So, I was in the running for a reality show. The illustrious producers of “It’s Me or the Dog” and “Basketball Wives” were putting together a show about the wives of commercial fishermen. That’s totally me, right? I am a badass who works in the wilds of Alaska married to a dude who makes his living on the water. My summer is spent doing all the requisite “Real Alaskan” shit like berry picking, dip-netting sockeye, and drinking on my porch.
I heard about the show from a friend and googled around for the submission criteria. I picked a photo of me holding a forty-pound king salmon and wrote a short email about my obstinate nature and how much I love Alaska. A producer called me a week later and I froze outside my office for an hour talking to him on my cell phone. I told him about hunting with my husband and how I consider myself a hunter even though I won’t ever shoot an animal.
He asked me if, “I was worried about my husband dying at sea even though he was just a Troller.” Coughing through my rage I responded, “Yes. Four boats sank last year, and even though trolling is primarily a summer fishery, the wind still picks up and boats still catch fire. Our boat actually caught fire last year.”
After telling him how much I love the water and love fishing with my husband he told me, “We aren’t interested in women who fish. We want women who stay at home while their husbands fish. That’s what people in America want to know.” Apparently America wants to see housewives of men who do awesome jobs. Not the women doing these awesome jobs.
It became evident that the life of quiet self-sufficiency I created over the past eight years was not good enough. I did not have a gaggle of girls I went out and partied with. My loner nature would not make for good TV. This show really wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. Besides, they were getting it all wrong.
We finished up the conversation with him asking for more photos of me and if I had any friends who have husbands/boyfriends who fish. I told my rather outrageous friend about it and we sent some pictures off.
I didn’t sleep much that night. Panicked, I lay there thinking about how being on TV would sort of ruin my life. Somebody always up in my business, trying to get me to talk after ten days in the woods without a shower. No more quiet, scotch-dulled evenings in my yard swatting mosquitoes and watching the sun droop behind Kruzof Island. I wondered which edit I would get. Which caricature would I be? How could I live and work in a small town after this show? What would the fishing community think of me? I knew I couldn’t do the show.
None of the night panic mattered, though, they started calling my friend. Actually she started calling them. All the fucking time. See, to be chosen for a reality show you have to display some sort of intense desperation and try your very hardest to impress a bunch of people who don’t know you or anything about where you live. I am terrible at self-promotion. I can barely take credit for the things I know I do well. Modesty is my MO. How many modest Reality Show Humans can you name?
I don’t want to disparage this woman who I really do enjoy spending time with, so I’m being gentle here. She is her own best advocate and talks herself way, way up. As you should if you really want to be on a reality show. Me? I didn’t call the producers every damn day to tell them another story about my awesome shenanigans. She pressed forward, I hung back.
Let me illustrate how we are different. She has a lot of guns and shoots recreationally every weekend with a dedicated group of codgers. I teach rifle and bear safety for my office. She goes hunting with a bunch of friends by skiffing around the Sound in the afternoon. I spike out in the alpine with my husband on light-and-fast overnights so we can be in position just before dawn. Her boyfriend fishes. I actually fish and own a boat. She is garrulous, funny, and has scads of friends. I am reserved, witty, and a loner.
For a while there I was eaten alive by the Jealous-Rage Monster. I questioned everything I previously liked about myself. Emotionally I was back in high school, seething at the attention the popular girls got while questioning all of my choices. Why didn’t I wear make-up and take lots of pictures of myself with my friends? Why were most of my pictures of flowers and sunsets? Why did I spend so much time alone when it’s clearly better to have a social life and play? GAAH STOOPID WALLFLOWER NATURE BLAAAH.
Mostly, I felt guilty about feeling jealous. I hated how I was in this jealous-don’t be jealous, it’s wrong- but fuck it I am SUPER JEALOUS cycle. I spun around this carousel of emotional turmoil for about a week. Boring my one other friend with it. I began comparing myself to reality-girl, me always more favorably, and feeling like hot buttered ass.
When I stepped back from the brink of judging how much better/cuter/real I was than her, I came to peace about not getting on the show. I honestly, honestly do not want to be on producer-sponsored taxi trips to the local bar and sauce around town with a bunch of women I didn’t really know. I want to run through the alpine meadows in September looking for cranberries. I want to work the king openers on our new boat, stretching myself physically until I nearly vomit from fatigue. I want to work in the woods and hike through the magnificent temperate rainforest. I want to control how the world sees me.
I didn’t want to be the girl with the most cake. I just wanted to bake my own.