To be celebrated

In the obstetrician’s office this morning (just a shot so no news to report), I was struck as usual by the variety of pregnancy magazines. One in particular had a rather thin pregnant woman on the cover and I couldn’t help it. Suddenly a very nasty thought occurred to me. You all aren’t normally subject to the vileness of the language in my head, but I could only express the feeling as such, “J****S F****G CHR**T, am I going to see Nicole Richie on the cover of one of these magazines sometime soon?” Bon wrote a much more charitable post earlier today than I will. She felt bad about the vitriol she felt towards Richie – the inner desire to see something go wrong. I can’t actually bring myself to write what that would be but you all know what I mean. I also can’t bring myself to feel bad for having felt the same thing.

I’m confused by it. I understand the marketing behind celebrity. I understand the mechanics of its circulation. I understand on a basic level the mass fascination with celebrity narratives – with human interest stories in general. I understand it historically. By now, I have written hundreds of pages on it in a much earlier iteration. I understand that Nicole Richie is both real and not real. I know that it’s the not real Nicole Richie that I wish unkind things upon. And therein lies the source of my cognitive and moral dissonance.

Such is the confusion of celebrity. Certainly we see celebrities engage in atrocious behavior. There are consequences for that. There’s no possible way they escape them. We see it on some level – 82 minute prison terms, bitter divorces, overdoses. We can imagine some of them are bitterly unhappy. Yet the narrative of celebrity problems brings the happy ending too quickly. Nicole Richie drove drunk and high in January. Nicole Richie was until very recently so very thin that the world was surprised she could even ovulate. Nicole Richie and her child’s father supposedly broke up months ago. Now she’s a glowingly pregnant woman and all of those problems are behind her. She’s even engaged! I suppose all of this somehow contains a lesson in positive thinking for all of us. Bullshit.

Instead it pretendts that dangerous behavior and possibly even eating disorders can be overcome between magazine issues.

It’s the narrative that grates me. Maybe Nicole Richie’s pregnancy will be fine. Maybe her baby will be fine. Maybe (haha) she and her boyfriend will get married and stay together forever. Why should anyone celebrate with her? It’s an obstetrician’s nightmare. It wouldn’t work out well for most people – no matter how celebrated they are by the media. If we’re going to hear about this pregnancy at all (and of course it’s easy to say we shouldn’t), it is irresponsible for anyone to discuss it otherwise. For the real baby and families involved, I hope it will work out well. I hope the baby will go to term and not have any disabilities as a result of its mother’s behavior. I’m glad it will have access to great health care.

For the not real Nicole Richie, however, I want the pregnancy to be the disaster it may well be behind closed doors. I want a discussion of how children and pregnancy are not just tabloid fodder. I want acknowledgment that bad things happen to bad parents and good parents. I want realism, not romance.

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10 responses to “To be celebrated

  1. I had no idea that Nicole Ritchie was pregnant, but I agree that the whole thing is pretty messed-up. And, as a former anorexic who still can’t ovulate despite having gained back the weight, I am totally pissed off!

  2. Well that certainly sucks, Em. I know it can take a long time for progesterone and estrogen to return to functional levels, but it seems you’ve been at a healthy weight long enough.

  3. I said something similar over at Bon’s, but this kind of puzzles me. It’s a failure of imagination on my part. I don’t have any feelings whatsoever about Nicole Richie or any other celebrity. I can’t think of anything that a celebrity could do that I would care about in the least. So it’s hard for me to understand why anyone else would care.

  4. I thought you might say that, Niobe. It’s not that we care about Nicole Richie or what she does. It’s the creation of a popular mythology that reflects values very different from ours. And while you may not care, millions of people – especially women – do. I’m not sure whether she still does, but my much younger sister-in-law very much admired Paris Hilton a few years ago. Why is too complicated to address here. So that and other academic reasons are why I care.

    If I can be my own particular type of nerd for the moment, I’d recommend Richard Schickel’s Intimate Strangers, Leon Braudy’s The Frenzy of Renown, or Boorstin’s The Image: a Guide to Pseudoevents.

  5. I understand a bit of this sentiment. I always feel a lot of anger toward people like Nicole – who abuse everything and flaunt all advice and have a swimmingly smooth pregnancy. I know it is wrong and uncharitable, and I feel a great deal of guilt over it – but I just can’t seem to help myself. Of course I would never REALLY wish anyone (or their baby) ill, and I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through (or even more what you went through), but I can’t help it that it rankles.

  6. I understand. It’s not that I personally care about Nicole Richie, either her celebrity status, or her *real* self, whatever that may consist of. It’s knowing that others do, and the image she, and others like her, constantly feed to the world. An image that self-destructive behavior is ultimately actually not very self-destructive at all. You can change on a whim, and turn your life around on a dime. You can be one thing one day, and the exact opposite the next, without any ramifications whatsoever. It’s the image, and the message, and the fact that it is crammed down our, and our children’s throats, in a hundred different ways every day.

    And even though it doesn’t make any sense at all, it does hurt for me to see so many celebrities effortlessly conceive and carry twins to term. I can’t explain why, it just does.

  7. Yeah, I don’t give two ticks about Nicole Ritchie, but it does bother me that you can be a recovering heroin addict, who drives drunk one minute and then be effortlessly pregnant the next.

    It just seems, to me, that somehow celebrities are immune from having anything bad happen during their pregnancies and that they all conceive effortlessly (opps, it was an accident!) Of course, I know some of them must have had a hard time. I appreciate it when they are honest about it and come out and say, yes we had fertility issues. I think it helps a lot of women and I also think that it helps dispel that myth, that nothing bad ever happens when you are a celebrity. There are a few of them that have had still births too–we just don’t hear a lot about it.

    And as for the conceiving twins effortlessly, that Lori mentioned…I think that most of those twin pregnancies we hear of are IVF twins, and I bet a lot of them are donor eggs. That bothers me too, because regular women think they can conceive twins naturally at 47, and it’s pretty darn unlikely. And I also think that the reason they carry twins to term without problems, is because they are getting high risk care, because of their celebrity. That being said, it does bother me to see the celebrities with their twins, too.

  8. I am with you about the danger of filling pages and issues about a single case which is likely to be an extreme outlier. I am also rather uneasy about the danger of seemingly celebrating pregnancy as a cure for bad behavior, or the suggestion that one who has been behaving so bad for so long can in fact turn on a dime, or on a positive pee test, as the case may be. We never see the supporting players– either the nutritional counselor who I am sure was at her side for weeks on end, or the drug counselor who was keeping those two company. And how many ultrasounds is she getting a week? To watch for IUGR and other issues? If the articles talked about how to give everyone that level of care, that’d be one thing. But usually the women who can’t straighten themselves out are presented as “so sad” at best and “what a complete criminal” in general. And there is no discussion that the only difference between the cases is the amount of money in one’s bank account. Which is probably why I can’t be bothered with celebrity news.

  9. I still have a lot of anger and jealousy about losing Jimmy. It clouds all of my reactions to others’ news about being pregnant. If you are not infertile or you haven’t had a loss, chances are I will quietly seethe and judge you “not worthy” to be pregnant. It’s one of the things I’m working on (one on a very long list). So when spoiled media types who engage in risky behavior suddenly “fall” pregnant, it’s all I can do not to bang my head against a wall. However, this is my problem and NOT a media problem. But yes, I agree that her pregnancy is celebrated as a “cure” for her anorexia, alcohol and drug issues, and her partying ways. The media is somewhat irresponsible for not going deeper into this issue of her drug use and her behavior. Let’s face it, a low-income mother does this and CPS investigates, people whisper… People just love babies and pregnancies and that sells copies. It’s sorta like the multiples gaga googoo. A couple who live near me who already have a boy and a girl conceived quints after using fertility treatments. Oh, did I mention they are younger than me? (But then so many people are..) I find that to be irresponsible on the part of the OB. However, just recently has the media began to address this issue. Before it was all lace and rattles. You’d never read anything negative about multiples. Perhaps this may happen with the way media handles other celeb. pregnancies. In the end, I wish Nicole luck. I just won’t be buying any magazines with her on the cover.

  10. Totally. I agree with everyone. I’d love to see the situation Julia and Meg describe – let’s have a real public discussion about the incredible risks here and how medical professionals are stepping in to help. And a real public discussion about multiple pregnancies – but in a way that doesn’t attack the parents who’ve chosen fertility treatments.

    It’s difficult, Monica, because like you I have anger and jealousy about losing Natan. I could go on and on about how carefully and thoroughly we prepared for a healthy pregnancy. And it’s going to take even more time before I get beyond those feelings (if ever). Yet my annoyance at the Richie thing comes from somewhere else. I certainly wouldn’t care so much if some more positive public figure, I don’t know enough to say who, got pregnant. Although I’m sick in general of celebrity pregnancy for the farce that it is.

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