In Her Shell
Saturday, October 04, 2008
  Why I Don't Have TV

When I was small I got it into my head that the cable box on top of the TV really controlled TV. Not just our TV; TV in general, everyone's TV. I'd get worried when my mom told me to turn it off because we were going to have dinner, because what if someone else was watching that show? I felt burdened with responsibility to watch things that a variety of people might be interested in, so I wouldn't bore anyone.

We didn't get the TV until I was four or five, and after that it dominated the living room and adjacent kitchen. My father installed himself on the floor in front of it, stretched out with a pillow under his head, and grunted in response to questions. My mom had held out for so long for just this reason, and because she wanted me outside playing. I continued to play outside, and I'm grateful that she didn't wean me on TV from the very start. But my dad couldn't resist it, and she later said that was when the marriage started to end.

I am prone to hermitage and a TV doesn't help. When I've lived with roommates who wanted cable, I've fought them but then spent the most time staring blankly at the screen. One year I lived by myself without TV, and in February I merrily gave valentines to everyone at work. The next year, in the next apartment, I sat on the couch and felt shitty about myself for being alone, as commercials told me I should.

I still have a big glass eye that dominates my living room, but I don't have cable hooked up; we watch DVDs. This week I visited friends' TV to watch the VP debate, and lasted all of about ten minutes before I literally started to feel sick and had to leave. On the one hand, I wanted to see it for myself before reading the distortions in the press. On the other, it's only my own distortion I was seeing.

I cannot understand it when people leave the TV on 'for company' or while they fall asleep. When I'm somewhere with a TV on, I cannot look away from it, still feeling responsible to watch, and keep watching.
When I was in grade school, there was a rule against watching TV before having done one's homework. My little sister and I learned to take turns watching for her to get home, and turn off the TV just before she got there. We would then try our best to convince her we had only been hanging out in the living room, sitting pointed towards the TV, but not watching it.

At some point, Mom figured out she could go put her hand on the cable box, and feel if it was still warm. Holy shit were we in trouble!
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