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As I have said before in this column, I don't have television. I have an actual TV, just no cable and no antenna. I get one of two reactions to this fact, either a look of horrified and unfathomable disbelief, or a response a lot like wistful longing. The people who experience horrified disbelief find it impossible to imagine life without their television and seem to think that I am either a tree-hugging, yoga-doing, organic loving, bicycle-riding, French hippie anarchist or just a crackpot. Oh well. The people who seem kind of wistful are like junkies or addicts who can't quit and wonder how I found the strength to get the monkey off my back. They always ask me if I miss TV, as if they are attempting to determine how painful the withdrawal symptoms might be.
The truth of the matter is that I do watch TV, but only what I want to see and with the power of my personal discretion. My television is hooked up to my computer and I watch what I want to the day after it has aired on regular TV or whenever I want to through various sites online. I also have Netflix, through which I get movies and stream television programs through my son's gaming system. I am not media deprived, I am just not willing to live with media overload, particularly when most of it is so incredibly bad. I have no interest in shopping channels; I hate shopping. I have no interest in food channels; I hate to cook. I have no interest in reality shows, mediocre sporting events, old movies that I had no desire to see when they were new, political pundits screeching at me or viciously attacking people who don't agree with them, or news that looks like news but isn't really news, but is actually just a lot of sound bites, sensationalism, and opinion. I also don't want to watch the golf channel, which to me, is a lot like having a boring dentist giving me a root canal. I'm good.
I find that not having TV puts me in the happy position of being blissfully ignorant when it comes to celebrities and their doings. Everything I know about celebrities comes from whatever I read on the front of magazines while standing in a check-out line in a store or supermarket. Even then, while I might be aware that they are suffering from a devastating romantic break up, or are headed into rehab, I really have very little awareness of what they do that makes them celebrities, which suits me just fine. The other day Chuck and I were sitting in a waiting room and I was thumbing through one of said magazines to try and stay awake. I came upon a double page that showed a bunch of celebrity ladies dressed for some ridiculous, self-serving awards ceremony. The captions gave their names, but I didn't recognize a one of them. I moved the magazine into my 16 year old's line of sight and asked him if he knew who they were. He recognized one of them, but only by name since he had never seen her before. I asked who she was.
“She's a pop singer,” he informed me. I asked him if she was someone he liked.
“Not really,” he answered, “and even less now that I get a look at her.”
I told him that from my point of view, they could have lined up a group of street walkers and flamboyant female impersonators and called them celebrities and they would have looked about the same. This made him laugh.
“Everybody looks like that now,” he told me. “And if you show up at the prom this year you will see a whole lot of young girls trying to look like them.”
I asked him if he thought the group in the pictures were attractive. I was curious.
“Mom, I'm a guy,” he said. “I can find them hot without finding them attractive. There's a difference. Its a guy thing. I wouldn't get serious about them or bring any of them home to meet you.”
“Good call,” I told him, “because after I recovered from my shocked faint it would be only my good manners that would prevent me from taking a floor brush and a gallon of Lysol to them.”
Chuck responded that although he was a guy, he wasn't a stupid guy.
“Are there any ladies left?” I asked him sadly.
My son looked at me with pity. “Mom, being a girl who's a lady is a lot like being a guy who's a nerd, you are generally considered uncool.”
Well, I've never cared about being cool and neither has Chuck so I guess we can live with that label, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for my son and young men like him in his generation and I told him so.
“Don't worry, Mom,” he assured me, “there is bound to be a girl I can bring home to meet you out there somewhere, although it may take awhile, like looking for Big Foot, Atlantis, or the Ark of the Covenant.”
Jeez. Well, he's only 16 and he's had one or two temporary girlfriends who didn't dress like Daisy Duke or look like they put on their make-up with a trowel, so there's hope. Besides, Big Foot could be real, right?
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