My Parents Emphasized the Life of the Mind and All I Got Was This Lousy Tee (Vee)

On Day 4 of this flu, I am beyond generating pithy half-baked puns and am now officially drowning in the snot that swallowed Brookland. There exists but one advantage of being this patheticus maximus, and it’s revisiting the delicious boredom of childhood. And this time I get to watch TV.

Like most intellectually but not emotionally precocious kids, I had a lonely childhood. My best friends were Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy, The Great Brain, Betsy and Tacey, Pippi Longstocking, and Ramona Quimby. I have no doubt that my best friends would have been Samantha, Natalie and Tootie, Jeannie, Laverne and Shirley, but my old man enforced a strict moratorium on all junkovision — that is, everything but public television. Under the circumstances, I had no choice but to mine my imagination and torture my cat for personal entertainment. I played the violin, conducted science experiments, took disco lessons, wrote dozens of plays about an alternate universe in which Miss Hannigan killed Annie and Ronald Reagan paid dearly for his predilection for jelly beans. And I read. And read and read and read.

Every librarian in town knew my name. I wielded such terms as “capricious” with aplomb in kindergarten. I spelled like a maestro, swore like a sailor (thank you Bukowski), and knew all the Shakespearean terms for sexual organs. But, really, I would have tossed it all over in a heartbeat for one episode of Love Boat. God knows I would have burned every one of those plays for an episode of Fantasy Island. I think anyone would have, frankly.

I had to laugh at that recent New York article about hipsters who try to brand their idea of cool on their children. (The acronym drummed up for the occasion was so uncatchy I can’t even google it successfully.) How could the children of hippies convince themselves that any generation would willingly play choir to what their parents preach? Witness the Shiksa whore-mongering Chasid youth; the jacked-up children of the Christian right; the junked-up scions of Mormons and stage moms; the junkfoodjunkies hailing from macropsychotic families; and, me, Little Miss Junkovisionjunkie USA.

For I must confess, truly, I love television. I love film, yes, but I love TV just as unabashedly, if more crudely. Love love love, Eloise style. I squander my limited income on HBO and Showtime. I host Sunday Night Weeds and L Word parties. I rearrange my social life around Gilmore Girls. I miss appointments in order to watch the end of unfortunate Lifetime TV movies. (No, I don’t have DVR. Yet.) I obsess over Lost, The Sopranos, The Wire. Even Big Love.

By laboring mightily to ensure they didn’t raise a passive child, my poor parents begat an adult who ekes out her living rationalizing her daily TV and movie consumption. The road to hell really is paved with parents’ good intentions.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy