The Trouble With Spikol

Seeing myself in the Styles section.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 8 | Posted May. 21, 2008

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Paper doll: The author finds herself in high demand after landing the cover of the Sunday Styles.

I seem to have become a spokesperson.

Last week I was just me, Liz Spikol, the person who talked a little too freely to the cashier at the convenience store. Or Liz Spikol, the person who fell asleep on the trolley and dropped her umbrella so someone almost tripped over it. Or Liz Spikol, the columnist/blogger who people read (or didn't read) between doing other things that were probably more important.

But that was before I was me: Liz Spikol.

Now that I'm famous and a spokesperson, those two words look different. It reminds me of what Shania Twain, whose real name is Eilleen, said once about seeing her name in print. She said it's okay when articles about "Shania" make her seem like a stranger because she doesn't really know her either. She's just Eilleen.

I wish I'd remembered that before I spoke with a reporter from The New York Times a couple weeks ago. I might have considered a name change.

There's something about seeing one's name in The New York Times--as I did two Sundays ago--that makes you really see it for the first time.

What kind of name is "Liz"? It's one letter longer than an exhalation. And while "Spikol" may have its roots in nobility--or it may not--it's an uncomfortable jumble of letters whose only merit is that, after the S, they're all in a line on a keyboard. It's QWERTY-friendly--that's the very best thing you can say of my last name.

It would also have been good to change my name to dilute, just a bit, the surprise of family and friends when they said, "You look so gorgeous in that photo!" as though photographer Shea Roggio had dumped a bagabigabyte of Photoshop onto my face to make it look so pretty.

I'll have you know Roggio doesn't even use Photoshop or a digital camera. He lives on a mountaintop in a yurt with just a film camera and some modest indoor plumbing.

But my name is the same, and so it is that "Liz Spikol" now means something that it didn't mean 14 days ago.

The piece "'Mad Pride' Fights a Stigma," by Gabrielle Glaser, was about people with mental illnesses being more open about their experiences. She equated the "mad pride" movement to gay pride, and quoted the Icarus Project's Sascha Altman "Scatter" DuBrul talking about his "dangerous gifts."

Were I not featured in the article, and photographed for it, and were it not on the front page, above the fold, of the Sunday Styles section, perhaps I'd be able to tell you more about the content of the piece. But by the time I ran to the Wawa with my parents on Sunday morning to see the paper itself, I had no such brainpower. I could think only one thing: I'm in The New York Times!

My parents and I did a little dance in the Wawa. I made my mother swear she wouldn't tell anyone I was in the paper, even though it was Mother's Day and I was being very nice.

But my father--who counts himself as quite reserved--found himself saying to the cashier, "A member of my family is in the paper today," perhaps to explain the skyscraper of tree we were purchasing.

By the time I got featured on the Huffington Post--as "the mad pride movement's most hilarious, if unofficial, spokesperson"--my email inbox had started to fill up with queries from literary agents and acquisitions editors at publishing houses. I was even contacted by a couple documentary filmmakers.

Why? Because now I was Liz Spikol. Not the Liz Spikol of Sat., May 10. But the Liz Spikol of Sun., May 11. Hurrah.

Most of the agents were quite flattering, as agents are wont to be. But one of them told me she didn't think I'd be getting much interest without the mad pride angle. Sure, Liz Spikol was all well and good, if you wanted to ride a trolley forever. But spokesperson Liz Spikol was the marketable Liz Spikol.

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Comments 1 - 8 of 8
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1. Margit Moorehead said... on May 21, 2008 at 04:54AM

“This does not make you famous. Sorry. I can't believe you wrote a column about being featured in the NY Times. That's really, really ridiculous. There are far more important issues to write about, other than your own publicity.”

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2. Really Sad said... on May 21, 2008 at 05:32AM

“Shameless self promotion. Really shameless.”

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3. S. Kelly said... on May 21, 2008 at 05:35AM

“This is less about bipolar disorder and more about getting press. I'm disappointed. I've always found light at the end of the tunnel in your stories. I hope you don't get sidetracked. I hope you don't really think of this as fame. There's a responsibility. Please remember that, Liz Spikol.”

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4. buzz friedmann said... on May 21, 2008 at 05:40AM

“couragous despite the lighthearted approach the truth is that fame is fleeting while your daily fight lasts a lifetime”

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5. marelda parish said... on May 21, 2008 at 05:01PM

“Oh Liz, that's a beautiful piece. I scrolled down after reading the article to check out comments, an I am confounded by some of the expressed opinions. I think this piece is excellent, witty, profound. I want to read more. Thank you. Your second to last paragraph? i am putting a copy of it in my prayerbook.”

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6. Mary said... on May 21, 2008 at 09:11PM

“Lighten up people, yes Liz writes quite well about her mental illness and is often strong and inspiring. She is also silly and lighthearted about many things, sometimes writing an entire column about a trip or cool thing in the city. That is what makes her writing so great. Tough and compelling at times, and light and laugh out loud funny others. And it's the NEW YORK TIMES people!!!!! Good for you Liz, you deserved it years ago for the fantastic writing and if I was in the NYT, I'd be screaming it from the rooftops.”

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7. noelle said... on May 22, 2008 at 08:16AM

“gosh what a bunch of sourpusses. liz, i was ecstatic to see you in the NEW YORK TIMES! my co-workers were praising the piece and wondering who was this new "it" girl for mental illness and i was like, "duh, she writes for philly weekly. i read her every week." good for you and poo to the haters.”

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8. Philly Chit Chat said... on Jun 3, 2008 at 08:28AM

“I agree what a bunch of sourpusses, I guess they never got their 15 minutes. I saw the article a few weeks back and was very excited for you. I have no idea why some Philadelphians are so negative on others accomplishments. I thought it was incredibly brave of you to go public, thanks.”


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