I was wrestling with what I wanted to talk about today. It was a photo finish nail biter between why chopsticks are the worst thing ever invented and any other topic besides that. In the end, chopsticks lost...again. One day I may finally get around to trying to properly articulate my hatred regarding these demonic culinary instruments, but every time I attempt to discuss it, the vein on my forehead pops out because I get so angry. So instead, I'm going to regale you with decisions that seemed awful at first, but in the end, might have been the best choices ever made.
I brought up childhood in yesterday's post, and it got me thinking to why I was so unhappy growing up. I mean of course I grew up during the Reagan Era and that was horrible, but after W. Bush and Trump, Reagan seems like a Rhodes Scholar. Nothing would infuriate me more as a kid than when someone would invariably compare me to Alex P. Keaton, the nerdy character on Family Ties. It wasn't the nerdiness that bothered me, it was the fact that Keaton was a Republican, and it would be a cold day in hell before I would ever proudly be associated with that party. I think history has proven that I was correct, thank you very much! It still must have been an unsettling experience for family, friends, and relatives who would make that comment to me to receive so much venom from a child regarding party affiliation. What was even creepier was the stuffed animal that I re-named Robert Bork and would use as a punching bag during my frustration with the Supreme Court nomination hearings. They would just shake their head and pay attention to the more normal siblings, my brother and sister. Neither one of them demonstrated any interest in national affairs back then or today. There is probably a very good reason for this. My sister's primary news outlet was Kurt Loder on MTV. So if Kurt didn't say it, it never got into my sister's head. My brother's primary news outlet was the Transformers. So the only way he was ever going to know about Iran-Contra was if Bumblebee got sold to a bunch of Nicaraguans and that didn't happen until much later in the series, and he had moved on to Duck Tales as the preferred news outlet.
So why me? How was I the odd one out? The answer comes from two causes. And they are very closely related to one another. The primary reason is that I was not a very well-behaved kid. What that meant was that I got punished....a lot. Now punishment came in various forms, the worst being when I was forced to flip the Barbra Streisand record over to the other side to have to continue listening to why Neil Diamond doesn't bring her flowers any more. The deviousness of being the one to continue the torture was Machiavellian in its awfulness. Of course there were the standard spankings, but that wasn't what seemed to really do the trick. If given the choice of 30 whacks on the ass or 1 week of no television, I would have promptly pulled my pants down and handed my parents the hair brush myself. But television was a big deal. And so that was the bargaining instrument that my parents used for my cooperation. This also meant that in my entire childhood, I may have watched about 9 hours of television combined. With one notable exception. We ate dinner together and the television was always on to the news. Action News on Channel 6 was at 5PM and then World News Tonight with Peter Jennings at 6! Peter Jennings was the only connection I had to television. I grew to idolize him. I found out that he was a high school dropout, and I did my absolute best to have grades bad enough in high school where dropping out would be a realistic option, too. But in elementary school, Peter Jennings was my Justin Bieber. I would talk about what Mr. Jennings said the night before to anyone who would listen at school. Which meant the janitor, Mr. Deischer was far more informed in his 70s than at any other point in his life. Yes, I'm also aware that it suggests I had no friends, asshole. You don't need to raise your hand and point out that I was missing that point. Got it loud and clear.
My siblings didn't have to pay attention to what was going on in the world at dinnertime because they could go then watch other programs that were far more interesting. But for me, this was it. After dinner time, it was off to the newspapers to read about what was going on while the rest of the family watched Magnum, PI or The Bob Newhart Show. I could hear them in the other room while I read about the progress in the Falklands. I swore I would never eat an empanada if given the chance in the future and I lustily cheered when the Belgrano was sunk. I was saddened to discover that the Belgrano was formerly the USS Phoenix. Since it became an Argentinian warship, I also vowed to never step foot in Phoenix -- which history has also proven to be an incredibly wise decision for a 2nd grader!
If given the choice of losing a limb to watch all the television I wanted, I would have gladly surrendered my arm in sacrifice just so I could watch the Dukes of Hazzard or later on in life, MacGyver. The statisfaction level would have been incredibly high. While I have suffered the price today in not being able to get the stupid pink pie in Trivial Pursuit, I think the lack of television exposure did wonders for my development. My parents did the job that they had signed up for. To be a parent. Knowing that I would chafe at it and ease the transition from nerd into complete fucking dork, the punishment of no TV stuck. Parents are meant to be parents. It seems to me that in today's world, parents want to be friends more than disciplinarians. The result isn't working out too well. Grandparents are the ones meant to spoil the kids, not parents themselves. If all we are focused on is the immediate satisfaction of humans that still think that gifts come from fat men and anthropomorphic lagamorphs, we're all in serious trouble.
The side benefit of not being allowed to watch television is that it made me into a very fast kid. I got really good at sprinting out of the room where my brother was watching television when I heard the footsteps of one of my parents coming down the hallway. This also made my mother become really good at tip-toing, so growing up was a constant cat and mouse game of not getting caught. I think it ended up a draw. But don't be surprised if they make an ESPN Classics documentary about that rivalry. The bad news is that it will be on television, so I probably won't be allowed to watch it.