my sister megan and i watched a lot of television when we were kids. when we got home from school in the afternoons, we turned it on immediately to make sure we didn’t miss the growing pains reruns. then we left it on to watch whatever came on after that, and whatever came on after that. during the summer, when we didn’t have anything else to do, we watched talk shows and old partridge family reruns and movies we’d taped on vhs. we were very upset if doogie howser was on when my dad called us to the table for dinner.
our parents would get fed up. my dad would come home from work and, seeing me slumped in the recliner in front of yet another sitcom, would put his hand on the top of my head. “feel that?” he would say. “that’s your brain turning into jell-o.”
“hmm,” i’d say, annoyed because i’d missed a line of dialogue while he was talking.
mom and dad imposed limits on our tv-watching sometimes. we could only watch an hour of tv a day, they said. so we’d watch our hour a day, whether anything good was on or not. then, after everyone went to bed, i’d plug my headphones into the television upstairs, sit as far away as the short cord would allow, and watch reruns or talk shows or saturday night live. the headphone cord was only two feet long, so the image of danny devito in his joey buttafuoco pants is still burned into my brain.
megan stopped watching so much television when she hit high school and her honors classes and hobbies didn’t allow her much free time. me, i kept going without her. i kept watching television through high school and my first years of college. i kept watching when i dropped out of college and worked as a web designer. i stopped when i went back to college to finish my degree, but once that was done it was right back to the tv for me.
on any given weeknight during the television season, i’d estimate there are two or three shows i make sure to watch. when those aren’t on i watch reruns. on the weekends, i put on dvds of my favorite shows while i clean or sew or make jewelry. and i hate myself for it.
i hate myself every time i neglect my hobbies and interests in favor of a simpsons rerun. i hate myself when i choose my buffy dvds over writing. i hate myself every time i sit down on the couch to watch things other people created instead of creating something of my own. after all, the people who write and produce and act in television didn’t get there by watching it all the time, at least not as much as i do.
(this is why i can’t watch the blooper reels on my dvds. blooper reels are of successful people who like their jobs, and that’s really depressing.)
and i know why i do it. i watch tv because it’s easy. it’s easier to watch someone else’s (fictional) life than it is to deal with mine. it’s easier to let the lights and sound alleviate my loneliness than it is to go out and meet new people. it’s easier to watch someone else’s creation than it is to make my own.
on my roadtrip, i hardly watched any television at all. i didn’t have time. there were too many things to do and see and places to go and people to talk to. i didn’t even miss it. when staying at my friends’ houses, i noticed a definite correlation between how successful and happy they were and how little tv they watched. many of my friends didn’t have televisions at all, and the ones who did didn’t have it on all day like i do.
since i’ve been back from my trip, people have told me how proud they are of me. they’re proud that i went through with it, they’re proud that i finished it and did it safely. and i guess i’m proud of myself, too, but you know what? it was easy. on my roadtrip i didn’t watch the office or lost or gilmore girls or veronica mars or house or bones or 30 rock or scrubs or anything, really, and it was easy.
what’s not easy is waking up in my apartment every morning and trying to fight the nagging thought in the back of my head that i should turn on the television. it’s too quiet in here. i can’t stop thinking. i’m only halfway through my season six buffy dvds. it’s okay if i watch them right now and do other things later. but it’s not okay. it’s really not.
when she knows she has a lot of work to do, my sister megan rips the cable out of the back of her tv and stores it in her locker at school so she won’t be distracted. maybe i should put my antenna there, too.