I’m in the process of ‘freshening up’ my website, putting some new things on it, bringing it up to date, changing some of the photos, and trying to keep it interesting for you. It takes a little time to do it, but we’re working on it.
In the process, I read some of the articles we have on the website to make sure that they’re still of interest and relevant to what I’m doing, and something struck me as I read them. As I read one after the other, I kept thinking “Who are they talking about?” Some of them seemed so unrelated to who I am. I’ve never been a big fan of doing interviews, and I am a very private person. When my kids were younger, I gave none at all, in order to maintain our privacy, and theirs. But the world has changed since then, and with the Internet and social media, there is so much more information out there, and people expect to know more about you. It no longer seems appropriate to be quite so retiring in today’s world, so I don’t do a lot of interviews, but I do some. But as I read through the articles today, it struck me, as it has before, that in so many cases, interviewers come to an interview with a fully formed idea about you, without ever having met you and talked to you before. Some are able to adjust their preconceived ideas once they meet you, but many can’t. And there is so much information ‘out there’ now, that it all seems to be more about volume than accuracy. People don’t seem to care what’s true or not. And as I read about myself in the articles, I was startled to read again impressions about me that aren’t who I really am, and ‘facts’ that simply aren’t. In some cases, they later retracted what they said and corrected it. But how do some interviewers get it so wrong? How closely do they listen? And what do they hear when I talk? It makes you wonder what kind of impression you make. Inevitably, as a publicly known person, people have preconceived ideas about you, but few people/interviewers seem willing to admit it when they’re wrong.
In reading about myself tonight, among the many things said, it referred several times to my liking to drink wine, and quoting me as saying that I do. When the truth is that I come from a family of non-drinkers, who just never liked to drink. My grandparents and father didn’t drink (although they owned a brewery in Germany), they just didn’t like the taste. And for some reason, I never have either. Alcohol always made me feel sick, so at about 17, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I don’t care if others drink, but I just don’t like the taste or the effect, so I never drink alcohol, and two of my children don’t either. It’s just a personal preference, not a philosophy. But it makes it all the more surprising when an interviewer says I like to drink wine. Nope. Another interviewer says I love to buy old books, wine, and garden furniture. It’s not important, but again inaccurate. I don’t buy old books, wine, and I can’t remember the last time I bought garden furniture, I think about 25 years ago, when I bought my house, and it’s still rusting quietly in the backyard (I guess I should buy garden furniture!!! Maybe that was a hint!!!). And another article says I’ve sold my couture clothes, also not true. I’m lucky in that because I know some of the designers, I have at times been able to buy samples, and I’m a sample size (except that I’m about a foot shorter than most of the models!!), but I save them all for my daughters, in case they want them one day, and have sold none of them. They’re unimportant details, but warning flags of bigger inaccuracies and false impressions. And each suggestion is to form a picture of who I am. And how accurate is that image going to be, if some of the basic facts are wrong? I always find it discouraging.
There was one very wonderful article written last year, by Catherine Bigelow, in the San Francisco Chronicle, about my work with the homeless for eleven years, and the book I wrote about it, “A Gift of Hope”. The article was an amazingly generous piece and touched me greatly, and it was impressively accurate. But articles like that are rare. So I guess if you deal with the press and give interviews, you have to be a good sport about it, live with what they say about you, and hope that they get it right, or not too wrong!!!