Truly, I don’t know why anyone would invite me anywhere. I don’t find a lot of comedy funny (please don’t tell me how men & women are different again) – I don’t dance or sing at concerts (too busy listening to the band or singer) – I can usually guess the next line of a movie and predict the end (the hell of being an avid reader/writer), and I tend to notice everything a person’s not supposed to notice at a play – like sad looking ushers, and the couple three rows down, who appear to have been in an argument before the play started (I’m easily distracted).
At home, even though I subscribe to something like 90 channels, I rarely watch TV because every time I find a show I like, it either gets canceled or becomes so formulaic that it’s boring. I mean, really, how many times does Gregory House have to be right before his interns quit doubting him? If I’m going to do nothing for 30 minutes or an hour except stare at the television, then I need to be totally engrossed by what I’m seeing. . . .or too sick and bedridden to care.
All of this, of course, makes me something of a bad fan. I really don’t get the oohs-and-ahhs of entertainment. I may really like some movies and plays, but I’m not a fanatic about any of them. There’s none I would watch more than twice – including my all-time favorite film, Radio Flyer. I know there are people who’ve seen Gone With the Wind a hundred times. Like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, that kind of obsession eludes me. (You want me to put on a pink wig and usherette’s costume and do what? In public? Are you kidding me?)
And even though, outside of writing, music is my favorite art form, I can’t think of one musician I feel a need to see in concert. Music is personal to me. I enjoy letting it drift through my own house, where I can hear every lyric, and where I’m not surrounded by a few hundred or a few thousand noisy, shuffling, and distracting others. Ditto for movies, which I would rather watch while curled up on the couch.
In my prior life, I met quite a few celebrities. None were as bad as the worst gossip that surrounded them, and none were as great as their press kits made them out to be – well, except George Burns. He was totally awesome, and very much the sweetheart everybody said he was. Still, he wasn’t a God, just a very nice gentleman who played God in a movie.
Lacking the ooh-ahh gene, I suppose I might be viewed as something of a curmudgeon, but I passed none of these traits onto my daughter. Elisabeth owns a giant screen TV, subscribes to TV Guide, and she can go into great detail about her favorite actors and musicians. She even laughs at slapstick comedy, which is something I’ve never found even remotely funny. She buys CD’s and tickets to movies and concerts nearly every week. It’s her rebellion, I think, for a nearly TV-free childhood and having to listen to the “oldies” for close to two decades. Her car has more music discs in it than I’ve owned in my whole lifetime.
Despite being raised by what she calls her “monk” of a mother, she’s also heavy into gadgets and technically savvy. While I have to concentrate to set an alarm clock properly, my daughter can send a text message on her I-phone with one hand, and get information from her Tom-Tom on the other. She owns something like a dozen cameras, all of which she claims have different purposes. She’s got digital picture frames, several game systems, two computers, and extra DVD players and stereos. She’s got an electronic car starter, the new Flip video camera, and a few different MP3 players. Her coffee table holds about eight different remote controls – and I won’t even start with the stuff she’s got in the kitchen – but does anybody really need a tool to peel an orange? Apparently, my daughter does.
All of this would be fine with me. She’s a hardworking adult with a great job, a part-time military career, and she owns her own home – complete with a wonderful fiancé, two bulldog puppies, a cat, and six fish tanks, all of which I suspect comes from being raised by a happily single, peace-loving woman with a strict one pet limit. Whoever says rebellion ends with the teens had to be kidding. I still rebel against my mother, and she died in 1996. It appears to be a life-long process, although I have to say I thought I would be the exception.
That’s right. I seriously thought I’d raise a minimalist daughter who preferred space over clutter, and manual to automatic. I thought, like me, she’d hate to travel. I envisioned us living on the same block, and taking vacations together at each other’s houses one day. Side by side, reading books, one pet per lap, drinking coffee, conversing for hours on end about philosophy or current events, and eating Chinese food out of the containers so we wouldn’t have to wash dishes.
Where did I go wrong?
The kid bought her first set of luggage at 16, and hasn’t gone longer than a month without stepping on an airplane since. She’s prefers chai tea to coffee, and has dishes for every occasion from here to Columbus Day. She can’t just sit and talk, she has to be moving – constantly. Our longest uninterrupted conversations occur when she’s buckled in the car and can only tweak the stereo dials.
When she grew up and discovered there was a world outside of Beatrix Potter, Dylan & Baez, Keds, and paper plates – when she discovered Best Buy, Ikea and Famous Footwear – there really was no stopping her.
When she learned that there were more than six pieces of furniture in the universe (bed, desk, dresser, chair, couch, table), she wanted it all. It took a few years, but now she’s got all the end tables, coffee tables, chests, cabinets, ottomans, buffets, entertainment centers, and easels that I deprived her of in her youth.
And I would be fine with all of this, I really would, if she didn’t try so hard to recruit me into her 21st century gadget-driven world of entertainment.
She knows better than to hard-sell me, so she’s sneaky. She invites me to dinner, but doesn’t tell me it’s a dinner theater. All wide-eyed innocence, she buys me a new cell phone just as I learned how to work the 2000 model. She rolls those same beautiful eyes at my dial-up internet service and convinces me that the Comcast triple-play of phone, high speed internet, and cable will save me money. She then calls me and urgently insists that I tune into to this or that channel so I can watch what she’s watching. The last time it was some show about brides gone bad.
“Why am I watching this again?”
“Because it’s funny!”
“It’s funny to see someone acting like a spoiled brat?”
“Yes! Oh my god!! Did you see the look she just gave that guy?!?!?”
On my last birthday, she handed a confused and skeptical me a digital camera and told me “oh, but this one is easy to operate.” A year later, I still haven’t figured it out. She laughs. She thinks she’s got one up on me.
Will I be one-upped by the girl who doesn’t know how to peel an orange with her own fingers anymore? I think not. I am strategically planning a counter-blitz of 20th century retro gifts, including cassette tapes, Atari Pong, and a DynaTAC8000X brick cell phone, complete with giant car bag. We’ll see how far her technical skills go when she has to use a pencil to wind the twisted tape back into its case – or when her fingers move faster than the graphics on the screen. The cell phone, of course, won’t work anymore, but it will be fun to watch her try.
The monk will have her day.