I Was A Clue On Jeopardy
A few weeks ago, on March 24 to be precise, my decades-long writing career reached its apex. No, I did not win a major prize, receive a giant royalty check, or see my bestselling novel turned into a blockbuster film (or, better yet, a landmark cable series). I was a clue on Jeopardy.
Specifically, something I wrote was a clue on Jeopardy. It was under category of “essays” in the $1200 box.
“Running up debt in New York City is the subject of Meghan Daum’s fittingly titled essay My ____ Youth.”
“What is Misspent?” the contestant replied.
First of all, thank god he got it right. The last thing you want when you’re a Jeopardy clue is to watch the contestant stare at the screen, utterly perplexed, and say, “Who the hell is that?” Which is of course what I would have anticipated if I’d been forewarned that these eleven seconds of fame were coming my way.
As it was, I only found out when several people, many of them my relatives, began texting and emailing sometime around 7:20pm Eastern time that evening. OMG. Did you know you’re on Jeopardy? Some had managed to snap photos of their television screens, in some cases their entire television sets. In one shot, a local weather chyron reading “Severe Thunderstorm Alert” loomed in the upper left corner.
The weather alert seemed hauntingly appropriate. My Misspent Youth, which I wrote when I was 28 and was first published when I was 29, is an essay about spiraling into debt in New York City as a result of naively romantic ideas about urban, bohemian life. It’s about the changing demands of the creative economy and about growing up in suburbs and not realizing that the apartments you see in arty movies — elegant but slightly shabby pre-wars with frayed Persian rugs, worn oak floors, and chipping paint on endlessly clanking radiators — actually cost millions of dollars.