Things have been difficult lately and when the going gets tough in this house, the tough watch reality TV.
My girls were born twenty-three months apart and while those first years of parenting were joyous, they were also taxing. I took to self-medicating my discomfort in the form of candy, beer, US Weekly and reality TV. In the time since, I've realized that the beer and the candy makes me fat, which only makes me more miserable. As for US Weekly, after years of subscribing I found that it, too, was leaving me feeling kind of ooky. I still indulge once in a while but I find I'm much happier reading novels.
So that leaves reality TV as the lone escape hatch. I don't watch much. There are three shows I love; the classic Survivor, Project Runway, which re-ignited my passion for sewing and finally, embarassingly, America's Next Top Model. Yes the shrieks of the young girls as they meet their hero, Tyra Banks, sends me for the Tivo remote every time to fast-forward but having been an actress for so long, having spent so much time in front of a camera, the thing fascinates me.
Survivor has taken on an important role in my marriage. Ben and I discovered it at the end of the first season, right about when the contestants were accusing each other of being rats and snakes. Though we're not generally TV people, we were immediately hooked. We had just moved in together, were moments away from getting married and watching a little TV seemed properly domestic. From that season on, we've watched every episode, until very recently live. Thursday nights have become sacred for us. We put the kids to bed, sit side by side on the couch, hold hands and, at commercial breaks, pledge our love. It's become not so much about the show as about a tradition we have with each other. It is our holy hour.
This year, for the first time, the girls have taken an interest. Rarely, as a special treat, one will get to sit up late with us and watch. Just recently, with Ben out of town so much, the girls and I have happened on the idea of renting past seasons. Survivor, for me anyway, is very temporal. I'm avidly attuned to the contestants during their season but once that season ends, I have a very difficult time remembering what happened or even who won. Somehow the story just evaporates. Which, now, is perfect. I can watch along with the girls and be surprised with them.
We all get ready for bed, station ourselves on the couch and start the show. Mihiretu almost immediately falls asleep. I put him to bed and we keep watching. Most of the time we see one episode, occasionally two, once when I was feeling in deep need of a fix, a delicious three.
To follow the Capron family tradition, there's a lot of discussion of the show during the day. Ben and I, on our hiking dates, will, when the show is running, inevitably say, "Okay, let's talk about Survivor". While Ben and I discuss strategy, the kids are into picking favorites, often not for how good they are at the game. Lana gets attached to girls, usually pretty ones, or ones that are "into fashion" - i.e. they have tattoos and piercings. She even went so far as to name her new chick Angelinie - a combination of Angie, Eliza and Stephenie, her favorite contestants so far. (The other chicks, who are the cutest people ever, were named Romeo - Mae's in Shakespeare camp and thought it appropriate even if Romeo is a hen - and Meryl Streep, my choice.)
I've threatened to audition for Survivor for years. Ben even went so far as to send in a tape back when. I've never done it because I felt my kids were too young and I couldn't leave them for the month and a half necessary. Lately I've been feeling differently. Maybe it's turning forty, maybe it's the past difficult year, but taking off to live in the dirt with eighteen strangers sounds like the vacation I need. Plus it'd be a great diet program.
Last night Lana said that if I were on Survivor I would probably be her favorite. She'd have other favorites, too, she surmised, but she'd probably, almost definitely, want me to win. Good to know I have her in my corner.