Earlier tonight, we had the meeting in the living room with Maya and Robert to discuss the disgusting tell-all book that got released today. There were seven of us there, the ones who work in the house (most of us live here, too): me, Maya, Robert, Mrs. Bedrossian, Belen, Sandy and Dr. Peterson. We probably could all have fit in Maya’s office, but I reckon we used the living room to keep up social distancing, which I reckon still makes sense, even if we’re all totally sick of it.
We scattered ourselves on the chairs and couches and both Maya and Robert stood up in front of us, looking pretty dang serious.
“You all know why you’re here,” Maya began, taking off her mask. “Something bad has happened and we have to figure out how to respond to it. Robert and I have been talking to our lawyers about the legal angles, and Ethan and Jean-François are figuring out what kind of response we can have on the show, if any, but we wanted to meet with you separately because you guys are part of the household , you’re here all day, the paparazzi can bother you on your way in and out…”
“…and you’re all in contact with the boys, especially Hunter and Michael,” Robert added. That was the first time I ever heard Dr. Peterson’s first name. “Frankly we didn’t know what to tell you to tell the boys. Our first thought was to pretend that the book doesn’t exist, but that’s impossible. They knew about it this morning already because of something that was on TV.” Me and the boys watch Good Morning America sometimes with breakfast. Sure enough, there was a segment with that bitch Jill Ramos who wrote In Hell with Maya for them to see. There certainly was no keeping it from them. “The boys are too smart not to know that something is going on, and, especially because Maya and I don’t believe in censorship, we’ve decided not to keep the book from them.”
“We spoke to Jacob’s therapist about it this morning,” Maya said, “and he said that would be alright…even if there are things in the book that the boys won’t be able to understand.”
“The filth, he means,” said Mrs. Bedrossian, with a huge amount of disgust in her voice.
“Yes…,” said Robert, “what you can call the filth. I don’t think that it should be too difficult explaining to the boys about the tailor and things like that, and the boys know they’re not being mistreated, so that shouldn’t be too hard to explain, either…but the fact is that there’s a long part of the book that’s about Maya’s and my sex life. And, unfortunately, Hunter’s too.”
“We’re so sorry you’re caught up in this,” Maya said, looking at me. “It’s bad enough that she should have written such disgusting things about Robert and me, but to bring an innocent bystander into it really shows what kind of an unscrupulous cow my ex-assistant is.
“Let us also make something clear to you, just in case you had your doubts,” she continued, addressing everybody again. “The book is one huge lie. You’ve all been in the house and you’ve seen how things are, so you know, for example, how we treat the boys. You’re probably closer to them than anyone, Hunter,” she continued, “do they seem mistreated to you?”
“Of course not,” I said, keeping my thoughts about Matteo’s diet to myself, although, finally, I don’t think that the diet fucked him up as much as I thought it was going to. “They’re great kids.”
“We care enormously about the boys. I know it may seem like we sacrifice them to TV popularity, but we keep a close eye on them to make sure that the cameras aren’t intruding too much in their lives. But you two know that,” he continued, meaning me and Dr. Peterson.
“I don’t want to go down all the accusations that cow put in the book,” Maya said, “but, please trust Robert and me, they’re all lies and exaggerations.”
“Mostly lies,” said Robert. “Especially the sex stuff,” Robert said, “since it’s what will affect the boys the most, we fear. So it’s very important that we have a coordinated response to the situation. There’s an awful lot of what Aida” that’s Mrs. Bedrossian’s first name “called ‘filth’ and some of it is pretty explicit. The boys probably don’t know that much about those kinds of things, although Jacob is probably getting to an age where kids start figuring those things out. Have either of them come to you with questions about…the birds and the bees?,” he asked me and Dr. Peterson, looking pathetically awkward.
We looked at each other, shrugged, and said “no” in unison. I think it’s their parents’ job to tell them the facts of life, and I’m sure they’ve known the basic outlines for a while…but it’s a long jump from that to accusations in print that your parents are a pair of amoral swingers and that your sports teacher is their bisexual boy toy.
“Well,” Maya said, taking back the baton, “they’re going to be finding out about a lot of things that boys their age shouldn’t find out about. Let me also spell something out for you in no uncertain terms: there is no truth whatsoever to the sexual allegations made in the book. Robert and I are not ‘swingers’, Robert’s never harassed any employees, and, if we were going to get involved in strange sexual practices we’d never do it in the same house as our children. Hunter, you obviously know the truth. And look at it this way, if you need more convincing: we’d never have put our house on television if we had secrets like that to hide.”
“You don’t need to give us an explanation,” Sandy said, speaking for the first time, “we know what’s true and what isn’t.”
We all agreed with what Sandy said by nodding or saying “yes” or something like that.
“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” said Maya, who continued “we want to make it as easy on you as we possibly can, so, as far as all of you are concerned, if the boys ask you any questions about the filth in the book, just tell them to come to us for an explanation. We don’t want to put the burden of explaining things like that to kids that aren’t yours, even if I know you care about them. That way they’ll only be getting one explanation, which should confuse them less than if we say one thing, Hunter says another and Michael says something else still.
“We’re going to see Jacob’s therapist tomorrow morning for an emergency meeting and we’re going to try to explain what we can with someone in the room who can guide us. We don’t want to upset the boys unnecessarily. The good thing is that they’re not in school, so their friends can’t bully them about what’s being written about their parents…”
“Although I don’t think we can expect that 6th graders’ parents will let them read trash like the book,” said Robert.
“They probably won’t let them read Dr. Seuss either,” muttered Dr. Peterson, loud enough for at least me to hear from 6’ away.
“The upshot of all this,” Maya said, “is that we don’t want any of you to feel like you’re trapped in the middle. This is Robert’s and my problem as parents.”
The meeting broke up a few minutes later, but Maya asked me to stay.
“Hunter,” she began, “I know the boys are very fond of you and that you talk about a lot of things with them. You can listen to them vent, but, in this case at least, could you try and not give them advice? We’re going to go along with what Dr. Altman says, and I think it would be better if we all presented an united front during the crisis.”
“Sure,” I said. “The last thing I want to do is get Jacob and Matteo any more confused than they probably are. I mean, I don’t mind giving them advice on playing ball and little things when they ask for it, but I’m in way over my head with this kind of…stuff.”
“Good,” Robert said. “What we all want is what’s best for the boys. I wish this didn’t have to happen, but it has, so we’ve got to live with it.”
“That brings us to something else,” Maya said. “You can sit down again.”
I got that being called to the principal’s office feeling.
“It’s nothing bad, don’t worry,” Maya said, so I guess I was looking mighty uncomfortable sitting there. “It’s just you’re more involved in the book crisis than the others. There’s nothing in the book about Sandy or Michael…but there’s a whole chapter about you.”
“The question is do you want to do something about it,” Robert said.
I gave him a blank look. I know the author was a chick, so I couldn’t go and kick her ass…which is exactly what I would have done if the writer was a dude.
“We mean suing for libel.”
I hadn’t thought about that, not for one second. I just figured we were in a big mess and that, with luck, it would die down, maybe after Maya released a statement or said something on the show about the book being a mess of lies. Of course, this is the first time I’ve been in a celebrity gossip book. Maya’s no doubt had a whole lot more experience with bad publicity than I have.
“We have an appointment with our lawyer day after tomorrow,” Robert said, “and we’d like you to come along. If we decide to sue, you’re probably going to have to be a co-plaintiff. The whole book is one long libel and there’s nothing she can do to prove stuff that isn’t true, but lawsuits are expensive and long and complicated and sometimes stir up more bad publicity than can be made up by being vindicated in the courts.”
“The lawyers are looking at our options,” Maya said, “and they said they’d lay them out for us on Thursday. We trust them, and you can trust them too.”
“And, don’t worry,” Robert said, maybe because it looked like I was going to say something, “we’ll cover all the lawyer expenses for you. We got you into this, and we’re prepared to get you out of it.”
“Wow…,” I said, “thanks. I don’t know about suing, though…”
“Neither do we,” said Maya. “That’s why we’re going to talk to the lawyers.”
“Are you going to see the boys later on?,” Robert then asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “we were going to do a movie night. Unless y’all would rather…”
“I think it’s better they spend the evening with you,” Robert said. “They can ask us their questions tomorrow, after they’ve had a chance to sleep on them. That’s why Dr. Altman said he wanted to see us tomorrow.”
“We have a lot of faith in him,” Maya said. “We asked Simone – that’s Daphne’s wife, you know her of course – for a recommendation, and she said he’s probably the best child psychologist in Pasadena. He’s been good for Jacob since the meltdown, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. He hasn’t had another meltdown, so I reckon that’s progress.
“I guess that’s everything” Robert said, “so go enjoy your movie with the boys. You know Matteo’s allowed microwave popcorn now, right?”
I certainly knew that. What Robert didn’t know was that Matteo broke the air popper as soon as he hit his goal weight lol.
“What’s on the program tonight?,” Robert asked.
“Dumbo,” I said. Then I realized that might not be alright anymore with people wanting to cancel my favorite Disney movie for some reason. “It’s ok to show it to them, right?”
“Of course,” said Maya. “If we’re not censoring the garbage Jill wrote we’re certainly not going to censor a wonderful Disney movie like Dumbo. Cancel culture is the exact opposite of what we want to teach the boys. So go ahead, by all means. You know,” Maya said, turning to her husband, “we should watch it too one of these nights.” She turned back to me. “You have the Blu Ray?”
“The boys do,” I explained, which was just as well as, from what I understand, they’re gonna take it down from Disney+ any day now.
So I went back to the pool house and waited for the boys. Then we had a good movie night, although I was surprised that they didn’t ask a single question about the book. Maybe they were traumatized, I thought, but they didn’t look traumatized. At least they weren’t looking at me funny, but that could only mean that they haven’t read far enough into the book to get to the stuff about me.
One thing is true: I was definitely relieved that I was wasn’t going to be responsible for explaining the shit in the book to a 9 and an 11 year old. I’m just hoping that Maya’s and Robert’s faith in Jacob’s therapist pays off and that the boys get through the book crisis in one piece tomorrow afternoon.