It was just a regular Friday night.
Fresh out of yoga and recovering from a long week at work, I was chilling in front of my favorite reality-TV rundown, The Soup. Amid the usual Survivor smackdowns and Hills bland-fests, there was a clip of a little boy. He announced to the camera, "I have to go potty. I have a weiner. Daddies have weiners!" in a very matter of fact sort of way. I laughed so hard I nearly pottied my own pants.
Thus began my rocky-road relationship with Jon & Kate Plus 8.
A few weeks later, I was at my parents' for the weekend and TLC was showing a marathon of the big-family phenomenon. Much as I like kids, I've never been the maternal type and have no desire for my own. However, I was enthralled by the adventures of this super-cute clan. I loved little Alexis' obsession with "alder-gators" and found big sister Mady very precocious, despite her moodiness. And Aaden. Oh, Aaden. There is nothing more precious than a toddler wearing glasses. I used to baby-sit for one (he was a multiple too, actually) who once gravely informed me, "I don't see so good." Excuse me while I melt into a puddle of goo.
I liked the parents too. Yes, Jon was perpetually beleaguered and overwhelmed, but hello: HE HAD EIGHT KIDS BEFORE HE TURNED THIRTY. Yeah. I'd be overwhelmed too. And speaking of which, Kate did a good job most of the time. Sure, she was fussy about keeping them clean and feeding them healthy foods, but again: EIGHT KIDS. Eight teeny rugrats who pick their noses and hit each other when they can't find the right words. No rules, and you'd be in a zoo. Sure, they bickered, but so do my parents, and they've been together for thirty years. And I liked how Kate had a personality--she was far from a housewife drone, and unlike Michelle Duggar, who may be sweet, but just seems drugged to me. (Plus, EIGHTEEN KIDS? I'm crossing my legs right now. Just no.)
Yeah, I was less than thrilled when they started going on megatrips, including that ridiculous vow renewal in Hawaii. (Come on. You had a wedding less than ten years ago.) But I said to myself, "Whatever. Freebies for this family are a good thing. No way could they afford this crap on their own, and if it helps them save for the kids' future, that's fine."
Then Jon Gosselin had an affair. Let me rephrase that: the public found out that Jon Gosselin had an affair. My theory is that Kate's known for a very long time, possibly since it started. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were others who didn't have sleazy brothers willing to sell them out.
Not surprisingly, Kate didn't take this lying down: she soon made the cover of People, which in recent years has become way more tabloid-y than it used to be. Speaking of tabloids, Mom and Dad Gosselin were featured in so many, with every kind of story imaginable--Kate's sleeping with her bodyguard! Jon lives above the garage! Jon doesn't live at the house at all!--accompanied by heartbreaking photos of very sad kids. We the public don't know what's true anymore. And maybe we never did.
Even though this is my space (not MySpace), I hesitated at first to blog about this. I doubt the Gosselin camp will ever read it (especially if it's true that all negative press is kept from Kate); still, I feel guilty. These are eight kids--right now, their mental health and happiness is at stake. It feels wrong, somehow, to interfere, when so many people are doing that right now. Also, Kate's gotten a ton of hate since, well, day one of the show. And it's only intensified since then. Sure, Jon's gotten his fair share of blame, but I feel people have directed the majority of their anger at her. Which I don't feel is necessarily warranted.
That said, I want to say my piece. After all, I used to really like the show. While they've both made bad decisions, I don't think either Jon or Kate are terrible people. I think they are fairly uneducated individuals who had kids way earlier than they should have, got in over their heads with TLC/freebies/money/new stuff, and have let life as public personas get in the way of their parenting. Let's compartmentalize, shall we? (You can take the girl out of law school, but...)
- Jon: Daddies may have weiners, but keep yours in your pants, buddy. I don't care what kind of arrangement you had (still not sure if I believe the girlfriend contract allegation). I don't care if Kate knew about it (as I've said, I think she did). You do NOT, I repeat NOT, cheat on your spouse. It is all kinds of wrong. You took vows (twice, in fact) to love and respect one another. And you are most likely confusing the hell out of your kids, all of whom are now in school and may be hearing things from their peers. Until the divorce is final, no more ladyfriends for you.
- Speaking of divorce, I don't blame you for not filing or pursuing that right now. Most likely, some contract or another has you in a bind and you're afraid you'll lose everything. Maybe someone's also told you that since the kids are still very young, a court may very well rule in Kate's favor (tender years doctrine). And if you don't work with Kate on this, she could quite possibly make your life hell and make sure you never see your children again. If the editing of the season premiere is any indication, she's got TLC on her side.
- For now, sit tight and be the best SAHD that you can. (And for the record, I never cared whether or not you had a nanny. Even Danny Tanner had Uncle Jesse and Joey. Besides, again, EIGHT KIDS.)
- Kate: I can totally respect your need for a life outside your house. Say it with me: EIGHT KIDS. Especially now that they're in school and don't need your care 24/7. And I have no problem with your wanting to be a pretty momma (although please, PLEASE get rid of that awful haircut. It does NOT look good on you, nor would it on anyone. For the love of God, either grow it long or cut it all short. You could pull off either).
- That said, stop making your children your vocation. Go back to nursing, get another job, take college classes, write a book that's not about your babies. Get the cameras out of your house. Tell TLC that you only want once- or twice-a-year specials, not 40 episodes. Reconcile with Aunt Jodi, who seemed to truly treasure your kids. Work it out with Jon, WITHOUT the cameras. If that means a divorce, that's okay and it might be better for everyone--but give him liberal custody. He's made his mistakes, but he really seems to care for them.
- And be nice to your fans. Don't say you hate them or act rude--they are the ones who enable your lifestyle. And they WILL catch on eventually. Remember that most authors and other celebrities make it a point to interact with their fans--it's just good business, as well as a nice thing to do. If you don't like them, well, hide it better.
- Both of you: Get a good financial advisor. Put away a ton of money and invest some wisely, so that your children can have a good education. And for the last time, WORK THIS OUT. If I could lock you both in a room like on a bad sitcom, I would. (Oh, and if statistics are correct, at least one of your children will be gay. My money's on Joel. Whoever it is, be supportive.)
I ask myself why I--and so many others--continue to follow this heartbreaking story, why we feed the fire by watching a family disintegrate. I may be cynical by nature, but I'd really like to think that not all of us are that hungry for drama. The best I can come up with was this: as long as the Gosselin kids are on our screen, we know they're okay. We don't know what's going on behind closed doors with them, but we've grown to care about their little faces in the past few years. We know it's wrong, and they're basically being made to work for money that is in large part being spent foolishly. Still, we want them to be okay. And maybe if we watch hard enough, they will be.
I didn't say it made sense.
Here's hoping Jon and Kate do what's best for the eight they brought into the world. And Mady, Cara, Alexis, Leah, Hannah, Aaden, Collin and Joel? If you ever visit Chicago, I'll have a tub of ice cream with your names on it.