Really? They Threw Him a Party?

August 2nd, 2013

So we’ve been binge-watching the new Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, which takes place mostly in a women’s prison. It’s unabashedly raunchy, contains boatloads of lesbian sex and four-letter words, and careens back and forth in time. People commit crimes, betray one another, see mysterious chickens behind prison walls, and sacrifice their ethics for a donut. It’s a wild ride–and one I’m enjoying–but they almost lost me with the episode I watched last night. It’s not that it wasn’t entertaining, it’s just that they strained my ability to suspend disbelief with a plot line so exaggerated, so ridiculous, so over-the-top unbelievable that I found it hard to keep watching.

The main character’s fiance gets a piece published in the New York Times and his friends throw him a party.

Are they serious? I mean, are they FREAKIN’ SERIOUS?

I’ll admit I can’t judge the accuracy or veracity of the rest of the show: I’ve never been to prison, either as an inmate or a visitor. It feels kind of real to me with, admittedly, some aspects obviously exaggerated for humor, pathos, and to entice the kind of viewer who watches Game of Thrones for the gratuitous whorehouse scenes. But I can speak to the accuracy of this one specific storyline since I once had a piece published in the Modern Love weekly column in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times–the exact same column the fiance’s piece is published in.

Look at him, all proud and everything

Look at him, all proud and everything

And, um . . . no one threw me a party.

I remember because I happened to be having breakfast with some friends the morning the piece appeared. Someone had a copy of that day’s New York Times with her, I pointed out my byline in it, my friends congratulated me and then we . . . ate breakfast.

Maybe I just hang with the wrong crowd. Maybe I should get some new friends. It would be nice to have someone make a huge fuss over me every time I get my name in print somewhere. Like when I had that piece in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago–clearly the right kind of friend–a TV world friend–would have instantly started making pigs in blankets and mixing margaritas. Instead all I got for my hard work was a bunch of emails saying, “Nice article. How’re the kids?”

But I don’t know. If I found some friends who threw parties every time one of us accomplished anything in our chosen careers, then I’d constantly have to go out at night to celebrate, and if you know me at all, you know there’s nothing I resent more than having to leave my house after dark. Unless I’m the one being honored, of course. After a while, the “Come on, we’re all going to TGIFridays to celebrate Brenna’s new Etsy store!” might get a little old.

So let’s forget the friends. I just want a newspaper salesman like the one in last night’s Orange Is the New Black, who, upon hearing that the fiance had a piece in the newspaper he was buying, excitedly called to his co-worker to come out and meet the Guy Who Had an Article in the Sunday Times! Woo-hoo! What a big day for those newspaper sellers! Those newspaper sellers who live in New York City, where–at least in my experience–every other person I pass on the sidewalk is more famous, more successful, and more published than I am. I expected the camera to pan out and show Woody Allen and Joan Didion patiently waiting in line to buy their Sunday papers while these sellers clapped the fiance on the back and told him how thrilled they were to meet him.

All of which reminds me of the time my first novel was published and I found myself in Manhattan. I was passing a bookstore and whoever I was with said to me that I should go in and offer to sign copies of my books. So I went in, found a salesperson, somewhat proudly announced I had a new book out and was willing to sign some copies for them. The young man heaved a deep, longsuffering sigh and slouched across the store floor to find the two copies they were stocking, which he tossed at me with an impatient “Here, sign them if you want.”  I sheepishly autographed the books and slunk out again.

And that, my friends, is how New Yorkers really treat published authors.