In a bad-TV trance

Sooner or later, that scary moment comes up in every relationship. I’m not talking about wanting to cheat with her best friend, or even figuring out that the two of you really do look like sisters.

Nope, I’m talking about something far stranger.

You get into her skin, her heart — and the next thing you know, you’re watching some really bad TV.

I’m not talking about Rickie Lake, Jerry Springer or Court TV. No, this is much worse: My girlfriend, Debbie, can’t live without reality TV.

I don’t get it. My girlfriend is a nurse; she already deals with WAY too much reality in her job. Why she wants to see it on-screen is beyond me. All I know is that the new season of Survivor or Big Brother hits, and my baby is glued to the TV.

Correction: She goes into a reality-TV trance.

I guess I should be grateful Debbie doesn’t like football. Then I’d have to watch her making ugly faces, screaming at the players, and swapping meaningless sports statistics with other equally disturbed people. At least she doesn’t insist that we spend all day at a tailgate party and then pay top dollar to a scalper for the privilege of sitting in a frigid stadium alongside a bunch of drunken lunatics.

But I’m afraid I can’t share her enthusiasm for reality TV. Hearing the music of the Tribe makes me sneer. I guess it’s supposed to be primal, but to me, it’s just bad music played a little too loudly.

Debbie just ignores me. All summer, she endured Survival withdrawal while waiting for the new season. I, meanwhile, endured listening to her talk about a whole summer without her beloved reality TV.

I can’t believe how seriously she takes these shows. She’s tracking all the people on the island, trying to guess who’s the smartest, the craftiest, the most manipulative, the most charming. She’s already examining their motives and attempting to read their deepest, most private thoughts.

I could do a slow, seductive strip right in front of the TV, and she would care more about who’s getting the boot on that damned island than she would about my sexy little moves. She’s lost in the reality-TV zone — a place that makes all intimate contact and even meaningful conversation impossible. I might as well be disrobing in front of a gay man. She’s a goner.

“Did you know that Ernesto has an alliance with Tanya, and Phoebe knows about it? He might be kicked off the island.”

“That’s nice, honey.”

She ignores my lack of concern.

“Well, it could cause a problem,” she speculates. “See, Bill, the leader of the house, slept with Tanya, and he hates Ernesto. Hmm, I wonder what that will do to the alliance?”

Debbie’s still beating up on herself for having failed to guess Big Brother’s final survivor last season. She had to watch poor Marcellus get stabbed in the back when he should have won — or at least been among the final three. I liked Marcellus, too. Even I felt sorry for him.

“Tanya has something up her sleeve. I just know it,” mutters Debbie.

My girlfriend talks about these people like she’s known them her whole life. I don’t get it. This is the same woman who can’t believe it when I talk to strangers at the grocery store.

Even I have my limits, though; I just can’t get that worked up about a bunch of strangers on TV. Then I see two girls kissing in the hot tub. Suddenly, reality TV is becoming more interesting. “Do you think Lisa is really gay or just dabbling?” I wonder.

“Don’t you know she has a boyfriend?” counters Debbie.

Still, I think, Lisa looks pretty comfortable kissing this woman.

Wait a minute, could I actually be enjoying this taste of fake eroticism — clearly designed to snare ogling lesbians and horny, straight men? I’m just humoring my girlfriend, right?

So after Debbie finishes watching her trashy reality TV, I seize control of the remote — just to bring a little culture into our home. We watch Seinfeld (a show about nothing); Frazier (a program about a radio shrink); and Good Times (a ghetto show written by a rich, white man).

Now we’re getting somewhere. Maybe my refined tastes will rub off on my girlfriend.

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