A few Sundays ago, our ten-year-old TV set finally breathed its last. Of course, this wasn’t just any Sunday: it was Superbowl Sunday, which perhaps explains both my husband’s distress and the corresponding lack of my own. (Although, in my defense, I must say that I doubt any reaction on my part short of an animated re-enactment of Edvard Muench’s The Scream would have been deemed acceptable). Trying my best to be sympathetic, I commiserated briefly, remarking how it was a shame that we didn’t have enough money this month to buy a new one; my husband reacted to this news exactly the same way I would expect him to react to the news that we could no longer afford to pay our oxygen bill: his eyes popped so far out, and his breathing became so strained that I briefly wondered if perhaps this was to be the time when I would finally get to witness “apoplexy”: for all the times I have read about someone’s reaction being “apoplectic” (I read a lot of Jane Austen), I have never actually seen apoplexy occur in real life. Until now.
I did almost see it once, when I was a child; perhaps not uncoincidentally, this brush with apoplexy also occurred after the untimely demise of our TV on a Superbowl Sunday. Apoplexy was neatly avoided that time, however, by the timely intervention of my mother, and her willingness to play along much more believably than I about the relevant depth of tragedy involved in the death of a beloved TV: after my stepfather frantically called her at work and told her to “pick up a TV on the way home”, she, with no snide comments whatsoever, did exactly that. It showed remarkable restraint on her part, I’m sure, but, unfortunately, forestalled my first true witnessing of apoplexy. (As a side note I should add that even though my stepfather did not actually become apoplectic at the loss of his TV on Superbowl Sunday, neither did he fully accept it: the non-functioning TV remained in the living room for several years after the arrival of the new one. In fact, they sat side by side, as if perhaps there was a chance that the new set could somehow teach the old one how not to be dead.)
Unfortunately for my husband, however, I am not my mother, and this time no “after-work-TVs” would be forthcoming. In the first place, I don’t even know where you are supposed to go to buy a TV: the one that so recently expired had been given to us as a wedding present, and any TV I had ever been in contact with before that had always seemed attached to someone else–room-mates and boyfriends being the best sources for TVs that I knew. The second reason I wasn’t going to be “picking up a TV on my way home” was that, to tell you the truth, I was actually glad the TV had died: at the time of its death we really hadn’t been on friendly terms for several years or more.
I’m not quite sure how we drifted apart. It seems like one minute I was in junior high, impatiently waiting for “The Love Boat” and “The A-Team” to come on, and the next I was the mother of a two-year-old slowly being tortured to death by “Barney”, or worse yet the mother of a nine-year-old who wants to watch “Skating with the Stars” and “Ugly Duckling”. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I think “Real People” and “That’s Incredible!” were any less schlockingly dreadful than the reality shows that are on today, it just seems to me that at least shows like “Real People” involved a whole lot less crying.
Not that there was any shortage of crying people at my house with the TV gone–my husband alone was doing a pretty good imitation of an “American Idol” results show, and Clementine was all set to channel “America’s Next Top Model” when, as luck would have it, the guy down the street decided it was time to wrap up his yard sale and price all his remaining TVs at $5.
And so, just like that the Superbowl was watched and the advertisers of another round of “Dancing with the C-Listers” could be assured of yet another year of Clementine’s brand loyalty. Everyone, it seems, was a winner, except for me. It was almost enough to make me experience apoplexy.