By Deborah Sharp
I was professionally made-up, my hair blown out, lipstick applied, and powder brushed over my shiny face. I sat on a stool, microphone affixed to the collar of my new blue sweater, waiting and wondering if I was going to faint on national TV.
When I heard one of the anchors on the NBC Today show say We'll Be Right Back, it triggered a panic. I knew we were just a couple of commercials away from my scheduled interview. I suddenly fixated on the white socks I was wearing with my black ankle boots. If I crossed my legs, would my pant hem ride up to expose my fashion faux pas to millions of viewers? With no chair arms to hang onto, would I tumble from the high stool and become the star of an endless loop of embarrassment on YouTube? Would I just sit there, made paralyzed and speechless by fear?
Was it too late to run screaming from the set?
The next thing I knew, a guy in a headset behind a big camera was pointing to me. The Today Show's smart and beautiful anchor, Savannah Guthrie, asked me a question. I think I answered it. She asked me another. I answered that one, too, I'm pretty sure. This is saying a lot, because an hour or so before, I was so nervous that when the show's hair stylist asked me the name of my book . . .
''Uhmmm, it's my fourth book,'' I stalled.
Yes, but what's it called? she asked.
''It's a mystery novel,'' I stammered.
I saw pity in her eyes. She put down her hair spray and patted my shoulder. You might want to practice that title thing.
I hit the author's lottery on Dec. 28. I had the great good fortune to be invited onto the Today show to talk about my latest book, Mama Sees Stars. (Sure, NOW I remember the title!) I'm married to NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders. I'm not deluded enough to think the Today Show selected me randomly from a universe of authors. I know Kerry's connections to the show played a role in my invite, and in previous appearances I've made on Today.
I guess I've done okay, because this time they carved out four minutes for my segment. One of Kerry's friends posted on his Facebook page (a bit meanly, I thought) that I got about twice the time they usually give Kerry for his stories on Today.
Here's a link to click, if you want to see how I did.
This picture was snapped off the TV:
I can say without hesitation my husband did not break a single kneecap in pursuit of my appearance. At least I didn't see anyone on the Today set limping around. Except for me. When the interview was over, I had some kind of weird after-effect of all those nerves and pumping adrenaline. I started to climb down from that towering stool, and my knees began to buckle. My legs were wobbly, wet noodles. I grabbed behind me, and carefully slid my butt back onto the seat.
''I can't get down.''
What do you mean? a stagehand said.
''My legs won't work.''
He got the deer-in-the-headlight look. Another guest was standing by, waiting to move into my spot on the interview stool for the next segment. After a couple of moments, they managed to peel me off the seat. Leaning on some guy's shoulder, I limped off the set.
My friends all said I did great, and that I didn't look a bit nervous. (Of course, that's what friends are supposed to say). It got me thinking about how often all of us put on a public face that might be very different from how we feel privately, inside. In my case, I wanted to run away screaming, ''I can't do this! I'm scared.'' Instead, I talked and laughed with Savannah as if she were just a gal pal chatting ... and not a famous TV anchor I'd never met before, with millions of people watching at home.
I am having recurring nightmares, though, featuring the phrase We'll Be Right Back.
What scares you? Have you managed to fake your way through it?