I came across a box under my bed recently. I find many people have a box under their bed; some use it to store decapitated heads or uneaten chicken carcasses, while the more sane amongst us might stick in old birthday cards or keepsakes. My box falls somewhere between these two options, and though I don’t know you well enough to share what all is in it, I can tell you that I came across a passport picture of me from when I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade. I was fat-cheeked with the flawless skin that only pre-pubescent youth can promise, and sported a set of spectacular heavy bags under my reddened eyes.
It brought back all sorts of sense memories from the time: winning a school essay competition, getting into my first physical fight, mango milkshakes. I also remembered vividly looking at that picture when it was first printed, looking at the red circles under my eyes and and thinking, “Well shit, maybe they’re right? Maybe I am watching too much television for my own good.”
I was obsessed with TV. Satellite was new and English channels made a welcome change from the delightful but limited offering of NTM/STN or our VHS collection. Suddenly there were Star Pluses and Worlds and Cartoon Networks and documentaries on liposuction and the fate of one-time guest stars on the show Cheers. My father used to get back from work only to find me staring up at the TV in adoration. “School won’t test on you on which character of ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ died this week,” he’d say. “Go and finish your homework.”
But I learned more from watching television than I did from my musty books on revisionist Partition history or essays on “why-the-Indus-Valley-totally-rocked-so-it-makes-sense-we-are-a-country-now-stop-asking-questions.” TV shows like Falcon Crest, Manimal and Black Adder expanded my visual intelligence immeasurably and, because of some sadly dated programming decisions, instilled in me a respect for shoulder pads that is somewhat unhealthy (#DynastyForver). The point is, pop culture was everything and I knew it. Some years later when my school gave us a General Knowledge quiz and one of the questions asked which soap opera Brooke Forrester belonged to, I smiled to myself smugly. “I knew it,” I thought in triumph, “I always knew it.”
I assumed that when I grew up I wouldn’t have time to keep watching TV all day every day because that is not what adults do. But let me tell you kids, they so do. The rise of Netflix, iphones, iPads and online binge-watching had proved this to me. Everybody does it. Now that you don’t have to suffer through ads selling you hand soap and mosquito repellent (surely they should be able to combine those two things into one product now), it makes binge-watching a whole season of your new favorite TV show or seeing clips of the best pats of your old one that much easier.
But like all pleasure, it’s dangerous. This week I had a staycation at home, for reasons that had less to do with glamorous exhaustion than they did with a stomach flu (inner voice: Remember, every retch is a heave closer to your goal weight!). At the first rumblings of illness my eleven-year-old self perked up: “Ooo!” he whooped “It’s gonna be TV time!” and since I feed him so rarely, I decided to indulge. I turned off my phone, changed into my softest, comfiest pajamas and for the next seven days and seven nights went through every TV show on Netflix and the Internet that had even a tangential chance of being fun to watch.
It. Was. Glorious.
The only people I have spoken to in the last seven days are the delivery men who have been bringing me my Chinese food. They look at me with a mixture of fear and disgust as they hand over my bags of goodies, but I don’t care. I have “The Crown” to keep me company. I have the teen angst of “13 Reasons Why” and “Riverdale”, the Archie comics sexy reboot; I have every episode of “Poirot” to take me out of my headspace and then every episode of the “The Mentalist” to prove how much better Poirot is to watch. I have seen five John Wayne movies and I don’t even like John Wayne. I have gone to 1930’s flapped Australia with Ms. Fisher’s Detective Agency and feasted in the courts of the Medici, Rome, Versailles and Henry the Eighth. Through all of this my favorite TV show right now is Sense 8, and if you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend that you do. Not only because House of Cards isn’t out yet but because it is smart, funny, fun, and set in seven different cities.
I went outside to get coffee today because I was feeling better and because my skin began to look like an unattractive vampire’s, and the sun stung my eyes. The noise and din of the world came as a shock and a relief, and has broken by binging a spell. I now have to return to work and the world, but my eleven-year-old self had crawled back to the recesses of my mind, eyes heavy with bags but feeling completely, utterly, blissfully happy. So go ahead, click on something. And then something else. And give yourself a break. We support you, my bags and I.