In a meeting in 2012, I was startled when someone suggested that Marilee needed to go away. As part of a PR and promotional strategy, it would be best if I didn’t talk so much about my wife, they explained. And, if I could show up to a few events without her, that wouldn’t be a bad idea.
This wasn’t a private one-on-one meeting where an off-the-record opinion was being offered. It was a planning session that included a whole team of people, and MIA Marilee was an official strategic option. I was floored. At the time, I didn’t outwardly react according to how I was feeling. I was enraged. I was offended.
That wasn’t the first or last time this type of advice had been offered. The argument from those making the suggestion is this: my fan base is made up of a lot of women. You want to always appeal to them, not turn them off. “Women need to think you’re available to them,” someone said. That is incredibly shortsighted and insulting to women.
I was in LA last week, and the suggestion was made again: hide your wife.
Clearly, I haven’t followed the advice. Marilee is everywhere. I talk about her, I write about her, and I show up to plenty public events with her. She has never been and will never be part of a PR strategy. She is my life. It’s impossible and unnatural to cut her out in some way. I would hope that her presence would make me more appealing to the wider public, not less. Ironic, isn’t it? The suggestion that a happily married black couple is not the image I would want to put out there!
However, as I sit here talking to Marilee about this blog, I’m surprised to hear her say: “I get it, T.J. They think you have to market the illusion of availability to women.” Let’s see if she still feels that way when I disinvite her from the public events on our summer schedule. It’s only a PR strategy, baby.