I have always had an addictive personality. In my past, I channeled that trait into some lifestyle choices that would have Amanda Bynes saying "Damn, that's some messed up shit right there, yo", but now I have found healthier outlets for my inner drive and single-minded passions. I am an avid marathon runner, a voracious crossword puzzle addict, and my job makes me happier than R. Kelly at a Girl Scout Jamboree. But like all addictive personalities, I have my secret shame. . .reality T.V.
"But, Jen!" I hear you cry. "Surely that can't be a real PROBLEM, per se."
"Why, thank you." I reply demurely. "But when you find yourself setting your DVR for a 'very special' 'My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding', then that is indeed an Oprah Winfrey sized problem, my friends."
For me, the inception of the DVR was truly the beginning of my descent into madness. If you're flipping channels and you 'just happen' to stumble across a family of midget hoarders, then you can always chalk that up to an opportunistic viewing. But if you are actively scouring the ComCast guide and thinking 'Man, there's no WAY I can miss this!' then you are a terrifying individual and society needs to step in before you harm yourself or others.
For an addict, the DVR is the perfect codependent. It stalks your every move, catalogues your shitty predilection for toddler beauty pageants and polygamists, and then starts randomly taping shows remotely related to your preferences like it’s on commission.
The DVR is like a jocular bartender that slings a reassuring arm around your shoulder and convinces you that 'There’s NOTHING WRONG with pounding three Jack n’ Cokes in succession and wouldn’t a Jager Bomb be just GREAT with that?' Hence my propensity to complete two hours of viewing ’19 Kids and Counting’ only to think, “Now how did two episodes of ‘Sister Wives’ end up on here? Hmm...I don’t know, but if nineteen children riding ATVs in prairie skirts is good then a man who looks like Swayze in ‘Point Break’ schtupping four hausfraus in Vegas must be AWESOME!” And do you know what? It is. Maybe not Dance Moms-Wife Swap-Four Weddings-Honey Boo Boo awesome, but a shitshow that is glorious in its own right. And therein lies the rub. If there is a TV show that features any level of depravity from Bret Michael’s tour bus, to a Real housewife, to a rose ceremony: I. Will. Watch. It.*
*Except for 'American Idol'; I haven't been able to fully embrace that show since Paula and Simon left. Those two were magical. Seriously, I haven't seen that combination of alcoholism and verbal abuse since my marriage.
For a while, I kept my addiction on the downlow. I camouflaged episodes of "What Not To Wear" and "Bad Girls Club" between reruns of "Downton Abbey" and "Doctor Who". I feigned ignorance when others mentioned Scott Disick's eye injury or Mama June and Sugar Bear's wedding. I was so deep in the closet that I was in Narnia. . .but I couldn't hide my problem for long. It started with changes in my speech. Practically overnight I began peppering my conversations with phrases like "Make it work!" and "The tribe has spoken!" Then came the physical changes. I developed a chronic Chumley slouch, and before long I was unable to enter a dressing room without whirling around like Barishnikov after a quad-shot latte screaming "I'M SAYING YES TO THE DRESS!!!" I could no longer hide my shame.
But then, something surprising happened. As I gradually opened up to more and more people about my addiction, they in turn revealed their similar suffering. It was amazing. And they were not all derelicts and mentally infirm; I met a pediatrician with a particular predilection for "America's Next Top Model", a tax attorney with a collection of Kardashian action figures proudly displayed atop her desk, and a high-ranking law official with a signed photo of the Duck Dynasty" cast hung in his living room alongside photos of his wife and children. Suddenly, I knew that I was not alone. And with that knowledge, I no longer felt the need to hide my secret shame. When someone commented that my DVR queue was replete with "Myrtle Manor" and "Off Pitch" I simply waved it off with a laugh and a cry of "You'd better redneck-o-nize!"*
*By the way, if you haven't seen "Off Pitch", oh. My. GO. It's like the bastard lovechild of "Pitch Perfect" and "Glee" with a soupcon of "The Surreal Life". VH1. Find it.
But while I was now comfortable showing the world my reality swagger, not all of my friends were as accepting of my "alternative" lifestyle. Last night, my friend Brandon stopped by. He walked into the den and plunked himself onto the couch, throwing his feet on the coffee table with his usual familiarity. He glanced at the TV with disinterest, then proceeded to leaf through a magazine while I went downstairs to toss the laundry into the dryer. Suddenly I heard a shout, followed by indignant cursing and a cry of pure anger. Racing to the top of the stairs I saw Brandon poised on the edge of the couch, yelling at the men on TV like he was Bobby Knight and it was double overtime in the NCAA playoffs.
"What the HELL!?!?" I hissed, tossing a throw pillow at his head. "If you wake up the short people, I swear that I will punch you in the sack so hard your children will be born dizzy!"
He shook his head incredulously. "It's just. . .these guys. . .what the hell are we watching?"
I grinned, dropping onto the couch and plopping my feet in his lap. "'The Bachelorette'."
Brandon stared at me blankly and swatted my feet away. "The Bachelor- what? Huh. Never heard of it."
I straightened in my seat and gave him my best 'Zero Dark Thirty' interrogation glare. "No. No freaking way. I call bullshit."
He shrugged and gave me a crooked smirk. "Sorry."
"Have you been living in an Afghani spiderhole?" I sputtered in astonishment. "Of COURSE you've heard of this show!"
"Nope," he replied, leaning back against the armrest. Then, suddenly, he bolted upright, eyes glued top the screen. "Wait. I. . .did. . .did that dude just get out of the limo without a shirt on? Dude, he is SO not getting a rose."
I slowly turned to meet Brandon's gaze, noting the exact moment when both fear and guilt crossed his chiseled visage. I couldn't hide my glee (not that I tried).
"A rose, huh? I thought you'd never even HEARD of this show."
"I. . .you. . .umm. . ." Brandon stuttered lamely, lowering his head in shame.
"It's OK, Sweetie." I soothed, patting his hand reassuringly. "Admitting you have a problem is half the battle. Now, just slide your 'man card' under the door and walk away quietly."
How about YOU? What's the most shameful thing on your DVR?