I’m not gonna pretend I am one of those cool hipsters who doesn’t watch TV. I freakin’ love TV. I would marry TV if I could. I watch PBS documentaries about Pete Seeger or Sex During the Civil War with equal fervor as I use to Keep up with the Kardashians. I detest any shows about cooking (I do enough of that) or singing (I do enough of that). In fact, I don’t need any show about people who compete or win anything. I’m just “okayest,” remember?
I love nothing more than sharing a series with my husband as we curl up on the couch together. I love to gasp together at the Walking Dead finales and I love to go slack-jawed together at the Breaking Bad finales. I get my feelings hurt when he doesn’t want to watch something with me. He hates that I flip channels, so, to get him to watch anything with me, I will automatically hand over the remote. I hate that he re-watches the same boy movies over and over again, but I will contentedly sit beside him and re-watch too, just to be near him – and the TV. (Unless I have PMS, and then, forget it.) Standard marriage economics.
I am old enough to remember turning on the TV without a remote and flipping the channels on a real dial. My grandparents had a fat remote that was like the size of one of my kids’ heads and had maybe two buttons on it. I thought they were rich. I loved TV as much as the next kid. I remember taking the “TV Week” out of the newspaper on Sundays and sitting down on the floor with a highlighter to circle all the shows I didn’t want to miss that week. (Granted, they were usually on “mute” because my father is a guitarist, but, you know…..) I still played in woods, played with my dolls, and rode my bike, so I was balanced. Oh, wait, I grew up on a gravel-road mountain, so I didn’t actually do much bike-riding.
Now that I’m an adult, the TV is my escape. HOWEVER, I don’t use it during the day at all. There is no time for TV for myself when caring for three small but fat children. With my oldest, I strictly held to the AAP’s guidelines that children under two should have no screen time whatsoever. That came back to bite me in the butt when he was 2 1/2, and I was on bedrest with a horrific twin pregnancy. When I most needed him to go catatonic in front of the TV, he wouldn’t. Television – as well as anyone who says “Happy Birthday” in unison – terrified my highly-sensitive son. It especially terrified him when his Dad would laugh at the TV, because men seem to have a different laugh when they are laughing at other men on TV, rather than just chuckling at their adorable children or wives.
These days, my son can watch TV one time each day. He can pick from a strict selection of DVDs or watch Sesame Street on DVR. That’s it. Okay, okay, on rainy or migraine-y days, the TV time gets extended quite a bit. All this means that my one-year-old twins are exposed to TV before they turn two, but you know, they’re doing just fine. And if I ever have bedrest again, at least they will watch some good ole’ Elmo for twenty minutes. (However, I allow no other screen time whatsoever for any of them yet. None of them know about any computers or devices, other than to hold something to their ear and say, “He-yo.”)
But me? After the kids go to bed, I get my magical time that exists between their bedtime and our bedtime. It’s every parent’s favorite time of day. It’s that magical two or three or eight hours in which you try to squeeze every good thing. Quick! Grab the ice cream and the remote and please rub my neck?
I use it as a tranquilizer. It’s the only time that my time is my own, and it’s not the best use of my time at all. I know that. But it calms me down. Even the frantic act of flipping channels calms me down. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true, and I’m admitting it.
Besides, there is a LOT you can learn from flipping channels. I probably wouldn’t choose “Austin City Limits” from the channel guide, but if I flip past and Jack White is playing with an all-female back-up band, I will totally watch it. I probably wouldn’t choose “Oprah’s Master Class” from the channel guide, but if I flip past and Maya Angelou is featured, I’m going to stop and learn. Flipping channels is a way that I learn new things without feeling like I’m trying. It’s not all bad. If “surfing the internet” isn’t considered so bad, then maybe “surfing the TV” shouldn’t be condemned completely.
Mr. Okayest says that I can still watch most of my favorite shows online, even if I have to wait for them. He’s right, but he doesn’t feel the same way I do. Flipping channels is my tranquilizer, and once in a while I learn something from it that I wouldn’t normally learn. (Sheesh, how else would I have learned so much about The Dust Bowl without flipping past another Ken Burns documentary?)
There are plenty of nights when we sit on our “talking couch” instead of the “TV couch” and we are just together. There are plenty of nights when we leave the TV off and “retire early.” But, also, I FREAKIN’ LOVE TV. Since I’m LDS and can’t exactly unwind with an adult beverage, I have this channel surfing. It works. And I like it.
But, my son is getting older. There is so much on TV, even in the middle of the day, that wasn’t there when I was a kid. I guess I chose between the Smurfs and Scooby-Doo on weekends, and I chose between Full House and Webster on a weeknight. But he’s going to have to choose between lots more than that. I always said I would prefer a world without cable for him. Now it’s time to suck it up and remember that I said that. Our home is a sacred and protected space, and I need to keep it that way. Besides, the internet is more than enough for a momma to worry about.
The silver lining is that Mr. Okayest has installed a digital HD antenna in the attic. We get about 10 -20 basic channels for free, weather-permitting, of course. Did you know that was possible again? I didn’t. Most of them are Asian business news and home shopping, but we do get a few of the networks! He also hooked up an old desktop computer to the TV, so I can watch Netflix and Hulu and whatever else I can maneuver, without having to balance a laptop on my lap. We even have a mouse “remote”.
And, you know, it feels really good to untangle ourselves from Verizon’s stranglehold. In addition to cancelling the cable, we cancelled the home phone and the cell phones. We are replacing our cell phone service with the groundbreaking Republic Wireless.* We have saved nearly $200 per month with all these changes.
I think I’m supposed to feel free. I will have to get back to you on that. At least I have lots more money and time and moral integrity. That’s really, really, good, right?
* Republic Wireless is a new service that uses available Wi-Fi in the air, rather than cell phone towers (which are maintained by Verizon and other giants), to make calls and use data. We had to buy a special smartphone to do it, but our cell phone bill alone has been cut by much more than half. You can even have $5 plans with them- and no contracts! We learned much of the details of this service from Mr. Money Mustache blog.
You can read about my anxiety-ridden countdown to cutting the cable in I Freakin’ Love TV but am Cutting the Cable Cord Anyway, Part 1.