If you live in a big city, the newspapers list many things to do: plays, musicals, movies, new restaurants, professional sporting events, conventions, you name it. But if you asked people who live in New York, Chicago and L.A. what they did last night, 85% of them will say, “We watched TV.”
Watching TV is our national sport. You may say, “Well, what’s the difference between watching a movie on TV or watching it in a theater?” or “What’s the difference in going to the ballgame or watching it at home?”
Price, for one. Even considering the expenses in watching things from home – paying for a premium cable channel or streaming service, having food delivered from a local restaurant, drinking beer from the liquor outlet – it’s still way less expensive than going to a stadium or a concert. And you can wear your pajamas.
But there’s a hidden cost to watching TV, and I don’t mean money. It’s doing something to our brains. I just read a story about a psychiatrist who was helping people who were having trouble coping because “Game of Thrones” has ended. Real people are dying in wars and natural disasters, and this is what is bothering you? You should see a shrink – not because “Game of Thrones” has ended, but because you have no sense of perspective. It’s like not being able to tell the difference between a brook trout and a great white shark.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve all heard stories about people who think that what they see on soap operas is really happening somewhere in real life. As if there’s an epidemic of evil twins and people being buried alive all around the country.
There is a strange disconnect between real life and TV life, and many people can’t seem to tell the difference. I keep seeing a commercial for a company called Poshmark. Apparently, it’s a way for you to resell your designer clothes to other fashion-conscious people. Fine. After all, if you’re into fashion, how often are you going to wear last year’s dress? Pass it on; that’s a smart thing to do. But the commercial has a woman saying, “I made enough on Poshmark to pay for my wedding!” It doesn’t say what she paid to get the stuff she was selling in the first place. Were the items free? If not, she’s probably losing money on every sale.
Selling those items makes more sense than letting them hang in the closet until they’re too moth-eaten to donate to the Salvation Army, but still. The question I would ask is, who can afford to marry her? You know she’s not going to be happy with a small, intimate, inexpensive ceremony. We’re talking a $25,000 gown and a destination wedding on a private island. I suppose you could resell the wedding gown, but the money for the caterer and the banquet hall is gone forever. If she hadn’t bought that designer stuff in the first place, she could have paid for two weddings. And something tells me she probably will.
There was another headline recently that some young woman had “won” “The Bachelor.” Exactly what did she win? A man? I know a woman who has been married nine times. Would you say she’s won a bachelor nine times? Or did she lose nine times? If you think that’s winning, I have to tell you that she doesn’t seem all that happy, despite “winning” so often. She’s actually struggling to pay her bills.
A piece of advice: If you ever win “The Bachelor,” ask if you can get the prize in cash instead.
It’s not just women who fall for this unrealistic, TV-view of marriage as the end to all their problems. As the oft-married humorist Lewis Grizzard said, “I don’t think I’ll get married again. I’ll just find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.”
And he was only divorced three times.
• Jim Mullen is a syndicated columnist. Email him at email@example.com.