Read Reality Jane Online

Authors: Shannon Nering

Reality Jane

SHANNON NERING

Copyright 2011 Shannon Nering.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by electronic means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote passages in a review.

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cover Design: Steve Parke, Image Carnival

Cover Model Photo: Josh Moody

Cover Model: Cea Person

Interior Design: Tracy Copes

Author Photo: Josh Moody

Published by Bancroft Press

“Books that Enlighten”

800-637-7377

P.O. Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209

410-764-1967 (fax)

www.bancroftpress.com

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011907214

ISBN 978-1-61088-027-5 Hardccover

ISBN 978-1-61088-028-2 Paperback

Printed in the United States of America

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

SIX MONTHS LATER

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

FOUR MONTHS LATER

Chapter 23

About the Author

To Josh and my mom.

T
oday, and only for a day, I planned to make a seven-year-old girl named Madeline my best friend.

She was adorable—a sweet young thing with a mother genuinely worried about her health. Barely through kinder-garten and already considered obese, Madeline loved to eat. And it showed. She was undeniably fat.

Normally, growing up a wheat-fed prairie girl, I could relate. But at this particular juncture, I was the skinniest I had ever been, like Twiggy skinny minus the purple pea coat. The
Fix Your Life
show “Airplane Diet” had done the trick—I was nearing starvation.

Genius, really. I was completely denied access to food because my directing career had me air-bound 22/6, squeezed into economy class, tummy grumbling, praying for a pretzel. I did, however, get to indulge in bottomless cups of chicory-roasted coffee, brewed in the sky’s finest tap water, served up in a totally anti-eco Styrofoam cup. Nervously chewing the rim provided a stress-busting burst of foamy Polystyrene in my mouth. Always fun after my morning fondle by airport security (which I was strangely beginning to enjoy, and probably the real reason I declined the Rapiscan), en route to produce the next great talk show vignette about yet another American family in crisis.

Ah, the glamorous life!

But this was precisely what I’d signed on for. I was reality TV’s current “It Girl,” at my peak, a star producer on the legendary
Fix Your Life
talk show with Ricky Dean. My life was like a tampon commercial:
She can do it all!
Rushing around in trendy clothes and a sensible haircut, commuting daily with a
laptop in my clutch, able to leap tall buildings while capturing America’s problems one
glue-’em-to-the-tube
interview at a time—my generation’s Diane Sawyer and everything I ever wanted to be.

Today, they told me my job was simple: Get a seven-year-old girl to unveil her greatest fear on national television—that her mommy didn’t love her—because she was fat. Somewhere deep in my Canadian prairie girl soul, this didn’t seem right. But that girl was lost. I was a producer on a mission.

Job one: build trust.

Job two: make her my friend—my best friend.

Job three: make her talk.

As I sat on the carpet with Mr. Teddy in hand, little Madeline waddled into the room, her lips in a pout. My cameraman and soundman stood poised to record. All eyes were on this young girl as she sat down on the corner of the rug surrounded by mega-watt lights, foreboding metal tripods, and overlapping cable—her living room morphed into a bonafide television studio. Folding her knees into her chest, she looked utterly helpless.

I quickly reviewed the notes from my senior producer:

She must say, “My mommy likes my cousin better than me because she’s skinny.” Preferably crying (see notes from pre-interview). Have her say it to camera! CALL ME if she doesn’t.

“Now Madeline, this won’t be hard.” I had gotten good at lying. I had also gotten good at getting what I needed. “I just want to ask you a few questions about your mom and you and why your mom is worried about you. Do you know why we’re here?”

“Yes,” she mumbled, hugging her dinosaur.

“Then you know we’re here to help. And you’re going to be on national TV, and it’s going to be a really
great
experience,” I said, nearly choking as I droned the party line.

“Okay,” she burbled.

I motioned to my cameraman to make sure he was rolling.
“Let’s start with your favorite foods. What are they?”

“Broccoli, carrots. . .” she rattled off while looking down at her dinosaur. We had a perfectly framed shot of her forehead.

“Please look up, sweetie.” I gently nudged her chin upwards so I could see her eyes. “You’re so pretty,” I gushed. “We don’t want to hide that pretty face of yours. Now, broccoli? Really?” I said in my most syrupy voice. “I like those foods too, sometimes, but I also really like chocolate and cookies. How ‘bout you?”

Nothing.

“What? I can’t hear you. Just a little louder.” I felt my eyebrows climbing up my forehead as I forced my face into a silly grimace, like Elmo or Barney, or a birthday clown gone wrong.

Still nothing.

“Can you say it in a sentence? You know, like, ‘My. . . favorite. . . sweets. . . are. . . ’” I rolled my hands as if that might help.

“My sweets chocolate.”

“No, you need to say ‘favorite’ in a sentence, and then give me a list.” My eyes were so wide and hopeful that my eyebrows were now scraping my hairline. “I just love all that stuff too. Let’s talk about it. Tell me
all
your favorites.”

Fifteen minutes had passed and I’d barely gotten a usable sentence out of her. I had to try harder. I had to get the story. I had to—for my promotion, for my career.

I continued with renewed enthusiasm: “Do kids make fun of you at school?”

“Yes.” Madeline again glanced downward.

“What do they say?” I was making headway.

“They”. . .
sniff
. . . “call”. . .
sniff
. . . “me”. . .
sniff
. . . “hip-po.”

Still barely audible.

“I’m sorry, Madeline. I can’t hear you. I know this is hard. Just please tell me, what do they say?” I forced a crooked smile.

“They”. . .
sniff, sniff
. . . “call”. . .
sniff, sniff, swallow
. . . “me”. . .
sniff
. . . “hip-po.”
Swallow, sniff, sniff.

Even less audible this time, and now the tears had begun. My eyebrows dropped down into the folds of my eyelids. This was not fun. And this was certainly not what I’d thought I’d
need to do to join the ranks of young, upwardly mobile (as in jet propelled) Hollywood producers. For some reason, that didn’t stop me.

“How do they say it? Are they mean? I don’t like them either. What words do they use?” Desperate for a decent sound-bite, the sub-human uber-producer in me had taken over my brain.

“They”. . .
sniff, blubber, blubber, sniff, something totally unintelligible
. . . “po.”

Madeline’s tears now came down in torrents—at least she (and I) had the
crying
part down. We stopped camera to get a box of tissues. As I reached forward to wipe her innocent face and chubby little cheeks, her sniffles got louder. Tiny white fragments of tissue stuck to her pretty little eyebrows. Being so close to her made it all too real. With her supple nose, her delicate chin, her sweet eyes with their curly lashes, she was beautiful, vulnerable, soft, and oh-so traumatized.

I suddenly felt this deep connection to her. What if she was my daughter? What if this had been
me
20 years ago? Chubby little Jane forced to confront her food demons at age seven. Before I knew what a personal demon was. Before I knew that skinny trumped fat by a long mile, and that food was a girl’s one true enemy.
Move over Taliban. Mr. Ice Cream’s in town!
To think, all those years of Grandma telling me I was big-boned, of loving me for me, when, like Madeline, I could have been whipped into an eating disorder and joined the legions of trendily emaciated.

Don’t let this get to you!
I told myself.
Keep going. Do it for the job, the promotion. Do it for your career!

“Do you think your mommy loves you? Or does your mommy love your skinny cousin more?. . . What’s that? She thinks your skinny cousin is prettier. You can do it—your mom says people will like your cousin better because she’s skinny?. . . Wait. Don’t whisper. No, no, no, please don’t cry again. I can’t understand you. Just one more time, for the camera. Who does your mommy love better? Come on. Just say it clear. . . ly. . . in. . . to. . . the. . . cam. . . era!”

“Mommy loves—she likes—my cous—
waaaaaah
!”

Madeline could no longer speak.

And I didn’t get my clip. . . or my new best friend.

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