Jayne Brook

Just admit it

by Jayne Brook

Half the time, people are very pleasant when they recognize me. They whisper, “I like your work” as they push their grocery cart past me at the store, or “When are we going to see you again on TV?” as we wait in line at Target to buy school supplies with our kids.

But here’s what happens the other half of the time I’m recognized in the produce section, the mall, or even, as happened a couple of years ago, at a funeral as I was making my way up the chapel aisle to give my condolences to a friend. Three women elbowed their way past several mourners to approach me and, in desperate whispers, insist they know me. This is how these conversations generally go:

“I know you. Do I know you??”

“Uh, I don’t think so.”

“No, I know you. I know I know you. Where do you live?”

“Well, not far from here. Near Calabasas.”

“That’s not it. God, I know you!! Does your son play Little League?”

“I don’t have a son.”

“Are you sure? I could swear I’ve seen you at the West Hills field.”

“No, I’m pretty sure you haven’t because I don’t have a son who plays baseball. I don’t have a son at all.”

Have these ladies forgotten that we are at a funeral?

“Really? Do you do yoga?”

“Not for years, I had a back injur-

“Inyengar? In Studio City? Ventura Boulevard?”

“No, like I was saying…”

“Do you shop at Ralphs?”

“Albertsons.”

We reach my friend. We say, “I am so sorry.” And then, two steps past my friend’s husband…

“Do your kids go to Bay Laurel?”

“Round Meadow.”

“Did you grow up in Beverly Hills?”

“Illinois.”

“Really?”

“Outside Chicago.”

“Do you work at Amgen?”

“Uh, no.”

“Really? Never?

“Never.”

“This is so strange! I know you! I’ve spoken to you!”

And on and on it goes until I really have to put them out of their misery and I volunteer, reluctantly, because I know what’s coming…

“I’m an actress, so maybe you saw me on a TV show one ti-“

“I DON’T WATCH TV!!!””

“Well, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that must be how you know me-“

“I don’t watch TV!”

“Maybe you had it on in the background one time and-“

“No! No. No. No!”

“Well, I don’t know-“

“It’s something else! I don’t watch TV! I never watch TV!”

“Just in the background, with the sound turned down low maybe…”

You’d think I was accusing these people of smoking pot or watching porn with toddlers. And I have to ask myself, what is this fear that I will judge them for watching TV even as I am telling them I am actually on TV?

And they won’t let me go. Because now, these ladies, and at least a hundred others who have stopped me over the years, have to figure out what non-TV connection we have. They will not let me go until I take it back.

Eventually we are able to extricate ourselves from the uncomfortable exchange. Eventually, the person who has recognized me walks away, muttering,

“I don’t watch TV. That’s not it. I’ll think of it. It’s not TV, I’ll think of it.”

“Ok, well… hope you figure it out then.”

Maybe next time this happens, before the conversation reaches the point where I’m stammering and trying to help someone crawl out of the hole of shame they feel they’ve fallen into, at the very instant someone, trying to place me, says, “Do I know you?” and begins to rattle off an odd list of places we could have met, I will say:

“Stop. I’m going to tell you how you know me. It’s going to be very hard for you to hear. You are going to deny it and you are going to try to convince me I am wrong. I am not wrong. I promise I will not judge you harshly. Are you ready?”

“Sure.”

“You know me because I am on TV.”

“No, I nev-”

“Stop. Listen carefully. You know me because you have seen me on TV.”

I could then gently hand the person a piece of paper, something they could read in the privacy of their own home. Something they could face up to gradually, alone, where at least the public aspect of this deep humiliation could be avoided. The paper would read:

Dear Reluctant Viewer,

You know me because I have been in your house. I have been in your living room and in your bedroom. My voice has been on in the background as you iron or take the dog out the front door for its nightly walk, or pee with the bathroom door open so you can listen and make sure your kids aren’t fighting over the toothpaste again. You know me because at least once, maybe when you were recovering from a very bad cold, you didn’t have the energy to read the subtitles on that foreign film that won the Oscar last year and you just wanted some easy viewing. You know me because you have seen me on TV. Period.

Just admit it. You watch TV.

Jayne Brook

About Jayne Brook

Jayne Brook is an actress who lives and works in L.A. Although you may have seen Jayne in too many episodes of TV to list here, she actually now spends most of her time driving because nothing in L.A. - not your kids' schools, the grocery, or even your own backyard - is less than half an hour away by car. Jayne (known as Jane in her real life) has a wonderful husband, two wonderful daughters, and a pretty hilarious cat. The family dogs have all, sadly, passed on to a better world.

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