My daughter came for a visit last week and imposed her ban on television for most of the time she was here. That was okay, as exploring Hoboken (as long as you're not hanging out in sports bars) does not require a look at the tube at all.
Interesting that as an adult Alison has not owned a TV set. Growing up, she was surrounded by it, and as an agitated adolescent it was her bedtime companion. When I learned that she would not buy a television when she was earning her own money, I was impressed at such a brave and unexpected sign of maturity. She now has two teenage sons and when they come to visit me, liberated from the TV-free zone of their home, they enjoy the indulgence of spending much of their time glued to G-ma's tube. (With their superior knack for electronic gizmos, they know much better than I how to navigate the channels and find what they want to watch.)
Alison and I were going to watch a rented movie, but had spent so much time talking and visiting that it was after 9:30 P.M. when we got around to it, and we both were too exhausted to have much interest. Having had a stint as a realtor, she might have been interested in "Selling New York," HGTV's show about selling high-priced condos in New York City. Immediately she gave me her reaction, "How can they continue showing real estate porn in this economy?" so I realized watching that one would not be fun. I turned on a few minutes of "The Mentalist," which I often watch on Thursdays when winding down, but it was dreary seeing it through her eyes. I tried to explain, "See, this guy reads minds..." followed by some leaden dialogue and closeups of significant looks on the faces of over-madeup actors, followed by yammering commercials--she hates commercials most of all--and after about ten minutes she unsurprisingly said, "Mom, I just can't take this."
And so we went to bed instead. I have respect for her choice to eliminate crass television from her life. She keeps NPR running on the radio most of her waking hours. She is not affected by the false affability on shows like "Morning Joe" or the confrontational posturing of "Hardball." She and I agree that what passes for news on the cable channels is little more than contrived polarization, rendering viewers hardly more informed than before they tuned in. She acts on this knowledge, but for some reason I do not. I suppose I'm addicted to the blather and wall-to-wall noise television provides even though I get little out of it, and I know it keeps me from more productive pursuits. Whatever happened to that next book I was going to read? Or worse, whatever happened to the ones I was going to write?
With television, I have given my mind and maybe even my soul a vacation. I don't sit down and watch until after dark--but that's kind of like the old it's-five-o'clock-somewhere rule of the confirmed alcoholic. I'm not kidding anybody, even myself, by drifting into a pattern of plopping in front of the television set no matter how mindless the choice of program. To be honest, my worries about weight gain are also related to the way I eat snacks as I gaze at the screen.
Not that I'm 100 per cent convinced it is time to black out television in my life for good. I'll take a cue from the 12-Step programs and ease myself out one day at a time. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and that you want to quit. I'm not even there yet.