Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Secret Shame

I only have a couple of vices, mostly benign, but there is one of which we do not speak. It's time to come clean at last, time for my secret to be exposed, for the gloves to come off and for me to offer up my weakness for examination and, perhaps, cure. My secret shame is certain reality television shows. I don't watch the competition-y shows, I avoid "Survivor" like the plague, "The Apprentice" makes me break out in hives and I simply can't get excited about "The Biggest Loser". It the human foibles and weakness shows that have hooked me. I find myself watching some of these shows even though they disgust me, but at the same time, I can't look away. This morbid fascination has me firmly in its grip and, try as I might, I cannot break free.
"Toddlers And Tiaras" is a source of deepest shame for me, this horrible, vapid show draws me like a moth to a flame. Not only does this show illustrate the horrors of obsessive stage mothers that live vicariously through their children, but shows, in minute detail, just how far we've come in objectifying our daughters. The disturbing images range from the "flippers", fake teeth to cover the disfiguring horror of missing teeth in a seven year old, hairpieces that would send a televangelist into spasms of delight and spray tans administered to three year olds. The six year old girl, looking at her photo portfolio, asking her mother if they got the right pictures was odd. Then the mother pointed out the retouching involved, "See honey, those aren't your eyes because yours are kind of squinty." The mother of a three year old girl telling her daughter "Do good today and mommy will give you some love." I actually threw up in my mouth a little bit at that one. My mind goes down several paths while watching this parade of superficiality, the first is "What happens when these girls decide they don't want to do this anymore?" "What kind of damage are they doing to these children's skin and hair after spray tanning, heavy makeup and hair color starting at the age of two?" "When these girls are judged solely on their appearance starting as a toddler, how can you expect them to ever believe adages like 'beauty is only skin deep', don't judge a book by its cover' or 'everyone is beautiful on the inside'?" Yeah, they're really gonna buy that. The constant referring to these children as "a complete package" makes me squirm. The prizes for these events are usually less than $1000 and a rhinestone crown but the outlay for a pageant seems to run these parents around $3000 or so. One mother boasted about spending nearly $35,000 over the course of six months for her four year old to participate in various pageants. All I could think of was the college fund that girl could have had one day. But she'll be pretty, she won't need college to find a husband.
Another show that has sucked me in lately is "Hoarders". This show, while sad for the people involved, actually makes me feel better about myself. I can look around my house after an episode and feel pretty darn good about my housekeeping skills. One thing I've noticed, playing into my obsession with minutae, is that every single home they feature has at least one Target bag sitting out. My beloved says one could make a hell of a drinking game out of this show. Every time someone says "feces" you would do a shot, rotten food is worth two, the first one to spot the Target bag gets to make someone else drink and animal skeletons are a free for all. My eldest son once suggested playing "I Spy" during an episode, it got a little overwhelming after a while. I'm showing how grossly insensitive I can be here, but occasionally I wonder if these people aren't just slobs.
The other show I watch to give myself a little boost is "Supernanny". This is one show that actually causes me to shout at the television from time to time. These clueless, spineless, completely useless parents are begging for someone to come into and teach them how to say one simple word...say it with me here, "NO". Two little letters that wield enormous power. With great power comes great responsibility...NO. So much of what these parents are whining about is their own fault. "We always give in because if little ChloeSkylarIndigio doesn't get what she wants she might be MAD at us." "We don't say no because our darling HunterWhistlerBarrettBrowning might cry." Here's a thought, tough crap. When my eldest calls me a facist for taking his phone away, I'm glad he's getting the point. When my youngest storms off to his room after being grounded, I know he realizes he's in trouble and better damn well not do it again. When my eldest went through a door slamming phase at four years old, he got one warning, "Slam your door again and I'm taking it off the hinges." He looked me square in the eye and slammed it in my face, guess what I did? After a week without a bedroom door, fifteen years later, he's never slammed it once. My youngest picks up his Legos without being told after he suddenly saw his supply diminishing. Why? Because he was told that any Lego mom stepped on would go into the trash. Only took about a week and I haven't stepped on a Lego for roughly three years. This is simple and not rocket science. If my kids are well and truly pissed off at me at least twice a day, I'm really not doing very well here. I could have my own show, I'll call it "Stop Being A Doormat And Say NO For God's Sake"...too long? I'll come up with something shorter before I take it to the networks.
These are the shows that get me through until "Top Chef" and "America's Next Top Model" start up again.