[This piece is a transcript from the storytelling show, The Seven Deadly Sins, where I performed on the night of November 11, 2014]
I found myself watching people describe what it was like being host to parasites living in their bodies and I was equal parts horrified, utterly fascinated, and totally riveted. It was nearing the end of a very enjoyable 14-hour cable television watching marathon. It had all started innocently enough, with a bag of weed, a hotel room, and one of my dearest friends. But it was not what I had expected out of my weekend or an outcome that any of us had expected.
My roller derby league had just skated in our first ever national championship and we had lost so badly that we didn’t even complete the first day of the tournament. We had all worked so incredibly hard for months and months for our moment in the sun and it was all gone in two games. Some of us were in best shape of our lives and I know for me that it was the most physically demanding thing I had ever done. We had paid for flights back to Chicago from Tucson, Arizona to the end of the weekend and without participation in the tournament, we had found ourselves at a loss for what to do with the rest of our days there.
After getting over the shock and embarrassment of losing so ridiculously and quickly, we all shrugged and decided that the best thing we could do was to treat this like a vacation. We immediately starting double-fisting drinks and looking for trouble.
I was sharing a hotel room with three other girls and after a night of blurry partying, we brainstormed what to do for the next two days. Some people wanted to go “into town” and do some shopping but my derby teammate, Anita Bier, and I just weren’t feeling it. We wanted to stay around the hotel room and possibly go swimming in the pool.
The first order of business for the next morning was to smoke a joint and turn on the tv. We quickly discovered that “Coming to America” was going to start and we were catching it at the very beginning. We both squealed with excitement and possibly clutched each other, elated about the possibilities of a full day of television miracles. One girl who was leaving to go shopping looked at us and said, “You two are going to have a great day!” And we agreed.
We followed up the movie with Ghost Adventures, a personal fave of mine and after several more hours of so many other shows that neither of us can remember, we discovered that Travel Channel show that described in excruciating detail and with hilarious and horrifying reenactments all about the parasites that live in human bodies.
Bier and I were riveted. We kept staring at the screen with wide eyes and looking back at each other, proud of our bravery, goading each other on, and completely disgusted with ourselves. We had been sitting in our opposite beds, sheets pulled up to our chins, and we barely noticed that it had become dark outside.
This day of doing absolute nothing was exactly what we needed to take a break from the very strenuous months of training that we had just undergone and the disappointment of the loss that we weren’t fully able to deal with at the time. Neither Bier nor I were shoe-ins for the travel team, we both had fought tooth and nail and knee and elbow for a space on that team. What we needed was a cheap form of therapy in the form of pizza and total and complete brain waste in front of the boob tube.
This wasn’t the first time I had completely given into the power of a long trashy television session, laying around in my underwear, and being a total slob. My earliest memory of it was when I was 12-years-old and my mom had asked my Tia Yolie to babysit me. This meant that I sat in front of the television in her living room while she watched the television in her bedroom. I soaked in 12 hours of nothing but MTV back when it was making its transition from actual music television into the society-, culture-, and life-ruining realm of reality television. I couldn’t get enough of The Real World, Road Rules, and The Real World versus Road Rules.
It seemed fitting that this was also the age where I began mornings with my brother, a bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal, and endless morning cartoons like Punky Brewster, The Transformers, and Baby Muppets interrupted only by going to the swimming pool and then back to game shows like Press Your Luck (“No Whammies, No Whammies, Big Bucks!”) and later, during dinner, my Tia’s favorite, Wheel of a Fortune.
It may come as a surprise to people when I tell them that I don’t own a television and that I haven’t owned a television for 15 years. People generally respond by clutching their chests and responding in a horrified whisper, “What do you MEAN you don’t have a tv? What do you do with yourself? You mean you don’t have ONE tv?”
I wasn’t judging my co-worker who had a television in every room of her house. I always follow up this declaration with honesty because I don’t want to look like a pretentious asshole, “I can’t have a tv, because I would never stop watching it.” I knew that if I lived with her, I would probably never leave. I would never sleep. I would never turn it off. My eyes wouldn’t stop watching. It would never stop feeling great and I would never, ever get anything done.
I don’t know why I am this way. There is something so great about being pulled in by this magical tube with colorful lights and not even knowing enough to care about being productive. Maybe it’s because my parents dangled cable in front us as kids and then took it away before we were teenagers and could do any serious damage. Instead, we snuck off to a neighbor’s house to watch The Red Shoe Diaries or Nightmare on Elm Street or the Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Even as an adult, I have a very difficult time resisting the siren call of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or the entire f-ing seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
It is so scary to give into the spiritual apathy of inactivity, but sometimes it feels so good that it’s so bad. I have bonded with some of my closest friends over the boob tube and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. I think it’s because sometimes I really need that time in front of the television. I need that break from career stresses and being a perfectionist stresses. I need to be able to feel the full weight and consequences of my apathy to propel me forward. I have to get so disgusted with myself to finally turn it off and do the damn dishes. It allows my constantly whirring brain to slow down, to seek only pleasure and fantasy, and color and lights and total idiocy. I’m glad that my world doesn’t revolve around owning a tv, and although I run into it’s arms like a dangerous mistress, I’m glad that television doesn’t own me.