Moving here last year cost a lot of money. Although My Chemical Romance’s company gave him a signing bonus, it was heavily taxed, and we did not have renters in the house we owned for over six months. (Once we finally found renters, the pipes burst, which ate two months of rent.) Anyway, I received money from someone on the day we moved. The money was used for moving-related expenses, including preparing our house to be rented.
Several months after later, I got a call on my cell from a number with a Los Angeles area code. It was someone named V, who told me that the person from whom I’d received the money was suing me.
V said, “She has filed paperwork against you.”
This was a total lie. No paperwork had been filed, at that point.
I said, “She filed paperwork?”
V said, “Yes.”
Once I knew that V was lying, I had no problem playing into her story. I said, “Oh, my God!”
V said, “I can help you.”
I said, “You can?”
She said, “If you come to Los Angeles to appear on our court-based reality tv show, we will sort this out. Our show is binding legal arbitration. It will not affect your legal record, win or lose. If you win, then you’re all set.”
I said, meekly, “And if I lose?”
V said, “If you lose, we will pay the judgment. You won’t be out any money at all, and you can no longer be sued for any more money.”
I said, “That sounds great, but I have a family. I can’t just leave to go to Los Angeles.”
She said, “Oh, we can take care of that! We will fly you out here and take care of all your transportation and hotel, and meals. We’ll also pay you to appear on our show.”
We eventually negotiated that the show would also fly my mom to Raleigh to take care of my older kids while My Chemical Romance was working. I’d bring Cousin It to Los Angeles, and my sister-in-law Julie would watch her while I was filming.
I emailed V a picture of myself, along with my side of the story, which was that I hadn’t paid the money back yet, but that I still planned to pay it back.
The next week, Cousin It and I flew to Los Angeles.
While in Los Angeles, we hung out with Miss Manners. Although suing someone and going on national television does not seem very mannerly — getting paid to spend a few days in Los Angeles with your BFF and appear on a show which you watch daily while folding laundry is an opportunity that can’t easily be passed up. Miss Manners’ sister, The Actress, played the role of our tour guide in Los Angeles. We saw the Hollywood sign. We ate cupcakes from Sprinkles. We went to the Chinese Theatre and compared our footprints with the stars’. We appeared on a reality show!
Once I was on the set, things had changed. The producers informed me that my defense of not paying the money back yet simply wouldn’t hold water with the judge. They instructed me to say that the money was a gift that I never intended to pay back. They spent hours going over lines with me, so that I would know what to say and what not to say to the judge. They told me to argue with the judge and interrupt the judge — that the judge liked a good show.
I “lost” the case. That was fine with me. The producers had already told me that I was going to lose. The next morning, I had breakfast with Miss Manners and The Actress, and we flew back to North Carolina. Two weeks later, I received my payment, and Miss Manners received her judgment.
And that is the story of how I was a contestant on a reality show.