Back in the day, my family used to watch TV shows together. Especially the prime time shows…Three’s Company, Wonder Woman, The Jeffersons, Love Boat, Seinfeld, Friends. All five of us, parents and three girls would gather around the sofa and laugh and laugh. Even my super serious and super cranky Dad! Saturday mornings were sacred for us kids. We watched shows like the Justice League, Buck Rogers, Scooby Doo…on Saturday mornings eating our Cocoa Puffs.
Nowadays, my kids watch YouTube, DVR TV shows and binge watch Netflix. It is such a different world. They are in constant virtual contact with their friends via group texts, FaceTime and social media. Everything they watch is ready and available and they don’t need to wait. I used to program our VCR for my favorite shows and MTV video premieres. I get it. But there are so many shows out there, that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. Some of my friends are addicted to Bravo, some to HBO and others to Netflix.
Luckily for us, my kids both recently discovered Stranger Things and The Office. So now, all four of us have a show that we can watch together (we fast forward the inappropriate teenager parts for my 10 yr old with Stranger Things). There is common ground and content that can work for the whole family. It takes a little bit of research and a lot of patience.
My thirteen year old son and my ten year old daughter get along well. They have different likes and interests and don’t fight a lot. Their biggest squabbles are what movies to watch on family movie nights and who ate the last ice cream bar. While I think this is great, I can’t help but think of my own childhood that was sort of like “Hunger Games” in comparison.
Looking back at my childhood, I have many fond memories. Having two younger sisters was a lot of fun. If I got into a fight with one sister, there was another one to take her place. As the oldest sibling, I ruled the roost and made the laws. I am two years senior to my middle sister P and almost 6 years older than J, the youngest. For years, I was physically larger and taller than both of them. Growing up with two younger sisters and two crazy parents can really sharpen a girl’s sense of humor and survival skills. We fought about all kinds of things…not just movies or ice cream. I don’t know when we started to joke about each other mercilessly or play pranks on each other…but it hasn’t stopped.
As a teenager, my room was covered with 80’s celebrities…JFK Jr., Duran Duran, the Soloflex guy. I subscribed to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and watched Elsa Klench on Style. I was just sooo cool. One day I came to my room to find that there were mustaches on several of my posters. That was call for extreme action. I marched to J’s room and beat up Mingy, her favorite pillow.
For some strange reason, we were obsessed with lip balm in the 80’s. Blistex in those round canisters was all the rage. Keeping interlopers from my Blistex was practically a full time job. I used my Blistex in a uniform and clockwise fashion, it was always clean and of course perfect. My sister J’s Blistex had an upside cone design. My sister P’s container always had fuzz, random bits of mystery flakes and looked like it was stabbed with a toothpick. If I didn’t hide my Blistex, I would find that one of them had dug a nail into the middle of the canister!
Secret video taping was also a constant danger in my house. My sister J would place a cam corder on top of the fridge just to tape us with morning face and bed heads. And forget about sleeping happily on tour buses while on vacation. She made sure to take multiple shots of me dozing with my mouth open and my head in an angle that gave me two chins.
My sisters also had a collection of fake bugs. I remember pulling back my comforter and finding a line of fake ants on my pillow. I also let out a blood curdling scream when I found a large plastic spider in my dresser drawer.
Before you feel too sorry for me, I was not so innocent growing up. I loved imitating my sisters, making up terrible nicknames and shaming them just for fun. Luckily, as adults, the pranks have died down. However, my sister J sent me a picture that my son had texted her. It was a picture of me asleep on the sofa with mouth wide open and my head at an angle that allowed my chin to double!
Reality television started in the early 90’s just like my relationship with my husband “B”. Back then, we both liked The Real World on MTV. It was new and different, just like B and me. We also liked the same things: parties, Santana, hip-hop, mexican food and any movie with DeNiro, Pacino, Jeff Bridges and Gene Hackman. Dinner and a movie was our thing.
During our twenties, we watched Seinfeld, Frasier and Absolutely Fabulous together. We lost interest in reality tv and were busy with our careers and grad school. During our thirties, before the kids were born, we didn’t miss an episode of The Brand of Brothers or The Sopranos. This is also when we discovered Asian cinema. First it was Zatoichi, then Kurosawa and all movies with Gong Li. Then our kids came along and I can’t remember what were watching those days except Dora, Little Einsteins and Spongebob.
People change as the years go by. B and I certainly did. I went back to watching reality television about five years ago. It started with one of the Housewives shows, I can’t remember which one. Along with many ladies in my neighborhood, I now watch all the Housewives shows and a few more Bravo shows. I can also admit to watching a lot of Masterpiece Theater…especially Downton Abbey. Of course B detests the Housewives and he is right. The shows are awful and obviously scripted…but I still watch. I really can’t explain why. Maybe they are a replacement to our mom’s soap operas in the eighties.
Poor B feels lost without his movie partner. He is very frustrated that I won’t watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or the latest Hong Kong detective movie. But after having kids, watching gruesome and gratuitous violence is just not fun for me. We finally did find some shows we both like: The House of Cards, Mad Men and Bill Maher. So I watch my shows and he watches his shows but he still grumbles about it. At least I am not watching the Kardashians…