I think it’s safe to say that the television show Notes from the Underbelly is probably the most exciting thing that has happened to my mother in a very long time. Not since I was class president in high school has she had something of this caliber to brag about. And much to my horror, her bragging is not limited to actual words. She and my stepfather actually had matching tee shirts made with my author photo blown up on them, underneath which it reads, “Risa Green, Author.” On the back of the shirts, in enormous block letters, it says “Notes From the Underbelly.” And the two of them wear them every single day. In public. And then they call me with a daily tally of how many people stopped them on the street to tell them that they love the show. Apparently, the waitress at some restaurant in Boca Raton would like my autograph.
Now, to simply write this off as parental pride would be generous. I mean, I’m proud of Harper and everything, but I don’t walk around carrying a flag that details her latest accomplishment in preschool. Frankly, I think the better explanation is that my mom just really likes the attention. It all started with her receiving some e-mails from friends and family that she hadn’t heard from in a while. They had seen the promos, I guess, and wrote to tell her how excited they were to watch the show. Then, she went to a wedding in New Jersey, and she called the next day to tell me that all of the guests spent the whole night whispering about her. She sounded high, she was so excited, and it was cute. Sort of. But then the reviews started coming out, and that’s when things began to get ugly. I started getting several voice mails a day. “Did you see the review in Entertainment Weekly?” “That reviewer at the New York Times is a complete moron.” And then, “They’re doing something on Ellen about motherhood in May, and you should be on there promoting the show. Please call me back RIGHT AWAY. You need to get your agent on this IMMEDIATELY.” Okay, mom, I thought. Delete, delete, delete.
And yet, even with all of these signs, I was not at all prepared for what happened once the show actually aired. She had a screening party, of course. Forty people from her semi-retirement community, and because she’s on the east coast and I’m on the west, I got a play by play of how every single joke was received – by people who are not at all in the demographic, by the way – a full two hours before I watched it myself. The next morning, I was woken at six am by my mother, calling to see if I’d heard anything yet about the ratings. And that’s when I realized: my mother had gone Hollywood, and she’d become a publicity whore. At that point, I wouldn’t at all have been surprised if I’d opened up a copy of People and seen a picture of my mother, partying at Area with Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.
And with each week that the show is on the air, it only gets worse. She’s constantly online, lurking in tv chat rooms to see what people are saying, or doing Google searches to find more reviews. And she’s got the lingo down. In an e-mail I got the other day, she said that she’d seen one of the actresses on a talk show. “Oy. Is she trying to kill the show and alienate the director, too? What was she thinking???” I told her that in her next life, she really needs to come back as an agent.
Finally, earlier this week, I had to put the kaibosh on it. I just couldn’t take the e-mails and phone calls every day, especially the ones berating my publicist for not getting me appearances on any nationally televised shows. She took it pretty well, I guess, all things considered, and for a few days, at least, I had peace. But it turns out that she just can’t help herself. She’s like a drug addict. She had a minor medical procedure done this morning, and when she woke up from the anesthesia, the first thing she did was e-mail to tell me that her doctor watches the show, and he loves it. “So what do you think?” she wanted to know. “Are they going to pick it up for a second season? Because the tv guy on Comcast is calling it a hit.”