One of the things I love about my job is that every day I learn something new about myself. For instance, I have learned that I “look like a waif and need to gain ten pounds,” that I’m “annoyingly opinionated,” and that I need to “get over myself.” These are small nuggets of advice I’ve received from numerous professional consultants who have spent years studying on-air talent coaching and fashion trends. At least, I assume they’re professional consultants. They leave comments or send emails that begin with, “I watch every morning…” and then proceed to go on a quick tirade of everything I’m doing and saying wrong, and everything I will likely do and say wrong in the future, including my choice of breakfast cereal or lack thereof. Surely a regular viewer would not criticize so harshly, right?
I learned from “consultant” Ed that wearing a turtle neck is one of the few crimes punishable by excrutiating death in Florida when he tactfully wrote in, “WHY on God’s green Earth is Jessica Sanchez wearing a TURTLE NECK when it’s 80-degrees outside!!!” Before I could explain that 1) my boss frowns on wearing swimsuits on air and, 2) the studio temperature is actually controlled by an engineer in Antarctica who sets it to a cozy -67 degrees every morning forcing us to wear mittens and ski pants (which answers the all-consuming question: yes, the anchors ARE wearing pants behind the desk), Ed followed up his Facebook comment with, “And saying it’s cold in the studio is NOT a valid excuse!!!” Some people are passionate about saving the whales, or feeding the homeless, but Ed’s passion is a healthy dose of turtle-neck hatred.
Consultant Rick informed me that I have potential to “make it as a news lady” but “you’re too opinionated and it’s annoying.” The irony, of course, being that Rick was the one offering up HIS opinion in an unsolicited email to me. And it was annoying.
Consultant Fran probably had the most constructive advice of all: “I can’t stand watching her!”
The advice varies depending on the day, the story, the clothes, and who just likes being a jerk. We talk about the downright nastiness of cyber-bullying all the time, but sometimes I feel like viewers can be the worst cyber-bullies of all. I know, I know, this is the business I chose, I need to grow thicker skin or get a job that isn’t under as much scrutiny; like a steroid dealer for the NFL. But I can’t help it. The bullying takes me back to my middle school days when my parents cleverly ensured that the only boys that would ever, ever call the house for me would be the optometrist letting me know that NASA engineers were finally able to create glasses thick enough for my eyes. In addition to the glasses, my parents got my hair permed, not by a professional mind you, but by my cousin whose training consisted of watching an infomercial on hair styling. The result was a four-eyed, fluffy-haired monstrosity whose best friends were books and who – true story here – was asked out by one of the most popular boys in school as a “hilarious” dare from his friends (also true story – a few years ago I saw that boy – now a man – on Utah’s sex offender registry list).
I know my parents had the best intentions when they shrewdly turned their oldest child into the poster-child for “school nerd.” They never had to worry about first dates, make-out points, or late nights out. But what they did have on their hands was a brainy little smart-ass who developed a dry sense of humor so she would have something to do on a Friday and Saturday night: mainly annoy her parents in hopes that one day they would at least let her shave her legs.
So when you are this awkward growing up it only stands to reason that you’ll have a few awkward moments as an adult. Unfortunately for me, many of those moments are on air and witnessed by some viewers who feel perfectly justified – almost ecstatic – in criticizing those moments. You can see now why mean comments (not to be confused with constructive criticism) bring out my natural self-defense: sarcasm. But I tend to bite my tongue a lot, especially on air because, let’s be honest, half of the thoughts in my head – while amusing – are not the most politically correct. And while I’m sure 97% of our viewers would laugh right along with me, there is that 3% that have as much humor as a turnip but, for some reason, a lot more free time on their hands to write in with complaints.