blog about politics when it involves politicians getting inappropriately naked. That aside, would love to see the photos you took while we were in the studio. Between your awesome camera and Steve Clemons’ obsessive laptop checking, I felt very inadequate, gadget-wise.

  • Cara

    I haven’t had time to read through all your comments, so these may have already been suggested. When I think person of the year, I think someone who not only greatly influenced the media, but also was a GOOD influence on the world in general. My two top picks for 2006 would be Angelina Jolie and Bono for reasons that are pretty self explanatory. I think the emence human suffering going on in Africa was really brought to light by the media this year. Angelina and Bono have both been a huge influence on that exposure.

    I did read a few comments and saw that someone had suggested GWB for his negative influences. I agree that he has definitely had the most negative influence of any human walking this Earth. But, IMO, he doesn’t deserve any recognition, even if negative.

    Glad to hear your trip went well and I can’t wait to hear who you suggested!

  • Well, for me it’s a toss-up.

    Colin Powell. For anyone that knows me, the fact that he’s a Republican and I picked him anyway should speak volumes. It was very dramatic the way that he stepped down and his very obvious reasons for doing so. It was a symbolic smackdown to the Bush administration, and to see it delivered by one of their own totally rocked.

    Dana Reeve. To the end, she was a classy lady with neverending strength. She showed us all that even when her future seemed full of doom, she could still carry on with incredible grace and dignity. And she didn’t just “live”, she inspired change and lobbied Congress.

  • What kind of year has it been when it’s so difficult to come up with someone who’s really made an impact, good or bad? I do like the suggestion of the Amish in Pennsylvania though. If more of the world followed that example, we wouldn’t have half of the problems we have now.

    What to wear? Ugh. I can’t think of a single article of clothing in my closet that I would be comfortable wearing on national television and in front of the beautiful Soledad O’Brien. I would definitely have to make a special shopping trip for something way too expensive that I would never end up wearing again.

  • Person of the year is a tough one. And that’s kind of a big deal that you were asked to contribute… congratulations! And also…yay for not saying Britney although I think if we’re going to nominate her we shouldn’t forget Whitney Houston as she, also, dropped some marital dead weight…

    But I think my vote goes to Bob Woodruff. The ABC News Anchor who was injured so horribly in Iraq and is recovering so well. He’s kind of incredible, I think!

    As for what I would wear…I think a suit made netirely of that green screen color that disappears so I would just be a floating head. Either that or a black suit. You know…because black is slimming. And more normal than a green screen suit.

  • Anu

    I think Iranian President Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong II because they have the capability of making a BIG difference in a really bad way. As for my outfit, I would have dressed business casual…maybe pants that I bought in Express paired with a nice shirt. However, I think you have to represent who you are and in that sense I think you were well dressed. You look good in anything so don’t worry about it.

  • VeddyVeddyBadAng

    Damn, am I the only conservative that reads this blog?

    Jim Gaffigan said that raising a baby in NYC was like carrying a bowling ball around with you wherever you go.

  • Marie from Paris

    I’ll join the Stewart/Colbert camp as well! I was thrilled to death last year seeing Bono be chosen. I love, love, LOVE him!!

    I’m a Texan, so I guess I would’ve worn Wrangler jeans, Cowboy boots and a Cowboy hat. Nothing else.

  • David Suzuki
    http://www.davidsuzuki.org/
    Anyone who tries to teach people to respect our planet gets my vote. Especially since a lot of us turn a blind eye to what we are doing to our environment.

  • skippy delight

    I’m on the Warren Buffet bandwagon because I think he’s good example in so many ways.

    And then there’s GW Bush, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld who have so perfectly illustrated that when you can’t be a good example you can still serve as a horrible warning.

    I would’ve worn anything that would hold my stomach in and not give me a muffin top.

    And bad ass, looking awesome when sitting down, though probably impossible to walk in, shoes.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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!
    Jen

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 🙂

  • I checked out the options at time.com 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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?!

  • 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…

  • 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. 😉

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Gelfmom

    Do dogs count as Person of the Year?

    I vote for CHUCK!!!

  • Oprah, but I always would say that. I was trying to think of someone who did a lot for Hurricane Katrina victims. I think I’d have worn something close to what you did but I definitely would have worn BLACK.

  • Amy

    Heather – you have described my life as a mom in NYC. Little things I use to take for granted when I was single suddenly become a true pain in the ass when lugging a 2 year old and all her stuff out the door just go to and play at the park! There are times I’m ready to give it all up to go back to Utah where homes have garages, washers and dryers, and four little steps to the front door. But on the other side, you can order all groceries via Fresh Direct, have food from any restaurant delivered and can always drop off the laundry!

    As for person of the year… can’t think of anyone. I’m sad about this.

  • wrensuicide

    I can’t say who I would have chosen, but I can say I would have worn something that exposed my tattooed cleavage. Soledad O’Brien is spectacular and seems so unflappable I would have done my damndest to try.

  • DravenStele

    There are so many people to choose from for Person of the Year…

    Tom Cruise would have been the most talked about with Suri, TomKat, the killing of his contract, the new contract, the South Park incident, the left over couchiness.

    Politically, we were all over the board this year with John Stewart, Obama, Foley, Karl Rove, Cheney shooting some guy, the midterms, heck even the Governator.

    Tech-wise, YouTube was probably the biggest, although Xbox 360, Core Duo processors, Mac going the route of Intel chips and the nearness of Vista being released.

    Who the heck do you choose from all those and many momre?!

    I would choose the cheerleader from Heroes cause, of course, “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World!”

    p.s. I would have worn my black Lee Denim Carpenter pants with Harley boots and suede blazer. It’s my comfy outfit and, when dealing with CNN and not being able to afford Brooks Brothers or Armani, go comfy!

  • Barack Obama.

  • Bono. And then when asked why, I would have yammered on incomprehensibly. But I would have looked smashing in my favorite pair of black Ann Taylor slacks and a sweater that made it appear like I really do have boobs.

  • CeruleanBleu

    ok.. the attire.. I’d definitely go with something that had cleavage, b/c if I sounded like a horse’s ass, I’d have an out, and if I sounded brilliant, I’d come off as super intelligent CIA material (not really, but it sounds good…)…

    As for P.O.T.Y…, let’s see… Simply because they never get enough press and attention, why not go for the double whammy and say Brangelina… I mean, they are as one, right???

    anywho, enjoy the posts regularly… keep writing!!!

  • VenturaMom

    Rep. John Murtha would get my vote. He pushed W hard re: the war in Iraq and helped start the ball rolling for change in both the House & Senate. He is my current “hot old guy politician.”

    As for clothing…anything that would take 40 pounds off. Maybe a lovely plain chocolate shirt and amazing earrings.

  • pmlundg

    Not everyone in NY wears black. Last time I wore jeans, a button up, and a sweater. All of them had color. And if you made it to any of the fun bars in the village you’d have seen everyone in jeans as well. So jeans, shirt, and jacket for Soledad. For Larry King I’d have added a scarf or ascot.

    As for the person of the year I’d have said something stupid like Star Jones, but I’d really have meant the Gates Family, or Bill Clinton for making that bone-head reporter from fox look stupid. It made me all warm inside.

  • First of all, I am sorry but I do not know who Soledad O’Brien is. But she certainly does look perfect in her photo at her entry at Wikipedia.

    Secondly, when I read this: “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.” — my first thought was — “Legally Blonde”! I love the scene where the first year law students are sitting on the lawn talking about their achievements before they got to Harvard law school. “De-worming orphans” and “good times”. Cracks me up every time.

    Thirdly, for person of the year, what about Carsten Juste, the editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Poste, who published those cartoons about the prophet? It started in 2005 but dragged on into 2006.

    As for what to wear, something simple but elegant, sort of Hepburn (Audrey or Katherine). The best I can do is “tailored” but you could pull off a Hepburn.

  • Esmter

    the whole wardrobe thing would have thrown me for a loop too – especially as the only chick on the panel! as said before, you can’t go wrong with a black turtleneck, and some fabulous menswear wide legged trousers and great boots.

    person of the year – i thought stephen colbert, then sascha barret cohen – then realized the guy whose opinions and insights i always look forward to are those made by Keith Olbermann. His take on the US and world politics is fascinating.