When I was growing up we didn't have TV.
No, I'm not THAT old. And yes, we had other amenities like electricity and running water. Our lack of TV was a choice, a decision my parents made without my knowledge or consent. It was supposed to be an "experiment", but personally, I think my dad was just cheap.
In the spring of 1969, the company my father worked for moved us from Atlanta to Houston. Either the move was too rough on its delicate circuitry, or maybe it didn't like the Houston heat and humidity, but our black and white Zenith portable with its rabbit ears fizzled out shortly after being installed in our brand new house.
My father made a stab at fixing it. First, he swiveled the rabbit ears and banged his fist on the top and sides a few times. Then he opened the back and peered fixedly at the innards. When nothing worked, no surprise there, that was when my parents decreed we would be television free. The Zenith was rudely shoved into the downstairs closet, like a bad puppy thrown outside for piddling on the rug, and there it sulked for 37 years until we hauled it out and tossed it with all the other junk prior to moving my parents to Dallas.
Fortunately, I was one of those nerdy kids who loved to read, so it was just a matter of loading up on the books to keep my mind off the antics of Dudley Do-Right and Gomer Pyle.
Despite the television ban in our house, I got a fairly regular diet of TV, thanks to friends whose parents hadn't catapulted them back to the stone age. I watched Dark Shadows most afternoons next door, and each week wondered what was keeping the rest of the Brady kids from beating the crap out of Jan. Our across-the-street neighbors, who were my parents' best friends, would invite us over whenever there was some kind of breaking news event like moon landings, presidential resignations and Super Bowls.
My freshman year of high school, my English teacher, Mr. McClain, who looked like Glee's Mr. Schuester and was the object of hordes of adolescent female lust, assigned an essay that required watching something on television one night, I can't remember now what it was. It was a shot in the dark, but I impulsively raised my hand and asked, "What if you don't have a TV?" I completely expected him to tell me to arrange to watch the program at a friend's house, or even assign an alternate essay, which would have been the sensible thing to do. Instead, he was so impressed that my family was crippling by without television, he awarded me an automatic "A" on the spot and gave me the night off. I was persona non grata with my classmates for a couple of days, but the Mr. McClain Fan Club got itself another member in me.
It wasn't until after they married me off (of course!) that my parents caved in and bought another TV, a big color console. What had started as an "experiment" to see if we could live without the boob tube finally came to an end 11 years later. I suppose that qualifies as a rousing success.
To Mr. Fred McClain, 9th grade Major Works English, G. C. Scarborough Jr. - Sr. High School, here's your essay 40 years late.
I confess --- I have a secret vice. It's not drugs or alcohol or expensive shoes. You won't find me trying to sneak a cigarette or furtively gambling in Vegas. No illicit affairs. My vice is Gossip Girl.
I glommed onto this show out of sheer boredom. A couple of years ago during one of my periodic exercise/healthy eating/eight glasses of water daily binges, I needed something to occupy my brain while working out on the elliptical trainer; otherwise, said brain is too busy finding excuses to sabotage the workout. My daughter had the first full season of a show called Gossip Girl on DVD, so I decided what the heck, I'd watch it while I worked up a sweat. By the end of the first episode, I was hooked, so help me.
Before Gossip Girl, the closest I had ever come to watching a soap opera of any kind was to find out who shot J. R. in 1980. My mother was a big fan of As the World Turns, and I had plenty of friends who sighed and swooned over Luke and Laura's romance on General Hospital. I felt I was superior because I was immune to these cheesy adult dramas, and herein lies the sad thing about my addiction: while others watch adults plot and connive week after week, I watch teenagers.
Granted, these are not your ordinary teens. Their scheming and lying would make ol' J. R. proud. They are filthy rich and ridiculously good-looking. Their wardrobes take up whole rooms and their credit cards are never maxed out. They can charter a private jet as easily as the rest of us can hail a taxi. Most of the parents are conveniently absent, and the few who do hover around are too caught up in their own problems to pay much attention to their offspring.
Their shenanigans are chronicled in minute detail for the shocked enjoyment of the hoi polloi and hoity-toity alike on a website called Gossip Girl. No one knows Gossip Girl's true identity and it's everyone's ambition to find her and take her down. But at the same time, they can't function without her. She narrates the show and at the end of every episode, she signs off with, "You know you love me. XOXO..."
I can't explain my fascination with this show. My husband refuses to watch it, as any sensible person would do, and even my daughter, whose age puts her squarely within the show's targeted demographic, gave up on it long ago. A friend suggested that perhaps I am going through a mid-life crisis. If that's true, then luckily for my husband, I sure do aim low and settle for very little.
P.S. Sorry honey...that last sentence didn't come out quite right. You know I love you!
A smorgasbord of things I've observed and/or learned from the boob tube. You, dear reader, should not assume anything about my television watching habits:
If someone is trying to drown you in a toilet, reach up and flush it.
When confronted with a zombie, shoot it in the head.
This country is seriously screwed up.
On television, there is no such thing as morning breath.
Television is overrun with little people, but you never see them in real life.
Snooki is an Oompa-Loompa love child.
People pack entire wardrobes for three-hour tours.
No one locks their doors, even in NYC.
Arthritis won't kill you, but the prescription pill you take for it might.
American parents are morons, especially the fathers.
Women on television have happy periods.
Wal-Mart advertising executives think normal people shop in their stores.
Seriously, who would order a cake from a Food Network contestant?
Most of the wedding gowns on Say Yes to the Dress are hideous.
Reality shows are completely unreal.
It is easy to find parking in NYC.
Gifts on television always have the top wrapped separately from the rest of the box.
Bullets from machine guns never hit their intended target.
People on television wind the bedsheets around themselves after sex.
Memo to Simon Cowell: Please go back to England...and stay there.
On survivalist shows like Lost or The Walking Dead, the ladies' underarms are always shaved and their eyebrows waxed.
Women go to sleep/wake up in full make-up.
Ever noticed the streets are always wet?
A woman running from an axe murderer is guaranteed to slip and fall.
Aggie football and national television generally do not mix.
A group of cats is called a clowder.
Betty White used to be darling. Now she's just annoying.
The cheeseburger I order never looks like the cheeseburger on the commercial.
Geckos have British accents.
Star Trek was right...there's no intelligent life down here.
Feel free to tell me what YOU have learned from the boob tube.
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