As I admitted to my students last night, television is dangerous for me because I love to analyze. If I were in charge of the remote (which I’m not, because we prescribe to the traditional gender role of Hubby as Commander-in-Chief of the Controller), I wouldn’t even skip the commercials. I’d watch every one, fascinated by the rhetoric they use.
But funny enough I never turn on the TV on my own, so the only time I watch it (sans commercials, thanks to DVR) is when Hubby suggests we relax for a half hour when I get home from teaching at night. Often that half hour gets filled with either 30 Rock or Modern Family.
This week’s Modern Family was a rerun, Hubby tells me, but was one I hadn’t seen before. The gay couple, Mitchell and Cam, are having trouble because Mitchell doesn’t know how to tell Cam that his bike shorts look disgusting, so Mitchell talks his sister Claire into doing the dirty deed for him:
While I don’t wear bike shorts myself, I had a couple of uncomfortable moments during the episode: you know, those moments of “Uh oh — I do that . . . and they’re making fun of it.” Sort of like the moments many of us experienced during middle school/junior high that made us forever fear sixth-through-eighth grade and respond with incredulity when we meet someone who teaches that level (“You mean chose to go back to middle school?”). And of course my brain starting spinning around wondering what it all means.
One moment was where Mitchell and Claire are talking and Mitchell says something along the lines of “OMG! You’ve never heard of _______?” And Claire responds, “I hate it when you do that and act all astounded that I haven’t heard of whatever latest thing you just learned about yesterday and pretend you’ve known your whole life!”
Even while I was laughing, I was analyzing why I was laughing: because it’s so true. Isn’t that why sit coms are funny? It’s because we can relate to them, either because we know someone like that or because *gulp* we’re like that ourselves.
There’s a second of denial, where you tell yourself, “But I’m not that bad.” Then there’s a second of panic where you think, “Am I?”
The other moment was after the bike shorts confrontation. Cam rants to Mitchell about how Claire doesn’t have room to talk because such-and-such is wrong with her. And I could see myself all the sudden, ranting to Hubby about some upset. And I could see how ridiculous it was.
Yeah, by the end of the episode I’d sworn off both habits. Yesterday when Hubby brought up something that might have upset me a few days ago, I shrugged and said, “Not that big a deal. I can understand where she’s coming from.”
Oh, the maturity! Why did it take a sit com to shove me that direction, like pushing a reluctant child to say sorry? And why do we go back to sit coms weekly when the very mention of middle school makes us cringe?
Well, here’s my theory: this is what stories are for — to help us see our lives more objectively. In middle school, we were smack in the middle of the situations. In a story, we’re watching from the outside.
It’s sort of like when you want to get through to your kids. Sure, you could lecture directly and tell them exactly what they did wrong. I try this too often and can say it doesn’t work so well. But what about when you tell them a story about themselves, like “So there was this six-year-old boy who . . .”? They are generally 100% aware that you mean them*, and yet they listen with fascination because you’re giving them the opportunity to see themselves from the outside.
Just a thought.
What do you think? Learned any great life lessons from a story recently? Been shuddering ever since I said “middle school”?
*(unless you’re Claire using a soap-opera analogy to convince your daughter to break up with her boyfriend and the daughter thinks you’re talking about your husband instead, as in the sniffles episode a month ago)