My father used to call our television “the idiot box.” Maybe that should be capitalized. The Idiot Box. Yes, that’s better. He used to call our television The Idiot Box because we would rather watch Saved By the Bell on it than clean dog shit out of the yard for the ninth time that day. I see preferring television in this case as a natural behavior rather than an idiotic one, and looking back, I think my life has been much more enriched by pop culture references gleaned from The Idiot Box than anything I should have learned in advanced algebra.
And besides, it’s not like I totally rotted out my brain with TV. We didn’t even have cable, so much of my TV-watching life consisted of PBS, the aforementioned Saved By the Bell (also Full House and Fresh Prince, hee!) and the shows my mom watched during primetime (Quantum Leap, Northern Exposure, and 20/20…which um, reminds me, eventually I’m going to have to own up to the fact that I once had a wicked crush on John Stossel). I had to hear about Ren and Stimpy from my cousin who was a Jehovah’s Witness, for chrissakes. Plus I read more than I watched TV, a practice my father also found suspicious. It didn’t upset me to get grounded and have the TV taken away. Being grounded was actually preferable to regular life for Pre-Adolescent Me. Pre-Adolescent Me just wanted to be left alone, and what better way to achieve this than to hang out in your room where it’s quiet and you have books? My parents finally caught onto this sometime around age 12 and threatened to ground me by taking away my books. I started lugging them to school and hiding them in my locker. The punishment never came to pass, but I decided that if it did, I would be ready.
These days, I don’t watch a ton of TV. I used to be a huge fan of Intervention, but that was when it came on at 8pm and also I was functionally unemployed so could invite my friends over to get drunk and watch it with me. I still watch NBC on Thursday nights so Brennan and I can text back and forth during Parks and Rec and 30 Rock. Then there’s The Simpsons, Iron Chef, and Futurama, but besides all that, the main use for my TV is playing Netflix. And you want to know what I watch on Netflix? Documentaries. I wake up around 9am on Saturdays, drink a pot of coffee and write some stuff, and then I head to the couch to watch documentaries all day. I’ve seen things on piano makers, harpists, mental hospitals, ballet, burlesque shows, autism, prison, reclusive 1970s musicians, and economic policy. My favorite documentaries are in English, but I will also watch things in French, Swedish, or Russian if they’re subtitled. I haven’t yet figured out how to block documentaries about dolphins or UFOs because both of those are insane. I watch documentaries because I’m a nerd, but also because they are something that I genuinely enjoy. When I watch them, I am happy.
I say “I am happy” because it has recently been brought to my attention that some people don’t think I am. Happy, I mean. It has been said both to and about me by a number of people that I am “negative,” or “angry,” or that I “seem mean.”
Before you act super smart on me, you should know that yes, I have considered the logic that if more than one person has made this observation, then it very well might be true. I have also considered my own feelings on the matter, and those feelings are that most of the people making this observation don’t know anything about me. While I concede that I react differently to the world around me than some of these people, I’m quick to admit that I really don’t know anything about them, either. I can see how they act but I don’t claim to know their motivation, nor do I assume that my very limited time with them at all dictates their entire personalities. And really, I don’t care either way. They are how they are, I am how I am. This is enough for me, but now I realize that this may seem like a negative way to think.
But I’d like to point out:
1. There is a difference between being negative and being cynical.
2. There is a difference between being negative and being observant.
3. There is a difference between being negative and being realistic.
4. There is a difference between being negative and simply not agreeing with you.
5. There are multiple differences between being negative, being positive, and being neutral.
6. There is a difference between being positive and being hopeful or optimistic.
7. There is a difference between being positive and constantly your sharing positive thoughts with others.
8. There is more to positivity than adopting an “OMG I LOVE PUPPIES!!!” attitude. Bitch, everyone loves puppies, you’re not special!
See what I’m saying? Just because I’m not speaking positively all the time doesn’t mean that I’m always negative. And I don’t even think I’m negative. My sense of humor skews dark and sarcastic, but fuck you, man, I’m fucking funny. And while it’s true that people who don’t talk to me on even a semi-regular basis wouldn’t know the entire spectrum of my thoughts on the entire spectrum of existence, I don’t think this should count against my personality. I rarely ever say something wry without having a genuine laugh about the absurdity behind it. And while I don’t always broadcast my thoughts, yes, I constantly find pieces of the world to be beautiful, heartbreaking, complex, and quite literally awesome. But again, these aren’t things I feel the need to share with every single person I encounter. This isn’t negative, it’s life. I’m not experiencing my life negatively at all; on the whole, I’m quite happy with the way I live. That’s positive, right?