When I was pregnant, I wrote how all the stories about celebrities getting back into their bikinis about three hours after having a baby made me feel like crap. But I also wrote about how I continued to click on those stories, and follow celebrity gossip on Twitter, and subscribe to Us Weekly in print. I wish I could say that saintly motherhood changed my ways.
I mean, after Teddy arrived, I did try to avoid those bikini stories and the blurbs about new celebrity moms fitting back into their jeans and “flaunting their post-baby bodies.” (How does one “flaunt” a “post-baby” body, anyway? Because by definition, if you’ve had the baby, your body is post-baby. And, what, if you’re not wearing a caftan, you’re flaunting it? By that definition, I was “flaunting” my post-baby body in my 10-year-old Old Navy yoga pants while walking to Starbucks all those days on maternity leave. Gee, why wasn’t I dogged by paparazzi?)
Anyway, my appetite for those stories had been curbed, but nevertheless, I kept trolling through the Us Weekly Twitter feed and scrolling through the app and reading the magazine when it arrived at the front door. I can’t stand Kim Kardashian, and yet I clicked on the links about her. It’s clear that Tori Spelling puts herself in front of any and all cameras, and yet I still read the stories about her. Even my old fan favorite Bethenny started to grate on my last nerve, and yet I still followed her on Twitter, all the while snarking about her fame and her money and her love life and her terrible talk show.
I justified the celebrity gossip habit — especially to people who would look at me with the “are you serious?” look when I mentioned my subscription — as a guilty pleasure. It was something I didn’t have to concentrate on, didn’t have to think about, where reading was actually a passive activity.
Except that it really wasn’t. I was absorbing more of the drivel than you’d think a drive-by scan of the Us Weekly twitter feed would provide. I knew details about Kim Kardashian’s Paris vacation, Tori Spelling’s money problems, and Bethenny’s divorce. B would mention a celebrity gossip story and inevitably, I’d heard about it hours, or days, before. And none of it was particularly pleasurable. I didn’t come away from reading those stories feeling better about myself.
(OK, maybe in the moment I did, as I judged Kim Kardashian for flying off to Paris when her baby was just a couple of months old, and Tori Spelling for living beyond her means and marrying a jackass, and Bethenny for paying the price for putting her whole life on display through a TV show. But the schadenfreude was short-lived.)
It wasn’t enough to make me kick my habit, though.
But Kristen Bell — she finally started to get to me. I started following her on Twitter last year, after she tweeted a picture of her breast pump backstage at an awards show. (You go, Kristen!) She’s my kind of celebrity, just like Jenna Fischer (who recently tweeted about how she intended to clean a closet but ended up eating a bowl of popcorn instead). Popcorn and breast pumps – these women are living my life. Yeah.
Anyway, Kristen Bell recently tweeted that she will no longer give interviews to outlets that pay paparazzi for pictures of celebrities’ kids – that those photographers are essentially harassing the kids. She had long ago said that she intended to keep her daughter out of the public eye, because she shouldn’t have to be famous just because her parents are. With her promise to withhold interviews, she’s putting her money where her mouth is – literally.
Her position made me think. Do we really need a “Kids: They’re Just Like Us!” page in Us Weekly? Pictures of the adult celebrities filling up their cars or shopping at Whole Foods or getting parking tickets, ok…but kids on swings, ice skating, going to karate? Do I really need to know that both Violet and Seraphina Affleck wear glasses? For that matter, do I need to know that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s kids are named Violet and Seraphina (and Samuel, for the record)? Nope.
The phrase “guilty pleasure” started to take on a new meaning. I’d already deleted the Us Weekly app (not for any high-minded reason but to make space on my phone). But I decided to stop following Us Weekly and People on Twitter.
It’s already made a difference. I’m not seeing those stories pop up every hour in my twitter feed, which sits open on my computer all day at work – and I’m not missing the constant updates on Kim and Kanye’s wedding.
My subscription to the magazine runs for another couple of months. I should probably just end it, even though I’ve already paid for the year. But there’s all that good gossip about the British Royals that I can’t give up yet….and who doesn’t need to know that the Queen told Kate Middleton to dress more conservatively?
(I’m trying, Kristen. I promise. I’m trying.)