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Archive for April, 2011

The Dogs and I

When I was in the seventh grade, I auditioned to be one of the children in a high school production of The King and I. The casting director felt that I was too old to be a convincing child, but that my audition, along with those of four other middle schoolers, was so excellent, she wanted to include me anyway. She used the word “superfluous” to describe my audition, which was a word I had not heard before. I looked it up in the dictionary, and felt very proud.

So, the four middle schoolers and I were given a the lowest conceivable part. We were given the part that the director probably couldn’t find anyone else willing to take.

We were given the dogs in the play within the play of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We spent almost all of our time on stage crawling around, and there was actually a point in the choreography when we had to hoist our right leg into the air to mimic urination. I was thrilled.

How special I felt to have been chosen with only four other middle schoolers! And not only was I one of only five, but three of the other people chosen were eighth-graders. In my memory, the three eighth-graders seem approximately 20 years old, rather than 13. They were that cool, and I was one of them.

Given how remarkably special and chosen it made me feel to be playing one of the dogs, my two most vivid memories of participating in the play are moments of embarrassment.

The first is of the first day of rehearsals. It was a Saturday, and I had to come late, because I took the ACT that morning. I had missed all of the directions and instructions, obviously, so my mom and I walked right out on stage, in the middle of rehearsal, trying to figure out where I should go. At the time, I wasn’t wise enough to know that one doesn’t just walk in the middle of the stage during rehearsal. But as soon as we walked on stage, it hit me, hard–you’re not supposed to do that!

Another time, I went to rehearsal on a Saturday morning fresh from a shower. My hair was wet, and I was so self-conscious about the fact that my hair wasn’t “styled” that I brushed it continuously for about an hour. My thinking was that if I was actively brushing it, my peers would not judge me on my hair–because it would still be a work in progress. When one person finally asked me why I kept brushing my hair, I gave her the answer that I had mentally prepared–that my hair gets tangled really easily when it’s wet, so I have to keep brushing it until it was dry. No one called me on the fact that my answer was completely ridiculous, but I knew that they knew that I was a fool.

For years, I was proud of the fact that I had been in the high school production of The King and I. It was beyond exciting, and I felt so happy and privileged. It’s funny how with that, along with so many other good things in life, it’s those moments of burning shame that are most permanently etched. Happiness is temporary. Embarrassment lasts forever!

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I’m concerned that my ability to become excited about things has died. In my former life as an enthusiast, there were a great many things that brought me giddiness. I insisted on watching new episodes of my favorite TV shows live, even though it meant sitting through commercials, because I wanted the excitement of knowing I was seeing things exactly as they were happening. Holidays and special occasions were monumental. The appearance of Easter candy in stores was a reason for joy.

As I have gotten older, time has begun to pass with frightening speed. And, rather than get excited about things, I find myself thinking, “Oh, well. There’s always next year. Next time, I’ll find the energy to get excited.”

Now, even my favorite TV show of the moment, often makes me feel overwrought rather than excited. A few weeks ago, I told my sister, “Sometimes I just can’t watch Doctor Who, because it makes me feel too much.” And beyond that, I recognize that this is just my favorite show of the moment, and not my favorite show until forever.

Dance recitals–I still care, of course. But there’ll always be another one, another chance. Or not. It’s not the end of the world, either way.

Derby was my favorite time of the year, aside from Christmas, until just a few years ago. But the Derby festival is going on right now. And I seriously do not care. I think my Derby excitement got squashed out of me last year, when I had an attempt at celebrating the season fall flat. Why even bother?

I might speculate that this dulled attitude demonstrates adulthood. I have grown up and left behind my childish over-excitement. Except, if I were really an adult, maybe I wouldn’t act like there is always a next time. Maybe I would seize the goddamn moment or something, because with this wisdom of age comes the knowledge that LIFE IS SHORT. OR maybe I am finally able to recognize the futility of assigning meaning to things that are inherently meaningless. (Except for Doctor Who, which sometimes means so much I can’t even deal.)

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Easter Sunday

“What is death? Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room, and I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other then, that we are still. Speak to me in the easy way that you always used, laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together, let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Life means all that it ever meant; there’s absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I’m out of sight? I am waiting for you, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.”

Those words have resonated with me very strongly ever since I first heard them when I was a teenager. They came to me via Remember WENN, a TV show for which I have perpetual devotion. They are among the most comforting words I can imagine, even though I don’t actually believe what they are saying.

A friend of mine lost her father today. I am very sad for her, and for her family. I am struck by the unpleasant irony of it, because how can anyone actually die on Easter? It seems wrong and ill-conceived by the universe.

I went to mass today with my mom, because it makes her feel better when she can get me into a Catholic church. During the homily, the priest delivered the standard Easter message–that because Jesus experienced death, we all have nothing to fear from death. He was so impassioned that by the end of the homily, he was actually shouting. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes. He believed his words with all his heart.

It is a nice idea, just as it is a nice idea that when death comes, the person has only slipped into the next room. It’s actually an idea that I clung to, just a little, when my dog died last May. (I am fortunate in that I count the loss of my dog among the most serious losses in my life.) I can’t make myself believe it intellectually, but emotionally, oh, it is such a nice idea.

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Disconnected

Speaking of television, I recently made a pretty dramatic change to my viewing habits. I splurged and bought myself a new Tivo Premiere so that I could FINALLY stream Netflix to my television like the proper, privileged first-worlder that I am, and then I cancelled all cable except for the basic channels.

Logically, it made a lot of sense. I was spending some extra money on the new Tivo, and it would allow me greater access to more QUALITY television. I would be spending less time watching The Millionaire Matchmaker and more time watching Doctor Who and Parks and Recreation and Downton Abbey. Plus, we would collectively be saving around $45 a month, which adds up to an incredibly substantial $540 a year. That was the kicker for me–the money saving. Always with the obsessive money saving. With Ace of Cakes cancelled, there seemed no reason to keep paying stupid Insight Cable so much of my paycheck.

But it seems I may have underestimated how much I was going to miss my cable. It turns out, there were more shows on cable that I watched than I realized.

Apparently I was in denial about the extent of my addiction to HGTV. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t come home from work and thought about how nice it would be to have an episode of Income Property to watch. (I LOVE Income Property.) I also dearly miss House Hunters and House Hunters International, and Holmes on Homes. I have started recording Hometime, which I loved as a teenager, because I guess I’ve always been enthusiastic about home improvement, but HOW can that compare to Scott McGillivray and his ability to turn a dingy basement into a MONEY-MAKING MACHINE OF AN INCOME SUITE?

When I cancelled cable, I initially forgot about iCarly. iCarly! I love iCarly! But I suppose new episodes air infrequently enough that I only realized this week, when I heard about a new SPECIAL EPISODE that I had a pang of regret that I wouldn’t be able to watch it on my TV. How could I give up iCarly?!

(I should say that, as far as I know, iCarly is available to stream online, as are both iterations of House Hunters and Income Property, but I am sincerely not a fan of watching television on my cheap laptop.)

I have also found myself missing The Soup (oh, Joel McHale) and Pitbulls and Parolees. But what I may miss most of all long-term… is 19 Kids and Counting. God help me, but I love that show. And it does not stream online at all.

It’s a trade-off, and it was supposed to be. Less Duggar family, more BBC. It’s only been two weeks, and I suppose like any addict, the sense of withdrawal will diminish over time. Or I’ll find a new addiction to feed.

I cancelled cable once before to save money. I went several months without it, and when I allowed myself to have it once again, my sense of relief was stupidly huge. But a lot of that was about being able to watch Ace of Cakes. So–with Ace of Cakes cancelled–how long will I really last? Can I make this a permanent money-saving lifestyle change?

We’ll see.

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Donna & Rose

This blog has seemed too public for most of the things I’ve had going on lately. Fortunately, even when there is nothing else, there is always television. Beloved television.

My latest show is Doctor Who. I had been intending to watch it for quite a while, but it wasn’t until my aunt and uncle gave my sister and me a Netflix subscription for Christmas that the opportunity really presented itself. I knew that I would like it, but I’ve actually been amazed by how much I love it.

I got very attached to the female lead of the show’s first two seasons, Rose Tyler. In fact, I didn’t realize HOW attached to Rose I had gotten until her time on the show ended, and I found myself wanting to cry forever.

I’ve continued to watch the show, and I’ve continued to enjoy it tremendously, but at least five times during every episode, I think to myself, “This would be so much better if ROSE WERE HERE.” Tonight, I tried to describe to my sister the depth of my attachment to Rose. She was slightly bewildered, I think. She liked Rose, too. And she was very, very sad when Rose wasn’t on the show anymore. BUT SHE GOT OVER IT. I have not been able to get over it. I literally go around humming the music that plays during Rose’s final scenes, like EVERY DAY, and then feel sad about the fact that she is “gone.”

(My sister asked me if I perhaps was dealing with some emotional issues that I am misplacing on Rose, who is, uh, fictional?)

My crazy loyalty to Rose reminds me of my crazy loyalty to another character–Donna on The West Wing. There are many characters on many shows that I truly love, but I love Rose Tyler and Donna Moss on a completely different, visceral, nutty level.

Both characters have many things in common with one another. Both serve as the audience’s entry point into shows that exist on a somewhat technical level. Both women are blonde, and kind of naive, and are fish out of water in environments for which they are ill-prepared. Both are wholly devoted to a certain man, because that man is good and does work that helps people. And they’re both dearly needed by that man, because Rose and Donna are good and helpful, too, in spite of the fact that they don’t quite belong. They’re strong and smart. They find a way to make themselves belong in places that aren’t, on the surface, meant for them.

Maybe that’s why I adore them both so much? Because I relate to them both, and they never give up, even when the odds seem way, way against them?

(Of course, tonight I spent probably ten minutes lamenting to my sister how much I missed Rose, and how my love for her would never die. Then we sat down, and watched the next episode of Doctor Who. And when Rose made a shocking surprise appearance, I didn’t even recognize her. It took me a while before it occurred to me to exclaim, “Wait, is that ROSE?!” Because no matter how much I love Rose, it doesn’t change the fact that I am face blind.)

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