2011 August 19
From The Daily Dan: At Home With Seventeen's Jayne Jamison
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(NEW YORK) Jayne Jamison is a bona fide powerhouse at both work and play. Her day job? Publisher of Seventeen—and mom extraordinaire for a brood of four and wife of Edward Bisno, a marketing and communications consultant. For the past 12 years, Jamison and clan have decamped to Southampton for some much-needed respite. It’s all about the simplest pleasures! BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
What’s your Hamptons history?
When I was married to my first husband for 12 years, we had a house in upstate New York. The minute we divorced, my priority was to get near the ocean, so I bought a condo on the beach in Southampton. I fell in love with my now husband Edward Bisno in the Hamptons-—we spent much of our free time together out here and bought this house seven years ago. We got married in the Hamptons, too. It’s our fifth wedding anniversary this year, along with my fifth anniversary of being cancer-free—both are quite exciting.
How’d you go about upgrading from a condo to a full-fledged house?
It took us almost a year to find the perfect place—unlike some people, we did indeed have a budget! Our first objective was to have a lot of privacy, since we came from a condo where all the neighbors were in everybody’s business. Here, we put up trees in the front of the house to block our neighbors’ view. When people come to my house, they call it “the un-Hamptons,” because we sit in my backyard, barbecue, and go out to eat only occasionally. When we bought the place, we thought it’d be fabulous to have a spot where all of our kids—we have four—would want to come. That didn’t really happen! But our friends visit, which is wonderful.
When your kids do venture east, what do you do as a family?
My daughter likes to shop, of course, so I’ll take her into Southampton. My son hates to shop, but he’ll help me cook. They started bringing their friends out here recently; it keeps us busy, because I end up feeding more kids, and then they go out on their own. My kids both have friends whose families are out here, too. We socialize with our kids’ friends’ parents—so being out here has actually enlarged our social circle.
How do you fill your days on the East End?
I spend a huge amount of time gardening. I love my hydrangeas, but when anything blooms, it makes me happy. My perfect day involves a 15-mile bike ride down to a state park, then a four-mile beach walk. I prefer to do it alone, and it usually works out that way, because my husband is a gym guy.
How have you seen the Hamptons change?
We call the Hamptons a pop-up town. Given the current real estate market, people haven’t been able to sell, so this area is inundated with renters. Some of the people who come out here are a little much. We come here all year-round. In the winter we make a fire, watch college football, and cook a lot. I’m a Penn State graduate, and my husband went to the University of Texas. Penn State always wins in my book.
Let’s talk about your day job for a moment: How did you end up in publishing?
I first worked at an ad agency. People came in all day long trying to sell me on their magazine, so I got a very good sense of what was impactful—and what was not. I learned from seeing really, really talented people, and also quite untalented people.
Your mag-world trajectory—Family Circle, Child and Parents, American Health, then Redbook—uncannily reflected your life phase while at each publication. What’s it like being at Seventeen?
When I first started at Seventeen, my daughter was 15 years old. Having teenagers has made me somewhat of an expert on teens. Everyone thinks I’m pretty cool—except my children, of course. I’m still their nerdy mom.
What’s your best parenting advice?
Hold on tight: It’s a wild ride! I’ve learned to really compartmentalize my time. When I’m at home, I’m very focused on my kids; when I’m at work, I’m very focused on my job. As a single parent for many years, I wasn’t in a position to plot out where we should go for Christmas vacation and spring vacation and all the rest. I didn’t have the financial ability to travel the way other families did, but we always had fun. Kids always go through that phase where they’re trying to separate from their parents, and that’s natural. But I think today’s teens are pretty friendly with their parents. If I counted up the number of text messages I get in a given day, it’s pretty high. They ask me things they should be figuring out for themselves, but that’s what I’m here for!
What kinds of adventures came out of spending time doing nothing with your kids?
Once we were sitting at home, and I said we should go to Mystic, Connecticut. My daughter was like, “Well, Mom, where are we going to stay?” My response was, “I dunno!” I told her we were simply getting in the car, taking clothes, sleeping over if we could, and if not we’d just come home. We ended up having the most fun weekend ever. I even took them to Foxwoods Casino, though we didn’t go in the gambling area—they have rides there! We went to the museums in the area and hung out by the waterfront. Not everything has to be planned. Kids these days are so programmed.
How did you avoid raising your kids as neurotic, over-programmed mini-adults?
When I was the publisher of Parents and Child, people used to ask me all the time about my children’s afterschool activities—then they’d go through a litany of 20 things their kids did every day after school. My son used to come home from school a bit tired, and he’d watch some TV and do his homework. People were horrified to hear that—given my position, they couldn’t believe that my kids didn’t take piano lessons, weren’t learning a few different languages, and weren’t prepping for college exams. No, they weren’t! And you know what? My kids ended up doing really well because they didn’t have that pressure. My kids put enough pressure on themselves, and their schools put additional pressure on them. They didn’t need it from me as well.
How has the American teenager changed since you started at Seventeen in 2003?
Teens today are friendlier with their parents, and they do exert more influence than previous generations. The parents are trying to hold onto their youth. I always joke that my daughter and I are both trying to look 30. We’re in this strange place where teens are influencing what’s purchased for the family, especially technology—it’s not just what they’re buying to dress their own bodies.
How has technology changed the everyday life of a teenager in 2011?
Teens are communicating 24/7; whether it’s texting or Facebook, their communication skills have changed. I see it more with my son, who’s a bit younger—he doesn’t really talk in full sentences! Nielsen studies show that the average teenage girl sends around 4,000 texts a month. It’s made communication a little more difficult; there aren’t those long conversations like people used to have. But I think teens are much happier. Kids are into looking great, they’re confident, and they are indeed achievement-oriented. But I think they’re a very comfortable group that believes in their own abilities. If you look back, not since the Boomers have we seen a group that’s just so positive about the world around them. They’re very into environmental causes and getting involved with everything—just like the Baby Boomers were.
Who were your role models when you were a teen?
Brooke Shields was the epitome of a teenager to me. Now there are girls like Selena Gomez. The changing face of the demographic reflects this—in the latest Census, 46 percent of all teens are from a minority group; half of all Hispanics who are U.S.-born are under the age of 18. So we have a whole new set of role models coming up. Right now, the shows that are doing well feature teens being positive, upbeat, and accepted. Just look at Glee, versus a show like Gossip Girl. That says a lot about the demographic of real teens.
Who are your best friends at Hearst—who do you hit up the caf with, for example?
Oh, gosh! I eat at my desk every day because I’m so busy. It’s pathetic. The other day, I had lunch with my boss, Michael Clinton, whom I adore. But we probably last had lunch together three years ago. We’re all so busy, I don’t really have desk buddies in the building. Maybe that’s by design. It might be a way of keeping things a little separate.
Do you have industry pals beyond the Hearst Tower?
I definitely do; many of my friends are people that I’ve worked with in my industry. My closest friend is someone who I met at Family Circle 25 or 28 years ago. My husband has also brought me lots of new friends, which is quite nice! My jokes are all new to them—I can recycle everything!
What’s on your poolside Hamptons reading list?
I just got a book from my cousin that’s written from a dog’s point of view—how funny is that? I’m on the third book in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series; I read fun summer fiction. Of course, I catch up on magazine reading. I love to read the young women’s titles, and one of my favorites is New York. It’s not in the Hearst building, but that’s OK. I don’t take anything with an on/off switch to the beach. Leaning back requires the printed page! My daughter recently sent me an email because Coopers Beach now has Wi-Fi. That’s ridiculous. Relaxation should not require an outlet.
Have you become more tech-savvy since landing at Seventeen?
When I came onboard, I had a lot of catching up to do, in terms of technology and otherwise. I was obviously using the Internet, but I certainly wasn’t cruising Facebook. Now I have my daughter’s friends friend-ing me, which is just kind of weird. I’ve become very, very savvy about what we can do across platforms. I don’t post on Twitter, I just follow other people. I don’t have enough interesting things to say, quite frankly. When I started an account on Twitter, the first person to follow me was my ex-husband. That got me off Twitter really quickly!
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