It was 8AM when a got a call from New York. I was in my office writing.
“This is Barbara from Good Morning America. We’d like to do a segment on your essay in the Washington Post.”
One week earlier I published an essay title “I Used To Blame My Wife For Our Messy House, I Was Wrong For Many Reasons.” It was about a transition in my marriage five years earlier, when Mel became a stay at home mom. We were both 25, and I made the knee jerk assumption that she had one job to do: care for the home. We had an argument, and Mel said, “Sometimes it comes down between cleaning the house, and taking Tristan and Norah to the park…” She listed a few more this or that situations, and suddenly I realized that this wasn’t her mess, it was ours. The essay went viral, and I suppose the crazy thing about it was that I wrote it at 6AM on paternity leave. I was half awake, writing at McDonalds because it was the only place open at that time in Small Town Oregon. When I finished it, I thought, "Well, this is okay."
I didn’t post it for a long time because I didn’t think it was saying anything new, but finally I needed content. I posted it on my blog and nobody cared. It wasn’t until I re-shared it a month later that people started getting excited. I didn’t understand their excitement, but I ran with it. I sent it to the Washington Post, and suddenly it was in the top most read articles on their main page for five days. It was republished in Singapore, Australia, The Chicago Tribune, and so many local papers that I lost count.
And now, I was getting a call from Good Morning America.
I didn’t say anything to Barbara for a moment. Mostly because I was trying to take this all in. Which means I was trying not to let it all out. Which means I was about to puke. I felt a hard knot in my gut the second she mentioned Good Morning America. It was a mix of anxiety and excitement that was rich and strong and something I couldn’t fully wrap my head around.
Eventually I said the obvious, “Sure.” I said, “When are you thinking?”
Barbara had a chipper voice. She was enthusiastic, and friendly, and yet I felt a strong mistrust of her and this situation, and I think it’s because I’m from a rural farm town, and currently live in a rural farm town, and maybe I subconsciously I assume that New York producers can’t be trusted. Or perhaps it all seemed too good to be true. I’d spent years going unnoticed as an author, and this kind of exposure seemed like something from a dream.
She told me that they wanted to send a camera crew over to my house later that day, they wanted to talk to Mel and myself, and that the show would air the next morning.
I didn’t know how to respond to this. It was very fast, so I decided to be honest. It’s both my strength and weakness, and in situations like this, I tend to really wear it on my shoulder.
“Barbara,” I said. “I am going to be honest here. This is both scary and wonderful, and it is happening very fast. I’m kind of a small town guy. I mean, I’m just some dad that writes in the morning. I’m a little boring to be on TV, but I suppose that isn’t the point. I’ve never gotten a call from Good Morning America before, but I have to assume that you’ve made a few calls on their behalf, so would you mind helping me feel better about all this.”
Surprisingly she laughed, and said, “Absolutely.”
I went on, asking her if this story was going to be negative or positive. (This was my biggest concern.)Was there a spin? Would I get hate mail? How long would they be at my house? Should I be nervous? Can I trust her answers? I asked a bunch of questions to try and make myself feel better, more confident, and less suspicious, and I must say that Barbara cheerfully answered all of them. Then we set up a time for the cameraman to stop by, 4:30 PM.
“This all depends on my wife,” I said. “She needs to be willing, too. I hope you understand.”
“Absolutely,” Barbara said.
I called Mel. She was just getting up. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be okay with all this. She’s the kind of person that gets really nervous in front of small crowds. However, this wasn’t a small crowd of people, it was national TV. “They want to speak with both of us,” I said. “Are you okay with that?”
She didn’t think about it very long. “Yes. I’m fine with it.”
I was shocked.
I told a few co-workers. I felt anxious. I called my mother, like I often do in situations like this, and she asked if I was going to be paid, “I don’t know,” I said. “ I didn’t ask that question.”
“You need to ask stuff like that,” she said, sternly.
And then I took the day off from work, went home, and started cleaning.
I so wanted to leave my house as is. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to expect, and there was still this deep fear inside of me that this was all a set up, some crazy move by Good Morning America, a show I’d probably seen three times in my whole life, to make me look like a fool. I kept running this ridiculous narrative through my mind of them storming into my house with cameras and lights to have a deep investigation of my messy house. They would look in our bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, pantry, and so on. Then they would deem us to be unfit parents. And when I think about the way my mind raced, it all seems very vain and ridiculous.
Mel said, “I don’t think you need to clean. We’re showing them our messy house.” I was very open in my essay about the way our house looked, but when it came to having a camera crew wandering around my living room, looking at our home, the real thing, I felt rich embarrassment.
In true Mel fashion, she took the kids school shopping as if it were just a normal day, while I stayed at home and hid the evidence of our real life.
I’m not proud of this. And if I were to go back and do it again, I’d probably have left the clutter on the kitchen table and on the kitchen counter. I’d have left the toys in the living room.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.