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.

3 thoughts on “The Telly Kibosh

    • Wendy, yes, I thought of you (and Shari). For some reason I don’t think you’re struggling with “coming out of the closet” about your American Idol addiction. I’ve heard there’s some great stuff on, now. Everyone seems to be watching the Upstairs, Downstairs thing (whatever it’s called), and I heard Weeds was great. We did watch Six Feet Under on library DVDs (after the Little Monster was in bed). I think that’s the only complete series I’ve watched in decades.

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