From Our Readers The Short History of a TV Addict From Our Readers

My parents did not let us watch any television or listen to any radio as children. No Sesame Street, Mr. Rodgers, hell, not even Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting. I still don’t get any Muppets reference. I know, indefensible.  We were the unfortunate family with just snowy basic channels. Instead, we could watch one musical a week; The King and I, West Side Story, in addition to the live musicals on the weekends. The rest of our time at home was spent reading or learning chess. We got a computer in the mid ’90s, but the internet use was limited to typing programs for the typing class I was taking at Belmont Hill. My dad’s exact words were, “The internet will never take off.” I said the exact same thing about Britney Spears. The lack of prescience doesn’t fall far from the tree.

This is no way to raise a well-integrated and social child. I still shutter at the memory of my neighbor driving a 12-year-old me and my brother in a carpool. All five other kids sang along to ‘The Time of my Life’ (I had to look up the title just now) blasting from the radio speakers in the back seat of the Volvo. When I didn’t sing along, the mother looked at me through the rearview mirror and asked me if I knew the words. Knew the words? I hadn’t heard of Dirty Dancing (in the ’90s!!) nevermind the song. Everyone had a good laugh, then the mother asked me what I was listening to at home and I said outloud: A Chorus Line. Instead of laughter, my peers were silent. Nobody knew what that was. At that moment, I realized musicals were my pop-culture references (I wouldn’t know what MTV was until I was 15, deprivation at its worst). It was official, I had no chance. My socially awkward fate was sealed.

My years throughout middle school and high school were chock full of morning and evening swim practices and musical theater rehearsals, so I didn’t realize all the precious time I was wasting away. It wasn’t until I was 21 and had my first apartment (and remote control) alone, that I realized all the culture I had missed out on. I was nannying during college and discovered the morning news and talk shows. I grew to have a routine of coffee and Regis and Kelly, then after college classes in the evening, I would race back to my apartment to catch The Osbournes, The Real World and Scrubs. I set a VCR manually if I was not going to be home. I was dedicated to my art (if you still set up a VCR to record, come here. I have a Nobel Prize in Patience for you). If we are going to be completely honest, I spent more time in front of my TV than socializing with 3D humans. It is because of my upbringing that I will never be in a room without that HD marvel within eye shot. I cannot be alone in my apartment without the friendly chatter of my bestie in the background, but I also have never suffered from ennui.

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  1. Sounds a bit like my childhood. Granted we did watch Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers but my mom was all about us getting in the joy of musicals. I still enjoy them to this day and was involved in musical theatre all throughout school. It does make me a bit sad you don’t get Muppet references (Muppets Take Manhattan is the best Muppet movie ever – and it’s a musical, so watch it!).

  2. i guess this is supposed to be funny? i found it pretty sad. How did you HAVE a TV and still never see Mr Rogers or Sesame Street (which were on basic cable if my memory serves me right). Did you never go to friend’s houses? Were you kept at home for all of your childhood? I mean we didn’t even have a TV growing up and I still watched a good share of those programs. I also sure as hell knew what MTV was by the time I was 15.

    • Good points. But, families have different ways of raising kids and different priorities. You also have different personalities kids grow into as they grow up. I liked things when I was little that I don’t like now and vice versa. Depending on where you lived (especially in the 90s) could greatly impact what you were exposed to as well. My family was in a rural area and I didn’t get much MTV until I hit high school. Some of it all depends on the crowd you hung out with too as a kid. If you were really active, when was there time for tv? Just some thoughts.

      • Yeah, all of what you just said is totally valid, it would have been interesting if you touched on it more in your article. It seemed like you were taking the perspective that your parents forced you to watch musicals and completely forbid television, when there are a lot of other factors that play into it…

        Anyway i couldn’t really tell what was a joke and what wasn’t — I really hope you don’t choose television over men. It’s not that great! And PS – you missed the best real world seasons while you were watching A Chorus Line, so get to it :)

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