Most children who walk into our home for the first time are apt to ask the same two questions within minutes of their arrival: Where is your TV? Don't you have a TV?
The fact of the matter is, I grew up as a TV junkie. I spent hours every night, snuggled in my dad's lap while we watched Columbo, Andy Griffith, and the Cosby Show. Once cable arrived, we added John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Bob Hope films to the list, and bedtime was often ignored so I could finish watching some classic western with my dad (much to the chagrin of my mother).
A few years passed, but my need to watch the boob tube only increased. The Disney Channel was a favorite, back in the days when Disney only had one channel and they aired Zorro and the original Mickey Mouse Club on a daily basis. Every Monday night, I could be found downstairs with our family's second television set, poised to watch the newest episode of Avonlea, and our monthly Disney guide was filled with circled programs that I didn't want to miss.
Shortly after Peter and I moved to Boston, one of our first big purchases together was a 20-inch color Sony television. It was so big (or rather, Peter's car was so small) that we had to take the TV out of the box to get it in the back seat of his car. Since I lived in a dorm, Peter took the TV to his abode, and we spent week-ends watching movies.
Once we were married and living in middle Tennessee, our shiny TV took center stage in our living room. Peter hated that the furniture centered around the television, but I happily adjusted the rabbit ears every afternoon when I got home from class, and settled on the couch to enjoy an hour of Remington Steele before I had to pick Peter up from work.
When we moved into our current house, the Sony migrated from the living room to the guest bedroom, and I spent a week glued to the TV in that tiny room after 9/11 happened. For a very brief time while I had the flu, Peter allowed it in our bedroom, but as soon as I stopped puking he moved it into the library, from which it was eventually removed to the basement.
You might be wondering how the TV changed from being the centerpiece of our living space to being hidden away in the bottom of our house. It all started with a fight. Many fights, actually, most of them occurring because I, a self-proclaimed TV addict, had married a self-proclaimed TV hater. Peter felt that there was nothing worth watching, and I opposed him and his opinions. Strongly.
The one thing that we agreed on was that we wouldn't spend money on cable. Despite our many financial failures, neither of us could justify spending $50 - $100 a month on TV. Because we relied on rabbit ears, I'm quite sure that my standards of what I would and would not watch went down. I simply had to watch TV - it was part of my identity.
Or I thought it was.
The change (in me) started during our tenure overseas, where we were limited in our TV viewing by three factors:
1) We had no TV set
2) There were no programs in English
3) English programs were so stupid that I literally felt brain cells dying as I stared at the screen
It was during our travels that Peter and I came to a compromise: I admitted that most of what was on TV today was anything but edifying and I could probably use my time in better ways, and he admitted that not all TV shows were an evil.
In fact, we started watching some of our favorite childhood shows (Magnum, P.I., The A Team, Columbo) on DVD, and Peter realized that one of the things that irritated him so much about watching "live" programs, were all the commercial breaks. Take those out, and some programs could actually be enjoyable!
As for me? I discovered other ways of occupying my time - I fell in love with reading again, I took up knitting, I started this blog.
The other day, we were discussing the upcoming Olympic games and laughing about how it was the only time we ever used the TV anymore. Yes, the same 13 year old Sony CRT set. And then we paused, looking at each other, and realized how far we had come. Gone were the days when I would throw an adult-sized temper tantrum because I couldn't watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, when Peter felt like he was constantly competing against a box, when we were divided by something as stupidly simple as a television.
One of the lessons in marriage is giving up. Not giving up on your marriage, but giving up your pettiness, your selfishness, giving up those things that you cling to - thinking they make you uniquely you. I wasted a lot of time being mad at Peter over a man made object: The TV. But after 12 years - more than half of those being practically TV-free - I finally realized that listening to my spouse has made me a better, more well-rounded person. That's something the television set never did.