Britney Spears is eating my brain.
It's not just her, of
course: Shar Jackson is munching away, too, feasting on a good chunk of
my hippocampus and trying to tear the brainstem from the wet maw of
I used to know stuff. Important stuff. You
know – the death toll in Iraq. Who is running for the Republican
nomination against Rudy Giuliani. I used to be a newspaperwoman, and I
knew newspaperwoman stuff. I even managed to keep abreast of world
events when I had a newborn – a feat, I was told, that would be
But after leaving my newspaper job for the
freelance market, I've gone where the money is – to fashion reporting
and celebrity gossip. And now … now I can tell you who dressed Forest
Whitaker's wife for the Oscars or how old Jennifer Aniston is without
looking it up (38), but I have no idea whatever happened to our
supposed treaty with North Korea.
I can name Daniel Baldwin's
favorite rehab center (Renaissance) and tell you who gave Cameron Diaz
a nose job (Raj Kanodia, duh). I know Bridget Moynahan is pregnant and
that her baby daddy is dating Gisele. But, um, have we gone to war
with Iran yet?
My work schedule revolves around Zev's sleep
schedule, so my news catch-up time is limited. And since I've never
even heard of half the celebs I'm supposed to be writing about, I find
myself "studying," scouring Internet gossip sites – rather than my pile
of yellowing newspapers – whenever I have a free moment.
As an old-school beat reporter, I have to admit that I feel a little proud that now,
when an editor asks me for a quick story about Kim Kardashian, I no
longer say, "Who?" But my increasing knowledge of the not-worth-knowing
comes at a price.
I used to make a ritual of reading the Sunday
New York Times to Zev. He'd sit on my lap and I'd read as much of the
paper aloud as my squirmy worm would allow. I always started with Frank
Rich's column, which I dubbed the "Karl Rove Story Hour."
for the past two weeks, I have barely gotten a chance to skim the
headlines, let alone update Zev about the latest Scooter Libby subplot.
He doesn't seem to miss it much, having moved on to "One Fish, Two
Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." But I miss it. I miss it terribly.
I miss my mind.
become the living embodiment of every stereotype people have of my
generation: that we're so obsessed with celebrities we literally lose
ourselves in their lives. The fact that I'm getting paid for this
obsession only makes it that much sadder.
The other day, I
lamented my newfound ignorance to Kevin over IM. "I don't know what's
going on in the real world," I complained.
"Um, they just tried to kill Cheney today," he replied.
My blood froze. Was he kidding? I clicked away from Usmagazine.com for a second to find that, no, he wasn't kidding.
"Yeah," I wrote back. "See, I didn't know that. But Posh Spice dyed her hair blond. That, I knew."
not that celebrity reporting doesn't offer its own cerebral challenges.
To avoid lawsuits and other headaches, editors have asked me to do some
intense verbal gymnastics – getting me to, say, describe dirty photos
of an "American Idol" contestant in detail, without once saying what
the contestant is doing in those photos (I said her "head shot showed a
mouthy mug" and left it at that).
It ain't an analysis of the
9/11 Commission Report, but it's something. And I was pleased, as I
quickly caught up with the news from Afghanistan, to learn that no one
bothered to wake up President Bush to tell him about the attack on
Cheney. I may be in a Beyoncé blackout, but at least I'm as well
informed as the president.
Still, Britney is chomp, chomp,
chomping away, and I need to watch out before I'm completely
lobotomized. A celebrity-trash compatriot of mine called me up recently
and asked, "Should I be alarmed that one of my co-workers doesn't know
who won the Civil War?"
"Um, yes," I said. I wanted to cry. I
wanted to shake whomever it was by the collar and say, "Read a damn
book! And, no, InStyle magazine doesn't count!" I wanted to request a
moment of silence for our country's bleak, bleak future – but I was
interrupted by an e-mail from an editor requesting another story.
"Sorry. Gotta run," I told my friend. "Britney checked back into rehab."
And she took my frontal lobe with her.