Readers beware: You are about to enter a long, angsty, confessional post. This is your chance to quietly slip away before you've been seen.
Still here? Okay, so this thing with all T.V. airwaves going digital has brought on both an existential and a parental conflict because there is, indeed, a difference between who I am (as a person and as a parent) and who I wish I could be.
I have always wished to be a cool, hip, alternative kind of chick with great vintage style. I have wished to be a writer, a folksinger, and other hip things like that. I have wanted to drive cool cars that reflect my internal hip self.
But instead, I have always been rather loosely put together, usually in something cotton and comfortable, and I only wear comfy shoes. It turns out that I don't write fiction well, and though I was decent as a budding poet, I didn't feel as if I had the confidence or know-how to keep it going (I mean, how does one know if she's broken the line in the right place?). So really, I'm just an academic--not so creative after all. And I didn't start playing guitar until I was thirty, so I never got very good, and I really don't sing that well. So much for being a folksinger. And now, after kids, I hardly play guitar at all. So, instead, I have a very "establishment" kind of job--and I have always had these jobs.* Truth be told, I have craved the security of such jobs because I have always feared becoming a bag lady in old age.
As for the cars, in my adult life I've driven a pick-up truck (not a cool one), a Toyota Corolla wagon, and a Honda Odyssey. These are not cool cars and did not reflect any kind of hip self. But I will tell you a secret: I have loved all of these cars because all of them offered me the option to sleep in my car if need be--something that has always been very reassuring to me, perhaps because of my bag lady issues.
We do, however, have one cool car: a Westfalia Vanagon. I don't drive it often because I always forget to ask my husband if it's running or not. But when I do drive it? Dude. I feel like the me I've always wanted to be. Especially when I drive it with sandy feet. It's like freedom on wheels. And it has two beds!
So this brings me back to TV. I haven't had cable for most of the last 13 years. I get three channels, and I have been happy with them. But this whole switcheroo has got me in a bunch. See, I would like to be one of those people with no T.V. One of those people who has dinner by candlelight every night with her family without having the Newshour on in the background. One of those people who reads every night instead of watching T.V. One of those people who cooks organic, fresh meals everynight instead of heating up soup or frozen pizza (okay, that's not related to T.V., but it's part of the overall picture if you see what I mean).
But the reality is that I like the Newshour. And I don't like to spend hours in the kitchen except when I have hours to spare. And in the evenings? I'm usually watching T.V. as a way of proscrastinating on my grading and prepping. Without T.V., I think I might just feel the need to work every night. And I would miss TV's friendly noises. Because I was single for so long, I got used to the T.V. being my roommate. Maybe that's not cool, and it's certainly not hip, but that's the way it was. And now, I like sitting with my husband, while we're both grading quizzes or prepping, watching American Idol or House or 30 Rock or Frontline.
On the other hand, when we're on vacation, and I don't have grading and prepping, I'm fine without T.V. I like to read or watch a movie, and I can get by without the news. But my life, my hectic, establishment life, means that in the evenings, I want to be passive. I don't want to be stuck with just me and 60 freshman comp papers. I want to be able to work a bit and then just turn on and tune out.
But as a parent, I would like to be the kind of mom who parents without T.V. I mean, that has to be the better path, right? But I haven't been that kind of mom. Not completely. I mean, I don't plop them down in front of it very often, but if they're in the mood to watch one of their DVDs, I'm okay with that. Frankly, I don't know how No-TV moms ever get anything done. Even though I'm sure their kids will be much cooler than mine.
So. Here I am. Stuck with this dilemma, thinking that we're probably going to get one of the smaller satellite packages because then, at least, we can record stuff and have some control over viewing times. But it's giving me pause because it feels as if this is one of those moments when I could choose the road less taken and that it would make all of the difference, that it would be the road of the cool, the hip, the better mom.** But I'm not sure I'm up to it.
I guess it comes down to this: Having no TV is clearly the better thing--perhaps even the right thing--to do. But I don't think I'm going to do it. So I feel guilt, shame, and existential angst.
But I still have about two weeks to come to terms with all of this, so for now I'm going to go back to bed because I have laryngitis and feel terrible. I will take four books to bed with me: Nam Le's The Boat, an autobiography of Martha Fowke Sansom, and a book by Phillipa Gregory (which I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit), and Beowulf.
*Although I did once have a fantastic part-time job at a very hip used bookstore when I was in grad school. In fact, that was probably the most hip time of my life.
**And it would also allow me to make more progress on my dissertation, I'm sure.