Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hallmark Hangover


I might have to give up watching Hallmark movies. It’s okay. It’s a recent addiction so I probably won’t need to stay in rehab for very long.
I have a TV compulsion, which I blame on my Baby Boomer label. That, and a childhood spent in a trailer park—there are no trees to climb when your yard measures eight feet by forty and is covered with a concrete slab. We played kickball outside, sure, but with all the cars parked up and down the street it was more like a game of dodgeball with Buicks. So I watched TV a lot and memorized the entire schedule of TV Guide.
There weren’t many kids in our retiree neighborhood, either, but through the magic of television I became bosom buddies with Gilligan, Jeannie, and The Rifleman.  Wow, did we ever have good times together. If life got boring or lonely, the answer was to go watch TV—it was a harmless little diversion.
I learned how to read, too. How else would I have been able to memorize the TV Guide? I still love the smell of libraries and bookstores, which is why Kindle will never take over the world—paperbacks don’t need to be recharged. So when all three TV channels ran bowling shows or the evening news, I could always go solve crimes with Nancy Drew. Or dream of romance in musty castles (devoid of vampires), and cheer on the boldness of Anne of Green Gables who, it turns out, really is a kindred spirit.
I read books that make me smile and watch movies that make me laugh. I don’t do scary or disturbing, no matter how many Oscar nominations tag along. Life is frightening and unpredictable enough—TV and books are escapes from reality.
But not long after I got married, I gave up paper romances for good. Not only were they becoming R rated, but they always ended at the same place—and they lived happily ever after.  How can a real man and woman in a real marriage compete with romances that end at the beginning? I found myself wishing my husband would sweep me off my feet every night instead of propping up his feet and falling asleep in his chair after work. And I was never satisfied with the body God gave me, wishing instead that I had tiny feet and delicate ankles and a petite frame like the heroines of even Christian novels.
Living vicariously through the lives of vaporous characters is a two-edged sword. I know we can be inspired and educated and encouraged when we read or watch people overcome challenges through books or movies. But there is also a seed of discontent that waits to be sown when we compare our everyday lives with the fiction found on three hundred pages recounting an entire life or in a concise, two hour movie.
Which is why I need to join a Hallmark Movies Anonymous group. Now that Santa has flown home for the season complete with several Mrs. Clauses for all of his sons, Hallmark’s attention has turned to its spring bridal runway of happily ever after movies.  And that’s a recipe for romantic disaster for an oldly-wed like me. If the most important day of a woman’s life is the first one she spends married, what kind of future does that predict for the new Mr. and Mrs.?
Marrying the man of your dreams doesn’t end all the drama that threatened to keep you from reaching the altar. Life is drama—marriage is just a part of it. I want Hallmark to turn out a movie that starts after the honeymoon and gives me hope for the days when I fall into a chair before my man can sweep me off my pudgy feet.
A wedding is not the destination—it’s the vehicle.
Hmm . . . maybe the networks could be talked into bringing back My Mother The Car. Now that was a classic.

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