The Telly Kibosh

Part I

When the Little Monster moved in 3.5 years ago at age six, we got rid of the television.

Not really. I hide an old, boxy, thirteen-inch in the closet for my American Idol addiction. Shh. Don’t tell LM. He sometimes suspects, though, like the other night when he stood outside my door and said, “What’s all that screaming?”

How about: Those? Oh, those are just the unhappy children in the closet who didn’t do what they were told to do the first time. Nah, I just take an age-old mom tactic and change the subject. “Did you brush your teeth? Did you remember to flush the toilet? Check again. Did you hang up your jacket?” Pay no attention to the screams in the closet.

A note to the skeptical amongst you when it comes to prehistoric electronics (meaning six months old): rabbit ears antennae still work. Sometimes you have to shift your stool and adjust where you’re sitting under the coats to improve reception. Another technique is to use the martini glass in your hand as an antenna…or maybe you just can’t tell that the screen is fuzzy once the glass is empty.

As a new parent, I was ready to hook up to cable for the Disney, History, and Sumo Wrestling With the Stars channels. This was a necessary parental expense, I reasoned, same as car seats, plastic dishware, and gin. But the Man I Married insisted that no television at all was the way to go. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. Easy enough for him, who never watched it, anyway. But as he wisely (damn it) said, “It’s easy to get cable later if we want. But it would be almost impossible to take it away once we have it.” LM had ADHD and a host of other acronyms to describe his caffeinated-like character; he was as easily startled as a grackle. So ratcheting the house environs down to a quiet, calm, oasis, devoid of stimulation, seemed like a good idea. I myself could no longer watch most of what was on Prime Time Television (usually involving a murdered skinny blonde woman and an autopsy room) without my stress level rising and having nightmares. And honestly, I’d had enough stimulation with all of the arguing with MIM over whether or not we should get rid of the television.

The Little Monster had been parked in front of a television 24/7 for much of his young life. He still sometimes casually mentions things he watched by himself in the middle of the night while eating candy and drinking soda. “I saw childbirth once.” If he’s in the back seat of the Mom Mobile when he makes comments like this, my neck does the Exorcist Swivel as I snap backwards to look at him and exclaim, “What? When!”

“Oh, on TV,” he’ll yawn. “The baby came out from between the mother’s…”

“You should never have been allowed to watch that,” I’ll interrupt, my head continuing its 360 to avoid a car wreck.

“I know. It was gross. It hurted the mom.”

So cold turkey on television it was. We ripped the Idiot Box Band-Aid off.

I hate to admit it, since I rebelled against the idea as strongly as I would against purchasing a home with a mother-in-law unit, but this still stands as the single best parenting decision we’ve made, and MIM can take all the credit. Television would have been one more thing to monitor and control, one more struggle over: when? how much? what’s appropriate? We ended up with no time for it, anyway.

I Want My MTV

A specialized therapist confirmed our instinctual TV ban with his recommendation to strictly monitor any and all media in the house. He wrote it up into his reports and plans for LM, but sometimes he forgets and asks LM, “So who’s your favorite on So You Think You Can Dance?” I give him the stink eye and universal sign-language for CUT! His question helps me to understand that even with his full client base of kids who get into serious trouble on the internet and with cable channels, it’s unusual for any of them to have no television. In fact I’d bet we’re his only family without television. With no boob tube, we’re as rare as the Blue Footed Booby.

The Little Monster has never once said that he misses it.

MIM of course never pines for TV, but my cravings can still sometimes be fierce. I particularly miss tuning in to the Seattle hysteria at the falling of the first and only snowflake of the season. Newscasters elbow each other from the top of Queen Anne Hill after they’ve hosed it down with ice water to film a Ferrari slaloming sideways into a fire hydrant. I also miss it when I go to the dentist’s office and realize that I don’t know who half the stars in People magazine are. This makes me feel old. Even my mother is more in tune with the culture than I am now–she goes on about Monk or House and I don’t know what the heck she’s talking about–but I sure am glad I’ve missed whatever’s up with those trainwreck Kardashians.

Although our decision to unplug felt very personal—a decision for our family and its peculiar circumstances alone—living in the 21st century with no television (and no video games or Wii, with sluggish internet service and old flip cell phones for emergency calls, such as the school principal calling with another doozy about what the Little Monster’s been up to) can seem to others like we’re making a statement instead of a personal choice. Like my sister-out-law phrased it, “When you say you have no television, people think you’re either bragging or you’re weird.” It’s sort of like saying you’re a vegetarian. Some folks immediately go on the offensive about your leather jacket or shoes, or they get defensive about the steak on their plate, when it’s merely a choice about what goes down your own gullet.

We aren’t making judgments about the personal choices of others, and no one need feel defensive about our Luddite predilections. In fact I’d love to come over to your house to watch hockey or the Get Women to Cry So They Can Therapy Shop Online During Commercials channel on your big screen. Invite me over. I’ll bring the popcorn, chocolate, and beverage of your choice (may I suggest gin?).

Both MIM and I grew up with a lot of television—and look how great we turned out! MIM can sing, word-for-word, any theme song from his childhood that you would care to mention. This is a great party skill. I myself burned many a sunny afternoon inside watching Kung Fu and the ABC After School Special. But we had three channels that you had to get up off the couch to change. Our small portable was black and white. I didn’t know that the Wizard of Oz switched to color partway through until I was in college. Color television was standard at that time, so I don’t know why we stuck with monochrome. Perhaps it was my folks’ version of “no cable” (back when there was no cable) to discourage our heavy TV use. Didn’t work.

My mother condemned my dad’s favorites of Mannix and FBI as being too violent, but they are laughably tame and slow compared to the swift-paced, rapidly-cut, and graphic shows on before bedtime today. We would drag the portable around the house, the heavy box following us wherever we went, with the TV itself followed by a long extension cord that you always had to watch out for so you didn’t trip over it. To this day one of my biggest scars is from walking into the old, snapped-off TV antenna, which gouged a crater in my thigh.

Such were the hazards of too much television during my childhood years.

Read Part II, Accidentally Upgrading our “Home Entertainment Center”


The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

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He (Not) Said / She (Not) Said

I don’t think that the Man I Married and I are the only folks in long-term relationships who often misinterpret what the other one is saying. We have 25 years of conversations and assumptions running beneath whatever we’re saying, rather like the current that continues to trickle along the bottom of a frozen stream.

Like the other day.

I came downstairs to find one of those huge collapsing ladders sitting in our entryway hall. It had been sitting on our porch for months, so I’d gotten used to sweeping leaves around it all autumn and learning not to see it despite it blocking my view outside every morning, the way we ignore telephone wires and airplane noise. Oddly enough, I had not mentioned the ladder on the porch even once, a highly unusual tactic on my part, since any comment just might be the Breakthrough Moment When He Actually Gets It, preventing all future strife and disharmony, so why risk blowing that opportunity? Take the cow horn in my dish rack, for instance. Yes, cow horn: dish rack. That is one of those ratio or whatever they are word problems that will never compute.

Do you think I kept mum about the moo? But my comments have been a moot point, because there the cow horn remains. MIM and the Little Monster see only the positive side, since they both noted triumphantly, “Hey, it doesn’t smell so animal-y, anymore!”

Though I’d ignored the ladder on the porch, now the big ladder: small entryway was hard to miss.

I asked the Man I Married, “Are you taking this up to the pear orchard today?” He goes up to a friend’s acreage every weekend, and I knew he would be leaving shortly.

What he heard me ask was, “How long is this ladder going to be sitting in the hall? I don’t like it in the hall, it’s irritating me, and I’m hoping you’re removing it pronto.”

What I meant was, “I hope that you are not taking the ladder with you to the pear orchard, where you will climb it all alone in the middle of a bunch of trees where no one can see you, without having told anyone that you’re climbing a ladder, and you will fall, hurt yourself, and slowly die in agony, and you won’t be found for hours, until the Little Monster gets hungry and comes looking for you, and then he will be even further traumatized than he already is, and I can’t handle a re-traumatized nine-year-old if you are dead and not able to help me raise him.”

What he said was, with a note of irritation in his voice that I was (in his mind) pestering him about moving the ladder, “It’s not staying here for long. I don’t have time to move it now, but I’ll move it when I get home. Don’t worry.”

What I said was, “What I’m worried about is you climbing it today without telling anybody, like you just did upstairs.” I didn’t remind him that he’d climbed it halfway before realizing that he hadn’t properly locked it open, and I’d come running upstairs at the big thumping sound of a body falling off of a ladder. I did say, “Don’t get irritated. I don’t care if you leave it in the hall for awhile.” Just please don’t die, I didn’t add.

To which he said, “I’m not irritated.”

Long-term marriage is streamlined and efficient. You can have a 2000-word discussion in only 20 words, then you can get irritated about things that your partner hasn’t said, and then you can argue about a tone your partner hasn’t used, and then you can get a lot done because you and your partner are no longer speaking and you have a lot of misplaced energy. For instance, you can now sweep the clear porch, whisking away the leaves that cluster around the ladder-shaped outline in the mold. Then you can scrub the deck chair, sit back with a nice martini, and enjoy the miraculous view.

And when he comes out to join you, you can hold hands and say nothing, absolutely nothing at all, and know in this moment that you both understand each other perfectly. 


The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

Now on Kindle

Always Never Land

Standing in the shower awhile back, I reached for my soap. I had recently unwrapped a new bar and put it in my special soap holder, the one that’s tucked up and away behind some shampoo bottles, so hopefully the Man I Married won’t grab it. As we age, we have different embarrassing issues which require different special soaps. Plus, in order to get our foster-to-adopt license, we once took a First Aid/CPR class together, in which the teacher ominously asked during the germ portion of class, “What is generally the last place a person uses their soap on when they shower?” No one would voice an answer. I for one felt like it might turn out that I was a freak if I shouted out an answer that no one else shared, humiliating myself to discover that I didn’t even take a damn shower correctly. Plus, how to say what we were most probably thinking without getting inappropriate?

She waited through the silence, and then said, couching her terms by quoting someone else, “As one of my former pupils said, ‘The Crack.’” Her point: stop sharing soap. As a liberal couple, we rarely march to the orders of authority figures, but The Crack Lecture fixed itself in my imagination. I like to feel clean and squeaky in a shower and not find myself visualizing where my bar of soap has been during someone else’s ablutions.

So our soaps, like many things in a long-term marriage, no longer mix. I bought myself a different soap holder.

But my brand new bar of soap was gone. It was my last bar out of the economy pack of twelve, so I could not even drip and dangerously slide my way over to the closet, risking hip fracture, to get another bar. I looked in MIM’s soap holder: nope, just his fragrant Costco soap that had gotten slimy on the bottom. When I got out of the shower, I looked in other likely places, like the kitchen sink. My soap was nowhere to be found.

“Did you take my soap?” I asked MIM at my first opportunity to accost him.

“Yeah.”

“But I can’t use your soap!”

“I forgot.”

Then I broke a cardinal marriage counseling rule, which is to NEVER use the words “always” and “never” during conflict. “You ALWAYS take my things!”

That got him mad. “I NEVER take your things!”

“I had to start hiding my comb, because every time I go to use it, it’s gone. Same with my toothbrush. I had to build a special holder where you wouldn’t grab it. You use my towel. I go to use it and it’s wet.” My evidence was mounting, but I changed the subject, ever so slightly. “So where’s my soap?”

“In my toolbox.”

But of course. Where else would my special soap be but in a toolbox?

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a Comedy-Romance written by Nora Ephron while she has the flu. Worse, it’s an outdated rerun that doesn’t quite stand up to the test of time. Our marriage often isn’t typical in gendered task-division or ownership of styling products (all of the stuff in the bathroom that looks like it should be mine is really his). Yet I was house-wifey hoppin’ mad that my special soap was floundering amidst the hammers and pliers.

But MIM could not find his toolbox. It wasn’t in the garage where he thought it was, nor was it in the laundry room. Finally, after a twenty minute search and a shoe change, he found it outside in the shed. With the other tools.

Should I have asked why my soap had migrated to a toolbox?

I used to always ask such questions of a man who never had an answer, but now I never bother.


Now on Kindle

The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories

by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon.com
 
PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES

“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…”  —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor

 “I laughed like a little maniac. I just loved it. Hilarious.”  —Mary Guterson, Gone To The Dogs

 “…poignant…”  —San Francisco Chronicle

 “…touching and funny…”  —Slowtrains.com

A Wrinkle in Laundry

The Man I Married decades ago decided that our stackable washer-dryer doors were hung the wrong way.

Rather, he decided the dryer door was hung the wrong way. So he switched the dryer door to open to the right. He was very proud not only of his sudden observation that the door was hung incorrectly according to the layout of our laundry room, but that he also managed to reverse the door.

But he didn’t switch the washer door, which opens to the left.

Now I have to contort like Gumby when I transfer a load from one to the other, squeezing myself in between the two open doors that tend to swing partially-closed. And I ain’t that skinny.

Gumby I Ain't

I end up hitting my head on the dryer door when I stand up from crouching in front of the washer.

Or I step back and nearly topple backwards over the washer door when I’m standing to sort things from the dryer.

I require hazard pay to do a simple load of laundry.

(Here I must protest that laundry is not simple. I seem to be the only one in the house possessing the advanced skill of not only remembering to transfer laundry from washer to dryer, but to transfer it from dryer back to place of origin, all in the space of time it takes to keep everything from wrinkling.)

Still, MIM was so proud about this door-switching feat that I hesitated to say anything. I myself would be incapable of switching a dryer door, so some level of admiration was in order. Plus, he’d spent part of his Christmas vacation making this fix (instead of doing any number of other things around the house that seemed to the ignorant and uneducated [i.e. his wife] to be more pressing, such as installing a sink in the laundry room so that he ceases to use my kitchen thusly):

I Even Helped Clean Them

Ah, now the dryer door project makes more sense, because installing a sink in the laundry room is daunting, overwhelming, and full of obstacle after obstacle. And there was the dryer door right in front of his nose, such a satisfying and quick fix that gave him a real sense of accomplishment and daring-do.

Which is, oh, kind of like writing a blog post when one is supposed to be working on a book-length manuscript.

His intentions were good, and he was proud, and who wants to mess with that? And maybe he was right, and maybe I was being close-minded. I thought the layout would be something I’d grow used to with time. But I did not. So after a month passed, I voiced my concern when he ventured into the laundry room while I was twixt and ‘tween the doors, feeling rather like a horse in a cramped stall with the top half of the stable doors open. I tried to utilize my rusty skills, dredged up from all of those marriage counseling lessons over the years. I ventured, “I feel frustrated by the dryer door and the washer door opening in different directions.” I refrained from adding, “I feel like it was a dumb idea.” We didn’t flush all of that marriage counseling money down the drain.

“But it makes more sense this way,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Then the washer door needs to switch, too.”

“I can’t. It won’t switch.”

We both paused. And paused.

“Who does all of the laundry?” I asked him.

“You do. Fine. I’ll switch it back.”

Here’s what gets me about long-term marriage. Even though he didn’t argue (much) and said he’d do what I asked, he managed to say it with a tone that implied that my request was unreasonable, and that he was being very reasonable to comply with it without (much) argument.

Further, if I said that this was his tone, he would counter that his tone had not been condescending in the least, and that it was all in my head, as usual. Such a discussion would end up sounding like this:

“Did, too.”

“Did not.”

Furthermore, I know that the door will not get switched back until I pester him again about installing a sink.

In long-term marriage, you can play out the entire argument in your head before it even happens. It’s like a boring television rerun from, like, the seventies.

So I didn’t say anything.

I just blogged about it.

Which he will never read, because I have an anti-husband-reading-my-blog tactic.

Awhile back, my cousin and friend were visiting and they both mentioned my Reader, I Awakened Him post and how much their partners had gotten a kick out of it. Unfortunately, MIM was there during the discussion. He had completely forgotten about the night I had woken him up. So while my cousin and friend were visiting, he got mad about it all over again.

“But I never wake you up,” I reminded him during our subsequent ‘discussion.’ “You always wake me up! That’s the only time I’ve woken you up in almost a quarter century!”

“I know!” he said. “That’s why I was so mad! It just wasn’t right! It’s not the way it works!”

Some days later, he surprised me by casually mentioning something I’d blogged about.

“You read my blog?” I asked him. 

“Well, I thought I’d better after that last discussion,” he said, “so I tried to. But there were just too many, and they’re all way too long, so I quit after reading part of just that one.”

So, to avoid spousal-blog-reading: be frequently long-winded, and your hot air will be ignored by those who grow weary of it and pay it no attention. Kind of like marital disagreement.

 

Now on Kindle

The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon.com

PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES

“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…”  —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor

“[I] was fixated. I really laughed out loud (by myself)…”  —Bobbi, Literary Mama Reader

“…marvelously refreshing…”  —CleanSheets

“Munro writes with an honesty and rawness… a brilliant piece of writing…”  —Innsmouth Free Press