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Wednesday, July 9, 2008 11:38 pm

The facts of life

TV teaches me how to be “ay-oh, oh-ay”

Untitled Document Throughout the course of our lives, we learn many valuable lessons about ourselves and those around us. In a constant state of motion, we go from one mode of living to the next, on a long path to maturity and wisdom that culminates in the moment when we can finally and with complete resolve tell our high-school algebra teachers: “See, didn’t use it once.”
It is this constant learning curve that paves the way for self-help manuals, pricey therapy sessions, Outward Bound adventures with naked drumming, the purchase of European sports cars, and many other soul-searching activities. If we take a look at what we know and mix in a little of what we were told as children with just a splash of the customary family sitcom (any era: Donna Reed to Cosby, but not the post-Raven-Symoné-years Cosby Show with the comedic stylings of Doug E. Fresh . . . I’ll have none of that), I think you would see the full embodiment of the average American. You must understand, I’m not speaking of the “suit and tie since I was 8/my lemonade stand went public/dance with my elbows wide and thumbs erect when really drunk on microbrewed summer cranberry ale/let’s talk about my portfolio” type of American. Nor am I anywhere near discussing the “sandal-wearing/questionable hygiene/I drive a hybrid, actually a hybrid of a hybrid that runs on beets/I sponsored a panda in your name/I’m eating specially processed bean curd that doesn’t scald the ozone” sort of citizen. I’m talking about the “three-pairs-of-jeans-owning/don’t carpool, not because I have the gas money but because I don’t like Steve from Accounting/love to see old high-school classmates to find out whether any of them turned into A-holes/watch TV not because it is educational or beneficial but because it’s on” kind of American. Middle-of-the-road. The backbone of society. Sane. We see a lot of ourselves in others and our families, but I dare say we see even more of us in our television — not so much because art imitates life, but more because people imitate TV. I find myself, sometimes, without a firm grasp on what emotion to convey at a given moment without the aid of a Hallmark commercial or a Lifetime movie of the week. Without Rory from the Real World, how would I know when to be “psyched,” “stoked,” or even “crunked’? I stand before you a firm believer in The Facts of Life. Hello? They’re facts! And I know, beyond any doubt, the world doesn’t move to the beat of just one drum, for the most part, because of a rich old white guy with a white teenage daughter and two spunky orphaned black kids. I know that you can be a complete smartass and people will love you for it, particularly if you are 4-foot-5 or shorter. It’s not all rose-colored, though. Oh no. Sometimes your beautiful hair turns green from rainwater in a copper bowl. Sometimes your first big modeling audition goes horribly wrong when you are asked to pose “sexy” and you are only 15. Sometimes Denise makes you a terribly ill-fitting shirt that you have to wear out on a date instead of the $85 Gordon Gartrel. Oh, we all have Gooches in our lives. But we can overcome. Dudley will get out of that creepy old man’s house OK. Young, poorly color-coordinated girls finally do find a home with stuffy old fusspots named Henry. The horribly unaerodynamic Dodge Charger will make it over that riverbed. I know this to be true. I think it was the great Tony Micelli who once said, “Ay-oh, oh-ay.”
In these troubling times I think we could all use a little of that kind of thinking.
Rich Mansfield, a native of Carlinville, lives in Chatham, works at R.P. Lumber, and does standup comedy. His tribute to our simian brethren, “Monkey love,” was published in the May 8 edition.

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