I’m still not sure how she got my cell phone number….
I guess I could have asked, but when a producer from the Katie Couric show calls saying she read (and liked!) your blog and wants you and your husband to come on the show, the last thing you care about is how she tracked down your digits.
I was sitting at my desk at work scheduling my feature for Sunday’s morning show when the 212 number popped up on my screen. I didn’t even think twice about the area code when I said “hello”. The voice on the other end said, “Hi, is this Alissa? My name is ___ and I’m calling from the Katie Couric Show.”
That got my attention.
She was calling to find out if my husband and I wanted to be guests on the show to talk about our decision to abstain from sex until our wedding night.
Before I was the CW Star and Feature Reporter for Good Day Columbus Weekends, I was a full-time freelance writer. I worked for several different outlets writing about celebrities and personal finance, but my most popular submissions were first-person essays about relationships. During that time, I wrote a few articles about celibacy before marriage.
I was inspired by the movie “Jumping the Broom” starring Paula Patton and Laz Alonso. In the movie, the main characters were abstaining from sex for the six months before their wedding. People – both in the movie and in real life – acted like the thought of not having sex with someone before marriage was absolutely ludicrous.
At the time, I was in a dating relationship with my now-husband and we weren’t having sex and we were well beyond six months with still a while to go before the wedding.
So, I wrote a blog defending celibacy and revealing that I was doing the same thing the girl in the movie was doing – er, not doing.
I knew this stance was becoming more and more uncommon, but I had no idea that so many people thought it was impossible and ill-advised to be dating a guy and not having sex with him.
More than a few guys commented on the article saying that they couldn’t be with a girl they weren’t having sex with. Others told me that I was in for a rude awakening after the wedding. Still, others said only women take vows of celibacy.
I wrote my final blog on the subject after my husband and I got married and I revealed that I was his first. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many comments on one blog post.
The Huffington Post Live had just started and they contacted me and asked if I would be on a panel talking about celibacy before marriage.
I was Skyped in on the show with three other people, one of which was actor Josh Lucas’s wife. She was a virgin when she married her first husband, but their marriage didn’t last and she blamed their lack of sexual chemistry. She said that if they had done it before marriage then she could have known beforehand that the chemistry wasn’t there. She said that I “lucked out” because I had a good marriage, and a good married sex life, despite waiting.
I should mention that she and Josh separated a few months ago. So, apparently, sex before marriage doesn’t save a relationship either, but I digress.
The Huffington Post Live thing was really cool and I thought it was the end of the conversation. I got a new job, started writing less and less and eventually, stopped freelance writing altogether. Honestly, I’d forgotten all about those articles.
Until I got that phone call.
GETTING JOE ON BOARD
When I first told Joe about the request, he was just as surprised as I was.
Possibly less so actually because it is truly always something with me. Several months after he and I first started dating, I randomly met the mayor of our city and he hired me for a job. When we were engaged, I taped an episode of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta then they sent a photographer to our wedding (that episode never did air and it’s a sore spot, so don’t ask). After we got married, I tried out for the CW Star Contest and won. Six months later, ABC 6 and Fox 28 started a weekend morning show and I was chosen to be a feature reporter.
Based on these experiences, Joe never knows what’s coming after my, “Ohh emm gee, guess what!!” Still, getting a phone call from a national television talk show was a shock to both of us.
The subject matter gave him pause.
He had some reservations about going on national television to talk about sex. He isn’t ashamed of the fact that he was a virgin when we got married. (Who is ashamed about doing the right thing?) But he’s not quite the open book that I am and it was never his decision to put that out there in the first place.
Honestly, I had my reservations too. I’m not shy to say the least, but it is one thing to openly talk about that subject with a group of friends or even in the noise chamber that is the online blogging world. It’s quite another to talk about it on a national television show.
Plus, Nora Ephron totally stole that “I Remember Nothing” thing from me. Joe and I have been married for two epic, whirlwind years and I barely remember what happened yesterday. How was I supposed to talk about what my life was like nearly three years ago?
Still, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to meet Katie Couric! I’ve admired her career for years. Her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got” is one of my favorite books. I devoured it in a matter of days. It is so inspiring, I highly recommend it! Also, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to be on national TV (you do know what I do for a living, right?).
Ultimately, my mom encouraged me the most. When I told her about the phone call, she got really excited and immediately said: “Of course you’re going to do it! That’s a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
So with mama’s approval, I pushed the reservations out of my mind, promised Joe it would be fun…and crossed my fingers hoping I was right.
THIS IS IT
The day we were scheduled to fly to New York came really fast!
Mostly because it was really fast.
They called me and asked us to be on the show just one week before the taping.
Joe and I were planning to be in Canton that day because his brother, sister-in-law and kids were visiting for the first time in two years. (What are the chances, right?)
So, the Katie Show producers arranged for us to fly to New York in and out of Canton. We didn’t want to lose time with family so we asked for the last flight out and the first flight back. That gave us absolutely no time to enjoy NYC, but that was okay with us.
We left Canton at 7:50, had short layover in Charlotte and arrived in New York at midnight.
We had to go to baggage claim because apparently they don’t let you bring a huge purse, enormous laptop bag and a carry-on onto a plane. Whoops! So they checked my carry on and I had to wait forever at the baggage claim area for my little suitcase to come around the belt.
Waiting for us at the baggage claim was a man holding a sign with my name on it! This was my Beyonce moment. (Okay, maybe not Beyonce, because if some guy were holding a sign with her name on it he would be immediately swamped with people trying to catch a glimpse of her. But you know what I mean!) I apologized to him for what I assumed was a late flight pick up. But, apparently, there are people coming into the airport for all of the ABC Network shows around the clock, so this guy’s shift is 11pm to 6am! He picked us up in this super, duper nice Lincoln Town Car and took us to the Empire Hotel. That’s the same hotel from Gossip Girl! Unfortunately the roof was closed (because it was 1am!) so I couldn’t have my Blair Waldorf moment, but that’s okay. I was at the Empire!
THE DAY OF
The next morning, we woke up super early to get ready.
I had bought an orange dress from H&M a few days before that phone call and I figured it would be great for the show. It was bright, not too tight and not too short. Joe wore his nice blazer, jeans and a blue shirt. I love when he wears blue because his eyes are blue and they deepen or lighten to match the shirt.
After getting dressed, we packed up the hotel in record time. We were planning to fly back right after the taping so we had to bring our luggage with us to the ABC studios.
We got downstairs right at 8am and another town car was waiting for us outside. This driver wasn’t as friendly as the driver the night before, but whatever. (And his name was Kenneth Copeland, like the televangelist!) The studio wasn’t far from our hotel but it still took a little bit of time because NYC traffic is ridiculous.
When we got to the studio, one of the employees showed us to our green room.
In the green room, we finally met the producers I had been talking to for the past several days. They were great! They briefed us and had us sign some paperwork. (Duh, you can use our likeness. Why else would we be here?)
I dripped juice from a berry on my dress, (of course!) but luckily it wasn’t noticeable.
Then it was time for hair and makeup!
Before we left Ohio, the producer told me on the phone to come with my makeup mostly done and that they would only offer touch-ups. I don’t know what “mostly done” means, so I came with a full face on.
The makeup girl thought my face looked great (yay!) so she only toned down my eyeshadow and patted on a little powder.
The hair girl thought my hair looked fine. I didn’t. So, I panicked inwardly at the thought of going on the show with my hair as-is and I asked her to curl it anyway. When she agreed, I was so happy!
The makeup girl put a little powder on Joe’s already flawless face. (Seriously, his skin is without blemish. I am so jealous!) (Sidenote: The Kelly and Michael show was on the TVs in the room and this was the morning they announced Michael Strahan would be joining GMA!)
After hair and makeup, it was back to the green room and time to wait some more.
Finally, they brought us down to the show.
We were backstage while Katie talked to Amanda – a 36-year-old woman who was waiting for commitment to have sex for the first time. Another girl who was about my age and celibate was a guest in the audience as well.
(Both of these girls were in the hair/makeup room when I came in so I had spotted them then and guessed that they were also on the show.)
At this point, standing backstage, just a few feet and minutes away from where we were about to walk out, I was super nervous!
My mind was going wild thinking, This is nothing like feature reporting or talking about American Idol on Good Day Columbus. I was getting ready to go on national TV to talk about sex and celibacy.
My mind was also at warp speed wondering who I could get to take a picture of me while I was on the show (If a tree falls in the forest and you don’t post it on social media, then it didn’t happen!).
I was determined to get a picture with Katie Couric and I was going to be super bummed if it didn’t happen. I asked one of the producers if someone would take our picture while we’re on the show and she said we could get a picture with Katie afterward. (Phew!)
Backstage was bustling with people. The hair and makeup girls were down there, the producers and lots of other people. I was trying to take everything in. I didn’t want to forget a second.
Finally, we heard Katie Couric tease the next segment: “A 37-year-old man who was a virgin until he got married.”
Joe and I exchanged a look. Wow.
At that point, it was completely clear to us that I was only there because Joe married me. He – and the fact that he was a virgin before we got married – was the story. Neither of us saw that coming!
Walking out onto the stage was a little surreal. There was a studio audience, cameras and KATIE COURIC!
The entire show was called The Virginity Movement (this was also news to me!).
Katie started with Joe with the first question. She even called him cute (but they cut that out of the show. Booo!) I think I relaxed a little bit when Joe gave his answers. Is it weird to say that I was so impressed with him? He is the calmest person I’ve ever met and true-to-form, he was calm and collected. He gave a clear, good answer that I’d never heard him say. This was Joe’s first time ever on national television and he was a total pro. Then it was my turn. I talk super fast – and I know it – so I was consciously trying to talk slower. I also know that when I’m making a point to slow my speech, that can make me sound a little unnatural.
I put that out of my mind though and just talked to her like I would talk to Shawn Ireland or Marshall McPeek (the anchors on Good Day Columbus that I talk to about American Idol live on Good Day Columbus every Thursday morning!). Katie went back and forth with Joe and I with the questions and there was also a doctor guest seated in the audience that joined our conversation.
Dr. Sari Locker represented the opposing argument. She believed having sex while dating was a healthy thing and necessary for development.
Her argument seemed to be that most people have sex at a young age, so because everyone is doing it, then it must be a good idea.
She conveniently left out the fact that many people’s lives are irreversibly wrecked by ill-advised premarital sex. Having sex with whoever, whenever is a huge risk and there are numerous negative consequences that can’t be overlooked.
Then again, Dr. Locker was there to sell her “Sex for Dummies” book, so of course she wouldn’t talk about the many downsides. I get it. At one point, Katie asked Joe if he regretted not having sexual experience before me and he said, “No. She is the only person I wanted to have an experience with” or something like that and the crowd said “awwww!”.
We talked a bit more then it was over.
The whole thing went by really fast!
After the show, because our suitcases were in the green room, I immediately changed into my airport clothes. I wish I wouldn’t have though because we ended up taking pictures with the other guests of the show and I looked ridiculous.
Then it was back to the airport and back to Canton.
I couldn’t really remember anything that I had said on the show but I did remember that Joe did great so I reassured him with that. I wasn’t sure about myself though, so I kept saying to Joe, “Aww man, I should have said this or that!”
I do live television every week, so I thought it would be the same. It wasn’t. The difference – that I didn’t realize until after the fact – is that unlike my live reports on Sunday, I wasn’t the one in control.
What I never thought about until that day, and what I will remember if (WHEN!!) there is ever a “next time” is that it is immensely valuable to know how much time I have left.
When I’m feature reporting, the producer is counting me down in my ear, “one minute, thirty seconds, wrap”. In this instance, I didn’t know if we had all of the time in the world or thirty seconds left. I wish I would have prepared exactly what I wanted to say and then said those things regardless of what the questions were – that way I could make sure I said what needed to be said no matter what. (Most politicians and TV publicists are pros at this!)
As it was, after we left the stage, I spent a full week mulling over what I should and shouldn’t have said.
Mostly, I was bummed about what I felt we left out. The focus seemed to be on our dating relationship and why we decided to wait, but I wanted to talk more about our marriage and the positive effects that waiting has on it now. I wanted to express that I believe our marriage is stronger because we didn’t have sex beforehand. I wanted to talk about my Christianity more and that my faith in God was clearly rewarded. I wanted to say that people make way too big a deal out of sex while dating as if it is the end-all, be-all of a relationship. I wanted to say that making one mistake is no reason to make another. I wanted to say that sex can cloud your vision of a person. I wanted to say you can get to know someone very, very well without ever getting naked with him. And in fact, you can be having sex with someone and not know him at all (I did say that actually, but they cut that part out!). I wanted to say that doctor’s “95 percent of people have sex before marriage” statistic was ridiculous. I wanted to say that I admired the fact that Joe was a virgin before me and that I’ve always wished I would have been a virgin too.
But it was over and all that was left to do was wait. And wait. And wait….And post a picture of me, Joe and Katie Couric on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook. Yay!
I knew the show would be edited but I wasn’t sure what to expect so my enthusiasm was mostly curbed.
We taped the show on April 1st and it wasn’t scheduled to air until April 25th, so I waited for the show to air with equal parts excitement, anxiety and dread.
Honestly, I was terrified to see how it turned out.
Then as the days and weeks went by, I began to relax about it and I stopped kicking myself over what I didn’t say.
I remembered that before we left for the show, Joe and I prayed with the assistant pastor at our church who married us. Joe and I also prayed together in the green room too. In addition, at the time, we were in the midst of the 40-day fast (some people call it Lent), so we were definitely in a good place spiritually.
TODAY, ON “KATIE COURIC”
On the day the show was scheduled to air, I was racked with nerves all over again.
It aired at three and by two-thirty I could barely breathe.
I ended up watching it in the studio at work just before taping something for the weekend show.
Looking back, that was a pretty cool moment in itself. I was standing in the news studio at my dream job with some of my favorite colleagues including Cameron who is my long-time friend and is now my co-worker, one of the best meterologists in the country, Bill Kelly, and my favorite news anchor whom I’ve admired for years, Yolanda Harris. We were all standing there watching me and my husband on the Katie Couric show! The only bummer is that I wasn’t watching it with Joe. He was in a different part of the building watching it with his coworkers.
That night, a few friends came over and we watched it again on DVR.
Overall, I think it turned out great! If I had the chance to be a guest on a talk show again, I would a million times!
There are still some things I wish would have said, but I think we represented ourselves, our decision and our marriage well.
It is very strange, random and cool to say that I was on the Katie Couric show with my husband, but I am so glad we did it.
And, as it turns out, I was right: It was fun.
Here’s the clip of us on the show: http://katiecouric.com/videos/why-one-man-waited-until-age-37-to-have-sex/