Now what? - Lauren Booth gets an invite to appear on Celebrity Wife Swap
I froze with shock at the e-mail asking me to appear on Celebrity Fit Club
When your work is hectic, you hope for a peaceful home life. But what if the two collide? A PR woman has been sending me "invitations to appear" on television. Celebrity-style telly bookings can pay anything between £200 and £20,000. Plus you're told how lovely/great/brilliant you are and can walk away richer and with a vastly inflated ego. Except there's the shows she's offering me.
I mentioned to this woman that I'd put on weight. She sympathised, told me I looked great, "angel", then promised to meet me for (a light) lunch soon. A week later, I opened an e-mail from her and froze in shock. "Would you like to appear in the next series of Celebrity Fit Club?" read the message.
"No, I would not, you bastard," flew from my lips before I'd even finished reading. My husband looked over my shoulder. Making a joke of what was now my weight "problem" was the only way to get out of the room without having a huge row.
"Cream cake, O gorgeous one?" he asked.
"I can see you smirking. Make it two." My eyes were still glued to the words "fit club". The only thing more humiliating than opening that e-mail would be appearing on the show.
Ten days later another e-mail arrived. Not content with asking me to wobble around in public, then break down sobbing "I can't take much more of this" while swigging scotch from a bottle, before squeezing into the kind of running gear that would make me look like Vanessa Feltz's big sister, this woman had made another explosive offer.
"Would you like to do this, Lauren?" she asked, enclosing an attachment labelled Celebrity Wife Swap - the programme that takes two very different families and (oh, the subtlety of the title) sends the wives to live for a week in each other's houses.
My response was not to dismiss it at once. The puerility of these programmes brings out the kid in us. Producers rely on viewers turning into teenage girls and fantasising about what they'd do if it was them on the telly living those lives. Just receiving the e-mail, I find myself melting into my office chair and drifting into fantasy land. Imagine waking with David Beckham, having Jonathan Ross make me breakfast, or applying Eddie Izzard's nail varnish in front of a roaring fire.
Friends were quick to bring me down to earth by offering suggestions of more likely "swappers" such as:
Christine and Neil Hamilton
Peter Stringfellow plus blonde
Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee
the Duncan Smiths
Prince Charles and Camilla.
It must be a tough job trying to get celebrities stupid enough for these projects - people who believe they can walk away without making idiots of themselves, when that is exactly what the makers are determined they will do. How dull Wife Swap would be if everyone on it were reasonable and well-mannered.
I told my husband about the latest e-mail and he, too, slipped into a daydream. His was about Linda Lusardi making him dinner in a teddy. "Not because she's slim," he added. I sent off another blunt refusal.
Even our daughter Alex is being sucked into the television screen. She's been coming with me to work at TV studios since she was ten days old. Now, despite my attempts at providing a "pure" Neighbours then EastEnders childhood for her, she tells me: "When I grow up I'm going to be rich because I'm pretty. And I want to be a pop star."
A feminist can feel no greater sense of failure than on hearing her daughter say that she aspires to being a Linda Lusardi/ Britney clone.