Tonite, I was changing my sheets, and thinking about Oprah.
Now, I enjoy clean sheets, perhaps more than the average person, because I like sleeping more than the average person. I don’t enjoy changing my sheets, however. It’s actually a bitch for me—I’m short and it’s hard for me to get my bottom sheet situated on my big bed, which seems to be a few inches bigger than all my fitted sheets. I wish I had someone to change my sheets for me, like Oprah must, but of course I don’t, so I continue to change my sheets by myself.
I change my sheets as often as the next guy I guess. Well, maybe not as often as the next guy, because who really knows how often the next guy changes his sheets? I think it’s possible that many, many people fudge about how often they change their sheets.
I figure, however often a person says they change their sheets, you need to double that to get an accurate count. If someone says once a week, it’s every two weeks, if they say every two weeks, it’s every four, and every eight is 16. But who’s going to admit that they change their sheets every eight weeks? Approximately nobody. I’m a neat and tidy person, and suffice it to say, I change my sheets when they need changing. Changing one’s sheets should fall under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” category. Don’t ask me how often I change my sheets. Ask me how much money I make. Ask me my views on abortion. Don’t ask me about my sheets.
So tonite, as I was struggling to single-handedly put my slightly too small fitted sheet on my oversized pillow-top mattress, I got to thinking about Oprah—specifically, an episode of Oprah’s show I saw some years back. It was a light episode in which Oprah covered all manner of women’s issues and interests, and then touched upon the subject of sheets, souped-up thread counts, and how often she changed her sheets—or to be more accurate, how often she liked her sheets to be changed, Presumably by other people.
This irked me, and Oprah doesn’t usually irk me.
I actually like Oprah.
Oprah seems to be a genuinely nice person, and she does good things, I don’t think anyone could dispute that. I guess it’s possible she’s a power-hungry closet megalomaniac—how would I know—but I really doubt it. That just couldn’t be! She’s got to be a good person. She sure gives a lot of money away. I suppose it’s a tax write-off for her, for sure, but she still gives away a lot of stuff. And even as Oprah’s power and wealth have increased over the years, she’s remained humble—as humble as a rags-to-riches billionairess can be.
I used to love Oprah’s show back in the day. I loved her generosity. I loved it when she gave free stuff away to people who had lost limbs, or when she’d hand over the keys to a brand new van to a struggling family that had taken in a bunch of special-needs foster children. I loved Oprah’s style, her genuine reactions—how she became star struck like the rest of the audience when Maria Shriver or Meryl Streep came on as guests. Or how she became absolutely giddy when Dan Rather walked on stage. I was a fan through Oprah’s shoulder-pad era, the bad lipstick era, the acrylic nails era. I watched Oprah back when she was obviously doing her own make-up. I’ve seen Oprah in all her stages, and all her hair-do’s. I was—I am—an original Oprah fan.
I watched Oprah every day—this was when I was in college, back when the Oprah show was new. Back when she was just a girl who had gotten herself a gig on a little local talk show, and then hit it big.
I’ve rooted for Oprah, through all her trials and tribulations. Through the controversies. I was on her side during the whole beef debacle of the ’90s—when mad cow disease was the hot news. When Oprah’s utterance of a single, seemingly innocuous sentence caused the complete collapse of the world’s beef market. From Montana to Argentina. Collapse. When Oprah off-handedly and casually said that she was never going to eat another hamburger as long as she lived, and 800 million people followed suit. Hey, if 800 million people decide they’re going to stop eating beef because Oprah Winfrey said she’s going to stop eating beef, then I say tough nubs for beef farmers. I’m sorry. It’s a free country. I once heard Donald Trump say, “I like my hair this way.” You didn’t see a bunch of people going out and getting that goat-dog haircut did you? Oprah can say what she wants to say.
And, oh how I cheered Oprah through the season of her liquid diet. How I wanted her to succeed! I so wanted Oprah to get thin this year, because I knew Oprah wanted to be thin. I connected with Oprah in her struggle. Even with all her millions—billions—she was just like one of us regular gals, unable to drop that last 10, 20, 80 pounds. I watched her daily, and kept up with her weight loss plan, her goals and accomplishments. I wanted Oprah to lose the weight. I wanted Oprah to be as pretty as she wanted to be.
The year was 1988. I’d been watching during the weeks and months prior, marveling at how Oprah was getting smaller and smaller. She was shrinking before our very eyes—but hiding her body in billowy clothes—saving it all up for her big reveal show. I planned my day around the episode where she would reveal her new body after the liquid diet. Oprah knew how to keep ratings up. I watched from my crummy college apartment, and cheered along with the rest of her audience—with the rest of America—when at the end of the show, she dropped her long black coat to reveal her slim new bod in them skinny jeans and boots. When she wheeled her representative fat onstage in that little toy wagon! “Sixty pounds of fat,” she said, “in this wagon!” Who was the talk show/marketing/history-making genius who came up with this idea—to put a sixty pound bag of lard in a fucking red wagon for Oprah to wheel out?!! Genius! Actually, it was gross! But go Oprah! You did it! You ARE every woman. Oprah looked fantastic. She was absolutely gaunt.
I was sad for her when the weight came back on so quickly, though. All those months of deprivation on the liquid diet, for what? Nothing. Four weeks later she was up thirty pounds. And she knew we all noticed. She knew it. Defeat was written all over her face. Her face in the post fat-on-the-wagon episodes said as much. “I can’t do this. I’m rich. Sinfully rich. I have eight thousand dollars in my wallet right now—and that’s just what’s stuffed in the coin section—and I cannot get skinny.” This was a woman who would one day get Tom Cruise to jump up and down on a couch like a capuchin monkey on crack—a woman who would create her own cable TV network (do you have any idea how much it costs to create your own network? A lot!), and give her best friend Gayle a show of her own, as a gift, and she could not get skinny. First world problem if I ever saw one.
OK, I was talking about sheets earlier. Now, the Oprah show where she talked about sheets wasn’t solely about sheets, or laundry. Or housekeeping, per se. It was a general show for ladies—just a big buttload of stuff women like to talk about. Skin care, hair care, mani-pedi’s, frozen yogurt. Time management tips, money tips, organization tips. Staying fit. Book clubs and healthy lunches. Chocolate-covered strawberries. Wines high in anti-oxidants. High-tech tweezers. A segment on stain removal. A do-it-yourself tutorial on how to make your own organic mayonnaise.
Journaling. Gratitude. Favorite Things.
Being your “best self.”
Living your “best life.”
It had everything! It was a veritable Oprah buffet! A feel-good Oprah feast where everything on the table was Oprah-flavored! There had to have been a gift under every audience member’s chair on this day. Maybe a Patti Labelle CD. Wrapped in a cashmere scarf. With a pumpkin-scented candle arranged artistically on top. Lit.
The subject of “sheets” came up briefly between Oprah and her life-coach-guest-of-the-day, and Oprah mentioned one of her favorite things: sheets. Specifically, her 50,000 thread-count Egyptian Cotton sheets. Oprah raved about these sheets, the luxuriousness, the silkiness, the breathability, as if we all knew what she was talking about. As if we could relate to 50,000 thread-count Egyptian Cotton sheets. These sheets: imported directly from the King of Egypt, and delivered to her home in her gated community of fellow millionaires, by armored vehicle, via slow boat and magic carpet. Accompanied by a hand-embossed card and muffin basket from the king’s wife, the Queen of Egypt. Oprah loved these sheets, and I can’t say as I blame her. They sounded amazing.
From the supersonic sheets, the conversation then meandered, naturally, to how often the women in our country changed the sheets on the marital beds of America. At the mention of her 50,000 thread count Egyptian sheets, I could tell Oprah was in a mood. I felt some underlying competition between Oprah and her nearly-famous co-host, who was coming into notoriety herself with book sales, guest appearances, and a bona fide platform of her own. The guest host had a show deal in development, I’m sure. She was nipping at Oprah’s heels. Oprah seemed a bit uppity on this episode, maybe a tad bent on reminding this up-and-comer whose show she was on. Oprah’s. That’s whose. Oprah, the great and powerful.
Oprah was almost showing off. I’d never known Oprah to be a show-off. First, there was her mention of her astronomically-high thread count sheets, just arrived from King Ali-Baba. Then Oprah proceeded in telling Ms. Life Coach Person that she really preferred to have her epic sheets changed “every two days.”
Every two days.
Did I hear right?
Who the fuck changes their sheets every two days?
Oprah? The girl who grew up so poor, that as a child, she was forced to wear a potato sack as a dress? (This was in her bio.) A girl who put a clothespin on her nose before she went to bed at night to try and make her nostrils narrower? (I heard her say this with my own two ears.) Oprah—my Oprah—now needed her sheets changed every two days?
Oprah said that after two days, sheets simply “lose their crispness.” Yes, Oprah, they do, so do potato chips. That’s life. Was this going to be the norm now? Were we women, we mothers across America, we busy women of any sort, with or without children, going to be expected to change the sheets on our beds every two days now—now that Oprah said she did? If so, I was in big trouble. I could go a few weeks without eating a hamburger, but I couldn’t change my sheets every goddamn two days. How the hell could Oprah expect a working person to change their sheets every two days? Or an unemployed person, for that matter? I barely get my dishwasher loaded every two days, and now, I’m hearing Oprah say she gets her sheets changed every two days? All because of lost crispness? Does she log “crisp sheets” in her gratitude journal every two days—or have one of her production assistants do it?
I was, to say the least, disheartened to hear Oprah tell America, the hard-working women of America, some who could barely manage to shave their legs once a fortnight, that she needed her sheets changed every two days. How did she think this made the rest of us feel? I started to question myself and my sheet changing standards. I was currently sleeping in uncrisp sheets, if Oprah’s protocols were to be the baseline. I felt dirty. Actually, I didn’t feel dirty—nobody can make me feel dirty without my permission—but I did feel uncrisp.
I believed I was speaking for millions of women when I said, Every two days, Oprah? Really?
Oprah, what’s happened?
What happened to down-home Oprah? To chitlins and grits-eatin’ Oprah? Have your millions really gone to your head? This was twenty-first century Oprah talking, talking about sheets being changed every two days. The Oprah I knew, 1988 Oprah—the Oprah who didn’t know any better and wore that ghastly dark purple lipstick—didn’t change her sheets every two days. I wanted the old Oprah back. The relatable Oprah. The Oprah who seemed to really, truly like the makeover shows. The Oprah who admitted she loved John Travolta. Who liked Sugar Smacks with half-and-half. The Oprah who couldn’t keep her weight down, even with all the money in the world.
Oprah, you didn’t need to put on airs with us. We’d have loved you, even if you did have uncrisp sheets. We didn’t care, and we wouldn’t have asked you about them anyway. We liked you when we thought you were more like us. You were like us (except for the money part.) You struggled with body image issues. You cried on air. You were real. You were a gal with baggage and a traumatic upbringing. A food addiction. Uncrisp sheets! We loved you because we thought you changed your sheets as often as we did.
I’ll speak for myself now, Oprah. Hearing you say these words, that you needed your sheets changed every two days, well, now I think you’re not so much one of us. You’re different now, Oprah. You’ve changed.