“Why I Stopped Recording One of My Shows”
Episode 361 was like so many others of the podcast. We talked about the Real Housewives, then moved on to Dopesick (we both loved,) Passing (my co-host thought it was boring,) and The Shrink Next Door, which we both enjoyed, but the “New Yawk” accent work was just, meh.
After five years, we had our routine down. I would go over to her apartment (Always at her place. Never at mine.) I would bring the recorder and set up, put the mics in, hit record, and it was “go time.” After dozens of failures and mishaps, we mostly hit our stride now.
A few minutes in, I could hear a buzzing sound in my left ear. My co-host cannot hear this as she is not wearing headphones. As the sound person/producer, it is my job to check the sound, and so, I wear the “cans” even though they make my head sweat buckets.
I knew that buzz. The ZOOM H6N picked up a nearby cellphone and decided to make a sound only I can hear. Does it get picked up in the recording? Sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. My co-host is talking, and the buzzing sound cuts her off in my cans. I need to tell her to stop and move her iPhone.
I take a breath because I know two things could happen. Either she will cheerfully do what needs to be done, or she will be annoying about it. This time she was super fucking annoying. I say, “Um, I am getting a buzzing sound. It’s picking up your phone, so can you please move it?”
“What? What are you asking? Why?” she huffs and then moves the phone a few inches away. She stares off in the distance and keeps talking into the mic; the buzzing is just as bad. After two minutes I say, “I’m sorry, but it is still happening.” She yells out, “What do you want? What should I do?” (Right after I told her what to do.)
“Just move the phone away, please. This happens sometimes.”
“It’s never happened before! The phone is our timer!”
“I know, but it’s happening now, so please just move your phone away.”
“Where do you want it? Ugh! Okay, fine. (Slams it just a bit farther away) Now just mark it, and let’s move on.”
We plow through, and I realize she is looking around me because she has no notes this week. Normally her notebook has pages full of scribblings and ideas in beautiful cursive writing. Today she is winging it.
She is jumping all over my sentences. Full-on interrupting even when she occasionally looks in my direction as I am speaking. It’s one of those shows where I just try to fit in the best I can until it’s over.
I hate those shows. I feel bullied and trampled over because of someone else’s shit moods.
That session ended like most others; we put away the gear as we gab. Lately, she has had a personal situation stressing her out for months. A person in her life is rude, mean, condescending, and treats her like she barely registers as human. They make her feel small, and she is upset each day, all day about it. I offer my best advice and let her vent away. Friends do that. We wrap up, and on my way out, I work up the nerve to say “Hey, when we are recording, can you not…” (what I was going to say, “Can you please just remember that I can hear things you can’t, and I am just trying to make the show great? That is the only reason I would ask you to do anything.”)
In other words, don’t act like a diva asshole when we are recording the show. It feels embarrassing. As if she is making fun of me in front of an audience.
She interrupts me and says, “What?” (she gestures towards the place on the couch she was sitting.) That was nothing.”
I look at her.
“I am not going to argue with you like a (Bravo TV) Real Housewife!” she says in an exasperated tone. Like we are being filmed, which we are not.
She finishes by walking towards me, smirking, and then drops, “You know you are just sensitive!”
I walk about before I punch her in the throat. In a fury, I drop the episode right away with no edits. Let everyone hear it. Let it rip.
Why am I so pissed? Maybe because it doesn’t feel great to be gaslit by someone who has known you for over 20 years. Who just a few weeks before told you if you ever have a personal issue with them to “please, tell me! Because I can be mean sometimes.” But when I try to say something, I get mocked and put down.
Soon after the episode drops, I get some DMs from listeners who wonder what was happening. They hear the tension and want to offer help.
I quit working on the show because I felt I was in a toxic situation, and the only way to keep healthy was to stay away. I take some time off and work on my book. Deal with the holiday season and relax. A few weeks away from the situation gives me more perspective.
The thing is, I have had several verbal altercations with her over the years, but she is not someone to apologize or be reflective. She can find a way to counter almost any argument because she can never be the one to be “wrong.”
One incident, in particular, started playing like a loop in my head.
In August 2018 (2 months after my mother died), I fell down a flight of stairs in my building and had a compound fracture in my right ankle. (When the bone breaks through the skin. Gruesome–sorry!) I was in the hospital for a week, had surgeries, and was home for months, slowly healing. My doctor had me on “total disability for four to six months.” I could not put any weight on my foot, even with a surgical boot, until December. It was severe, and I walked with a limp for three years afterward.
Two months after the accident, eager to leave my apartment, I offered to buy tickets for A Star is Born (Lady Gaga 4evah!) at the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse (shout out.) My friend and I were psyched, and we took a Lyft over to the theater.
It takes me some time to leave because here is the deal.
I can’t put any weight on my right foot. Even wearing the surgical/rehab boot. For ten years, I taught several fitness classes per week. Now, I am disabled.
So, when I go downstairs, someone has to hold my walker as I use my left foot while holding the railings and then hop downstairs. Every time I walk back and forth, it’s with all of the weight on my left leg as I move my body forward-leaning on the walker. If I see a step more than 6 inches high, I need help to “spot me” on my back as I hop up with one foot.
Anything higher than six inches or with a flight of stairs, I use my butt. I hand my walker to someone, and “walk” upstairs, leading with my tush and arms to pick and drag me up. It’s exhausting, and I am terrified of falling again. The place where my bone broke through at my ankle takes forever to heal. I have to change the bandages twice daily for three months before I can start rehab (until it heals.)
I use a walker around my apartment (crutches just never feel solid or safe enough), hopping on my left foot with a Trader Joe’s bag slung over my shoulder carrying what I need room to room. Bottles of water, cat treats, my lunch, my phone, the chords for my phone, the remote, you get the idea.
I can’t take a proper shower, so I ask friends to wash my hair in the kitchen sink. My friend Cristina, a tech mogul now and a hairdresser in the past, came over several times to help me with this.
After waking up every morning, I hop/drag myself to the bathroom before unlocking my front door. When I have a visitor or a delivery, I hobble over to the buzzer in my kitchen and tell them to come upstairs and enter. I greet them at the end of my hallway, balancing on my walker. I am vulnerable, but I trust my fellow New Yorkers, and every single person was kind and helpful. This goes on for months.
In October, my former co-host is accompanying me to the movies. We take the elevator to the main floor for Alamo Drafthouse, and I head straight for the handicapped bathroom. I tell her, “I need to use the restroom. Can you find out where the elevator is?” because all of the actual theaters are one floor up, and most people take the escalator. The escalator is five feet from the bathroom, and the ticket booth is five feet father than that.
I get out of the bathroom, and she says grandly so everyone around her (and me) can hear, “This is New York. It’s a busy city but just take all the time you need.” She walks over to the end of the escalator. “Give me your walker.”
“Where is the elevator?”
She shakes her head. “They don’t have them. You have to use this” she gestures to the escalator that she is now blocking with my walker, and people are gathering around. I say, “No, that can’t be true.”
This is a steel escalator. It’s in motion, and the leather railings are slower than the steps. It’s barely perceptible when you are healthy and have balance. But you keep both feet on the steps as it moves up. How can I balance on one foot and hold the railing simultaneously? AND hold my walker? Who will spot me? What if I fall! What if I fall and my hair gets caught? There has to be an elevator! Where the hell is it?
“Come on,” she says, and in a daze, I hop on the step. I am holding on as best I can. The panic rises as I try to balance while the escalator climbs. “Please, do not let me fall,” I think as I look down at my friend, who is holding my walker and staring off in the distance.
As we head to the top, I think, “How the hell am I going to jump off this thing? Who will help me?” I notice an Alamo employee running up the stairs adjacent to the escalator in a flash. He greets me at the top. “Miss, give me your walker. I’ve got you!”
I hiss “give me the walker,” and she hands it over. The Alamo dude (my hero!) helps me safely off the escalator and then says, “Why didn’t you just take the elevator?”
I look at my friend, and she looks away. “It’s right there,” he points to a spot right goddamn where an elevator should be. She leans in and says, “Dude, which theater? Show me your phone.” Instead of acknowledging the situation, she wants to see the ticket on my phone.
The amazing Alamo guy asks me what we are seeing, and I say, “A Star is Born.” He responds, “That’s down the hall. We will get you set up.”
We are being moved to the handicapped space. I say I am happy to sit anywhere, but the staff explains they are ready to make these changes in the moment The couple who got my original seats are super excited because it was a prime spot.
As soon as I sit, my non-elevator asking friend takes off to get refreshments. When she gets back, I say, “You owe me an apology. I am upset right now. This is not okay.”
She flicks her hand at me and says, “I am not going to discuss this like a reality show housewife.”
I say, “You shouldn’t offer to help an injured person if you are not up for it.”
Then the movie started. Weeee! It was SO much fun! (That’s sarcasm.)
I liked the movie, and we got home safe and sound. But it was awkward, and we never talked about it. Until…
By this past New Years’ Eve, after several weeks of a break, my former co-host asked me over to talk about the show. I texted I wanted to talk about making some changes before moving forward.
I head over, we sit at the kitchen table, and she starts with, “Just so you know, facts aren’t feelings, and feelings aren’t facts.” (Leah McSweeney (via Joe Rogan) first season on RHONY.)
I think “Sure, Jan.” (First Brady Bunch movie)
I bring up what upset me at the last recording, which is awkward and uncomfortable. She remembers none of it and wonders what happened to me. Am I even the same person she has known all these years? Then she says, “I remember when you said the worst thing anyone has ever said to me in my ENTIRE LIFE. When you said (when we went to the movies) I should never care for disabled people when you knew I took care of my father when he had cancer.”
I say it started when I asked you to find the elevator…” No,” she interrupted. “You never asked me for that. Even if you did, that night was all your fault. Because you should have called the day before and known where all the elevators were, you should have had that all set up before we got there. “
Then she says, “You were never disabled; you were just injured. Remember that.”
I hate depending on people and am one of the most independent souls you will ever find. It makes my stomach hurt to ask for favors but the accident taught me most of my friends and family are amazing, kind, and wanted to be of service. When I profusely thanked my friend Tom (Cristina’s fantastic husband) for changing the cat litter he said “Margo, we are your friends. It makes us feel good to help you!”
I realized it was okay to ask for help or be vulnerable because most people want to help you. Most won’t resent you for not being 100% prepared for an outing.
When someone says they are your friend, but you can’t talk to them about anything they say or do without fearing blowback. You can’t just bring up the possibility they may have done something “wrong” without retaliation; the honesty goes away. It’s easier to let them be moody and difficult and then they start to feel as if it’s a reasonable way to treat you. It’s called manipulation and it can be very effective. Until it isn’t.
People say “it’s easier to be nice” but it isn’t. To be nice (or kind which is what we should all aim for) takes your ego out of the way. It requires putting aside your feelings for others. Sometimes even strangers! But making it a habit pays back in wonderful karma.
I have been biting my tongue for years because I don’t want to be made fun of for having an issue. To be called “emotional,” “sensitive,” or just get shut down and lied to. It’s toxic and makes me angry.
For the record, I loved doing the show mainly because the listeners were the best in the world. It was a pleasure to be a part of your week. To help you decide what to read, watch, and listen to for the week. Your suggestions were the best, and the community we created is something to take pride in.
The ironic thing is that doing this show has charged me to be more political and honest in my points of view. When I am confronted with people who oppose me, I speak up. I have found my voice, and it no longer wants to whisper, “please, if you don’t mind, listen to me!”
I use facts, feelings, words, and actions to guide me daily, and will no longer pretend to be neutral. That includes how I am treated by friends, family, listeners, and all.
I’m not being a dick. I’m just speaking up.
If you want to continue with me on this journey, please follow me @BrooklynFitChick on Twitter& Instagram and my website. (I will have a book out later this year if that strikes your fancy!)
Also, I have three kickass shows that are now with Spreaker & I Heart Radio Networks--Book Vs Movie, What a Creep, and Dorking Out so I am not just podcasting but I am truly thriving!
In the last seven years I have lost both of my parents and both of my brothers. My tolerance for other people’s bullshit is minimal. At the same time, my heart is bigger and more full of love than ever. BUT, as Tina Turner said, “You Better Be Good to Me!”
Once again, it was indeed my pleasure to entertain you, “Neighbors.” You are a fun, sweet, brilliant bunch of people. You’ve touched my heart forever, and I will never forget that!
There were some minor incidents (on the show anyway) that were indicative of what you’ve mentioned here and just came across as cringey when they happened. While I’m sorry this has happened, first with your friendship but also with your show, the fact that you were able to step back and realize its unhealthy shows your badassery.