Whenever I tell people that I don’t have TV service and don’t intend to get it, the response is generally a mouth-agape gaze. Sometimes a “wow.” Sometimes an “I could never do that,” which always sounds a bit like a backhanded compliment. Kind of like how some people who complain about being overwhelmingly busy are actually bragging.
I thought I could never do it, either. And it was hard, that first night when I looked at the large swath of time I have every night between getting off work and going to bed. Five hours that I’d spent every night self-medicating with lots of HGTV and ice cream. Or Gossip Girl and wine. Or Mad Men and cigarettes. (Cigarettes go so well with Mad Men.)
Really, it’s a miracle that my stomach isn’t as mushy as my brain. But all the anxiety that comes with self-medicating was usually sure to keep me twitching my muscles constantly while lying on the couch. Cautionary Husband has terrible circulation and would stick his feet between my thighs, only to remove them ten minutes later because I physically could not stop squeezing his feet with my leg muscles. He’d tell me to stop, and I’d try for a few seconds, and then I’d start again without even realizing it.
Really, anxiety is like a built-in thighmaster.
I still have a TV. It sits in my living room atop an antique Singer sewing-machine table that I inherited from my grandmother, the only family heirloom I have. The TV isn’t even digitally compatible, since it was made in, um, 1998. But, because I don’t have a fireplace, and TVs seem to be the modern equivalent of a focal point (even when they’re decades old), it’s there. Also because I have grand ideas of doing yoga by way of DVD every morning and night, something that has yet to happen because there are usually other things I’d rather be doing, like soaking in a bath and reading. Or lying in bed watching The Office on my laptop.
Because even though I’ve quit TV, I’m still able to keep up with my favorite shows online. I have a feeling this is the direction TV is going, and that someday our computers and televisions will merge into the same entity, and we will remember wistfully the quaint days they were separate. The days of sitting on the couch watching shows and commercials we didn’t really want to watch, but there was nothing else on, and who wants to actually sit and think about life, anyway? Or worse, TALK about it.
I consider myself on the forefront of technology.
And while I still seek out Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy and The Office, the thought of actually turning on my laptop to watch an episode of House Hunters seems ridiculous to me. And it was my favorite HGTV show! Over the last few years I’ve given of myself countless hours to watching strangers pick from three houses the one they’d like to buy. Telepathically encouraging them to pick the one I liked best. Cursing them when they opted for the big budget-buster. I’m not sure what it was that drew me to the show, even, since most of the time it depressed the fucking hell out of me. Happy couples, hands clasped, looking at the world’s cutest 1920s bungalows. And me, sitting alone in my rented duplex with a bowl of ice cream, married to a man I didn’t even know, while the man I was in love with was married to someone else. House hunting with someone else, even, for part of that time.
Come to think of it, maybe it was masochism rather than any sort of coping mechanism.
Either way, it wasn’t something good, so it’s out of my life. Most of the time I don’t miss it, but sometimes I do. I miss Matt Lauer’s self-deprecating sense of humor in the morning, and his impeccable fashion sense. I miss feeling not so alone, not so isolated. I miss numbing my mind. I miss feeling connected, even if it’s just to some actors who enter my living room via flashing light.
I miss having something to do, even if that something to do was really nothing at all.
A few weeks ago, my boss asked me what I thought about what was going on in Gaza. Since my main news source at the time was Ann Curry’s one-minute newsrundown at the top of every morning hour on Today, I told her that I shamefully didn’t know much about it. She gave me the same look I described in the first paragraph, that mouth-agape shock. But now I listen to NPR in the morning instead. And now I can talk about Gaza all day. I can talk the shit out of Gaza.
I’ve come so far. But an ice storm is currently headed our way, and while the thought of having a snow day tomorrow is wonderful, I couldn’t help but wonder: Without TV, what in the world will I do?