We gave up television once upon a time. “Once upon a time” is an era historians will recognize as one that occurred in a mythical past. In an act of deliberate and wilful self-destruction, we made that unbelievable decision.
Historically speaking, this may not seem like a big deal. But when I made my entrance into this world, it was somewhere between the radio and the television.
You may think the living room would be off limits for childbirth and that my mother would have preferred a hospital, but when there is a show on you love, nothing keeps you from watching it and the DVR hadn’t been invented yet.
To be accurate, I was born between the era when families listened to radio shows together, and when they watched television together. We didn’t own a television for a long time, although we did have a radio, and a HiFi.
(Kids, HiFi is just like WiFi, in no way whatever).
I had no clue what the other kids were talking about when they mentioned Sky King and Penny. I do remember watching The Mouseketeers, so we must have had a television at one point, unless I went to a friend’s house to watch it.
I did like to check in on Superman and Wonder Woman, now and then, to see what was up in the world of kinkiness and crime.
They shaped our budding characters in a myriad of psychological ways which all the platitudes from our moms would be helpless to combat. This is why there’s no point worrying what sort of parent you are; you can be a lousy one, or a good one, it makes little difference.
Your children’s peers, games, music, and weird books shape them, so relax on the sofa and have another Margarita.
Little Lotta always had her mind and mouth on food, horrifying those around her, and leaving an indelible impression that being overweight was a terrible thing.
The comic never said precisely why being fat was not a good thing; presumably it was because people would make fun of you, and you would be limited to wearing the same thing, day after day.
Little Dot shaped my love of polka-dots. She may be the reason I see little floaty things at the periphery of my vision. Since there wasn’t a character who liked stripes, or some other geometric shape, I don’t have a control group.
Bazooka Joe gave me my love of turtlenecks and is the reason I consumed quantities of bubblegum.
Did the comics we read lead to a national obsession with our weight and being rich, even to naming our dogs ‘Dollar’ like Richie Rich did? (I should have thought bigger and not named my dog, Small Change.) Or, were we already obsessed with those things, and comics reflected our national character?
I also love ponytails. Deborah Walley, who played Gidget, and had a ponytail, was a favorite. So was Sally Field, who played the Gidge on television.
I bought the new issue of Ponytail every week, and this affirmed my erroneous belief that girls can’t do chemistry, and that wearing mini skirts was the bomb. For a short time, I wore skirts so short, you could see my religion. I gave them up for practical reasons; I hated pantyhose and I really hated being followed by creepy men.
Now, those mini dresses are perfect tunic tops over leggings.
I was positive I was missing out on something thanks to Archie and the gang, whether it was being blonde, going to some party, or not having a cool group of kids to hang out with.
What I failed to realize was that spending so much time reading caused me to miss out. I should have been learning how to neck from a friend, instead of reading about sex in Fanny Hill.
It is a little known fact, but comics were partially to blame for World War II. The Nazis, in an effort to get to know the people they hoped to enslave, read our comics, and were sure that taking over our country would be easy, since Americans were clearly self-absorbed and kind of stupid.
They were probably secretly watching our television shows, too. This is why Hitler had a bunker; it was the first man cave, equipped with a big screen TV and mini-fridge stocked with German ale.
Not having a television in our house when I was young was okay, because not only was I in my room reading comic books, I was also reading Nancy Drew mysteries, the Wizard of Oz books, the Pollyanna series, and many other books about orphan girls who get to live in the country with distant relatives and have great adventures.
These girls were regularly misunderstood by their adoptive families, which usually featured a stony-hearted soul, but they always came through every situation with shining colors and palpable goodness.
Everyone appreciated them by the end of the book, especially if they almost lost them through some ghastly accident.
This was the stuff of girlish fantasy for an overlooked, and oft-beleaguered, third child. I would have happily deserted my immediate family for a chance to live on Prince Edward Island.
A book that had a minimum of 500 pages was good for an extended absence. Reading some of these books meant I never became a radical hippie, as I now want to be in the latter half of my life. I had already read about war and revolution, and had a rather jaundiced viewpoint about it all by the time I was 16.
I had a horse in my teen years. Since I was always reading, but my horse needed exercise, I would take a book along with me while I rode.
This occasioned much mirth for my parents, namely about the weird kid they had who read while she rode. It also lifted me high enough to pick cherries off the trees that were growing not far from our house. Bings and Queen Annes, right off the tree. Otherwise, I was lucky enough that they would completely forget about me, and whether I was getting good grades, or not.
They probably considered themselves fortunate that I was ensconced in my bedroom with a book, and not with boys or drugs.
When television entered our familial life, at least I was out in the living room with the rest of the family, watching Route 66 and The Fugitive. If that isn’t progress, what is?
People who make a living criticizing our habits and making us feel like crap, have been telling us for fifty years that television would usher in the end of civilization as we know it, and dissolve the glue that holds it together, namely, the Family.
I can state unequivocally, without having been paid one centime for my opinion, that the situation is quite the contrary.
Television has been holding the American family together for decades, rather than splitting it apart. That being the case, if I was watching The Mousketeers at a friend’s house, then I was multi-tasking and keeping their family together.
You’re welcome, anonymous family.
At any rate, we decided to give up the expense of an appliance that sucked up so much of our spare time with repeat programming and endless commercials.
Oh my! Anyone who thinks nicotine or caffeine are hard to kick, hasn’t got a clue. I am so used to having the background noise on from the set, that I was antsy.
I read with the television on, and I even studied and wrote the papers for my Master’s degree with it on. After it was gone, I couldn’t concentrate on a page of text for more than a minute.
My eyes would rove restlessly, like an ex-con’s in a room full of cops. Or vice versa.
I had looked forward to being without it, and made plans to write the Great American Novel, a sweeping epic of three generations of a family without television and the worlds they conquered. What follows is the heart wrenching events of our journey.
Stay tuned for the commercial break afterwards:
The sun came up.
When the usual time for viewing television arrived, we all sat on various pieces of furniture and looked at one another.
Who were these people who were in our home and sitting on our sofa and chair? We kept looking expectantly at each other as if the person we were looking at was under an obligation to entertain us with what hopefully would pass as witty banter.
The trouble with witty banter is, it requires some sort of situation brought on by poor choices, or domestic events beyond our control.
The sun came up again.
I sat down on the sofa after work and stared at the blank screen of the television. We were bored and irritated with one another.
We started listening to NPR so we would have something to rant about. That is what the news is really good for.
Enough with a Glass Full of Blessings and Things I Am Grateful For.
Being able to offload stress by ranting about the latest indignity a fellow American has been subjected to is a great source of relaxation that people don’t realize is theirs for the taking.
I think you know by now that the sun came up.
I spent a few minutes outside actually talking to a neighbor, whose names I haven’t learned after seven years.
Homicide of family members may have been mentioned by a member of the household. Can’t remember who exactly, but I should make note of all the errors murderers commit.
I have learned many of them by watching the Mystery Detectives, The Forensic Files, and 48 Hours, Hard Evidence.
Hard evidence is exactly what you don’t want to leave behind.
Unlike the television, there was the sun, yet again.
We decided to restore the TV and our favorite programming. Once again, we spend time with family members in relative peace and harmony.
Conversation occurs at commercial breaks only, the way God intended.
(Note to self: Be sure to burn receipt for purchase of muriatic acid).
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