"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Over the last few days, it has come to light that the whole balloon boy saga was a hoax. If you don’t know what the balloon boy saga even is, then you must have been vacationing somewhere without television, newspapers, or the ability to tweet or reach Facebook.

When the first blips of the story began to filter through the airwaves and the internet, I was annoyed that any parent would leave something as enticing as a floating, silvery, quasi-spaceship within access of any little boy and his Star Wars fueled imagination.

But as the day wore on, I wondered if this adrenaline junkie father had a bright idea for publicity that he didn’t completely think through. I felt guilty for even thinking such a thing. Then, I found my suspicions were correct, and I wasn’t the only one who thought the whole thing suspect.

I haven’t been able to figure out why this has made me so angry. For obvious reasons, yes. But, I have been more angry and upset than I can remember about this story than others like it. I am furious that a parent or parents would use their child as a bargaining chip to try and find reality-tv fame. I am incensed thinking about the level of manipulation that took place in that household, and how stressful it must have been for a six-year-old to handle. Now, add to this the fact that that same six-year-old will undoubtedly feel guilt for the charges his parents face and the negative scrutiny on their whole family.

But I think what makes me angriest of all is the hold that reality tv shows have on the country right now. I have been as guilty as anyone of watching some of these shows, and even in horror at times, have been unable to look away. But not only are some of the shows distasteful, ridiculous, and at times frightening, the quest to be a part of these fiascoes is more of all of those things.

Average middle-class people now see the new get rich scheme: exploit the worst possible parts of yourself, exaggerate everything, be bigger and worse than you can imagine, and wait for the audience. And, they will come.

The networks are to blame. The Bad Girls Club, Bridezillas,—I mean seriously. These shows are nothing more than filming people who are borderline sociopaths at their worst, and bating them to heighten the craziness.

The newest crop of shows to me is even scarier. The premise—such as with the show Reality Hell—is to pull in unsuspecting fame chasers by “casting” them in a reality tv show, which in truth is all a set up, made to humiliate them. If no one in the network boardroom can see the writing on the wall—that these humiliation-based plot lines will undoubtedly end badly one day—really badly—I am at a loss.

So, yes the networks are to blame. But, the viewers are just as guilty. As larger and larger audiences tune in every week to watch the next televised train wreck, and the networks strive to make their wreck bloodier for sweeps week, the blame seems evenly split.
I have to wonder also…these people who so desperately want this chance for reality show stardom…have they not paid attention? What relationships have survived the daily presence of cameras and the 24 hour audience watching and criticizing their every move? What marriages have ended? What families have been torn apart? It is inevitable. The media scrutiny of the whole Jon and Kate Plus 8 scandal should be a lesson for everyone, including the network brass AND the viewers. Who are these shows really benefiting? You can argue different sides. But I can tell you one thing for damn sure, those eight children are not benefiting one iota.

Looking at the guide on my television screen, giving me options of what to view, I am astounded as to how few shows aren’t reality shows. I don’t want to be left with only the choice of The Girls Next Door or The Kardashians or Kendra to watch. I find myself turning off the television in disgust more often lately, which these days, is not a bad thing.

Like this economic recession we are all struggling through right now, I hope that the television mudslide of reality programming somehow corrects itself. At the very least, I hope there is some hesitation in programs featuring children. I know the odds on that, though. As families break apart before our very eyes, and the two sides split, the only lesson learned seems to be how to pit one side against the other, and from the shattered pieces, create competing shows.

I wonder if Falcon Heene wouldn’t have fared better floating off in that balloon.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Without a doubt, fall is my favorite season of the year. In the south, the summers are too hot, the winters are surprisingly cold, and spring loses itself in the mix. But fall is this burst of color that saunters in after the sweltering heat of summer to usher in the holiday season.

Every year when I was growing up, I actually looked forward to going back to school. I think that in August and September, there was some order to things in my house. Lists had to be made, school supplies had to be purchased, and there was usually a shopping trip to buy new clothes for the next school year. It seemed to me to be more of a beginning of things than any other time of the year. As a ten year old, January 1st had little meaning to me, except that I often slept over at a friend’s house so we could stay up late to watch the ball drop. But, it never had any meaning, it was just another day.

I remember always thinking as the first day of school approached that this year would be different, better. I would feel more popular, more accepted. I often associated these possibilities with the clothes I wore (or styles I didn’t have), my hairstyle, and the notebooks I carried. I was so worried about fitting in. I think of all the superficial things I thought mattered, and in truth they did. At least to middle schoolers and teenagers, looks were important.

But, there was always this feeling of hope going into the fall season. Feeling that first bit of a chill in the air meant new, good things were possible. The need for order in my house extended past planning for school, quickly folding into planning for my birthday, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. The structure needed to coordinate events or trips to see my family in Kentucky made the house less quiet, and took the focus off of things that were so glaringly wrong.

It was easier then to pretend that we were just like every other family, preparing to enjoy the food and festivities of the upcoming holidays. In what always became a bittersweet mix of hope and disappointment, the holidays were at least busy times. After the new year, things became quiet in my house, too quiet. There were incredibly angry outbursts at times, but for the most part, there was a lot of silence. Uncomfortable silence. As if there was nothing approaching to help us pretend things were normal, and no one knew what to do with the free time.

I have only recently realized that I associate winter with quiet, and more than that, restlessness. It never ceases to amaze me how we truly learn what we live, and how hard those patterns are to change. The holidays are often difficult for me, as I don’t have anything close to what I consider “normal” in my life right now as far as a family of my own or the typical life. But, I have learned to make new traditions for myself, on my own, not trying to pretend things are anything other than what they are, and it has been liberating.

Today, I drove by a pumpkin patch, watching families search through the field of orange, walking in zig zag patterns, calling out to one another to inspect the latest find. There have been times when scenes like that have made me sad, reminding me of what I don’t have. But, today, I was caught up in the spirit of hope in this new season, the chill in the air, and age-old traditions. I pulled over, parked my car, and joined all the other families stepping over pumpkins, searching row by row for the right one. And as I paid for my choice, I was so glad I had chosen to participate instead of drive by, and happy to head home with a perfect piece of fall to place on my doorstep.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Counting the Days

In a matter of days, it will be here.

A milestone, but just a number.

And yet, not where I imagined I would be
at this age, this time.

It was always the holdout.

I will have this, be this, know this by then--surely.
And somehow, it is still all a mystery.

Was it the naive ponderings of youth?
Or was it a reasonable assumption?

Have I failed?
Am I right where I am supposed to be?

If not-- what then?

This day will be just a number.
But numbers are the sum of things.

Addition and subtraction.

The number of mistakes; the number of accomplishments.
The number of tears; the moments of laughter.
The absence of a white dress; the strength in standing on my own.
The times loved; the loves lost.
The dreams dashed; the ones that came true.

The wait will be over soon.
Meeting this number, adding, subtracting,
hoping it somehow equals something meaningful.

It isn’t that easy.

I never could have known.

Will I look back someday,
even farther down the line,
and know I did the best I could,
found my way, tried hard?
Or will it be too painful to even look?

Will I regret too much?
Will I be proud of myself?

I can’t answer those questions.
I can’t be sure.

The only thing I am sure of…
there is a new holdout number.

It is far, far down the line.

And I will do my best
To add more than I subtract,
to hope more than I worry,
And to dream big.

I will make sure
I remember
There is plenty of time left
to do all of the things
I thought I would have done by now
and savor every moment in a new way.

Instead of an ending,
this milestone, this day- fast approaching-
will be the starting line.




  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP