Thursday, October 20, 2016

Is My Entertainment Diet Preventing Me From Getting A Date?

Unless you've known me all my life--and few of you have--you probably identified me with some sort of entertainment when you first met me...and you probably still do.  What it was depends on when and where we met: it could have been anything from Nintendo GameCube to the Disney Channel (of course) to Scooby-Doo and Pokémon (two very different the same time) to even Garfield.  Whatever it was, you probably heard more about it than you cared to; thankfully, I'm past the days of talking about my favorite things for half an hour...because nobody wants to hear that, unless they're trying to fall asleep! As a kid, it took me longer to differentiate between fantasy and the real world; I still thought my favorite cartoons were real as late as fourth grade...but that eventually subsided.  Plus, as I got more into live-action television, they had a real aspect to them; Lizzie McGuire may not have been a real person, but Hilary Duff, who played her, was.

Still, I often have trouble differentiating between fantasy and reality...just in a different way.  Other than superhero cartoons, most of the shows I watch have a realistic aspect to them...but, it can be hard to tell what can really happen and what can't.  Can a problem really be worked out this easily? Would one of my female friends be as understanding as the young woman in this Disney Channel Original Movie? Is what they're doing in this book as fun as it sounds? Lately, it seems that the line between fantasy and reality continues to be blurred; we have fictional bands such as the Monkees and Lemonade Mouth who sell records like hotcakes, and books that are "written" by people who don't even exist.  Seriously, I came across a Lost tie-in book where the usual "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer was accompanied by words I'd never seen previously: "Even the author himself is a fictional character." That just makes it all the more confusing for people like me.

As usual, I'll do my three points.  First off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations for relationships for me.  Most romantic comedies--at least, the kind I watch--feature a man and woman who, at first, don't care for each other...then, they fall in love...and, then, they get married.  Sometimes, people go from first meeting to saying, "I do," rather quickly; I have a friend who did just that, is still married, and must have been for a while, because she has a college-aged daughter.  Not knowing each other for very long isn't a sign that you're headed for divorce rather quickly any more than knowing each other all your lives means you'll stay together until you die.  Still, in most cases--especially in the Christian realm, where marriage is held as a divine institution--people want to know someone well before they marry them.  To a degree, I agree with that; I'm the kind of person who likes to know what I'm getting before I get it.  If something unexpected happens, and it throws a wrench in our plans, it throws me for a loop...and it did even worse to me when I was younger.  Still, when it comes to meeting single girls around my age, I've started planning what "our song" would be or my niece calling them "aunt" before I've even asked them out.  When a certain high school classmate--guess which one--told me she wasn't interested in dating after I told her how I felt about her, I was shocked, because I wasn't really interested in dating either.  What was I interested in? Hanging out together, and eventually getting married...but not dating; who needed that mess? Apparently, I do, or else I'm not going to get anywhere relationship-wise.

Second off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations when it comes to resolving conflicts.  My mom has a DVD by author/motivational speaker Andy Andrews where he says that "anger management" is a crock; what it really should be about is anger resolution.  I say the same thing about conflicts; instead of holding on to them, just work them out! That's a product of growing up on sitcoms and movies where problems were resolved by the time the credits rolled.  Tim Taylor listened to Wilson and made up for what he did to his wife; the troubled kid nearly prevented his mother's marriage, until someone found the one person he would listen to; Dr. Sloan found the one piece of evidence that convicted the murderer; and...well, you get it.  Unfortunately, it seems that far too many people are not like those characters; no matter what you say or do, they're not going to apologize or make up for what they've done.  You can get other people, including authority figures, involved; you can quote the Bible; you could explain it to them in terms so simple that a first grader could understand them...and it gets you nowhere; they're too obstinate to care.  I'm reminded of what I once heard about a celebrity couple--who will remain nameless--who got divorced when the wife became emotionally involved with another man.  While she cited "irreconcilable differences," her ex was quoted as saying, "There was only one irreconcilable difference: I wanted her to stay, and she wanted to leave."  That's the way it is way too many times, and not just in marital situations.  I often look back and realize how wrong I was about, is it wrong to expect other people to see the errors of their ways? It sure seems like it.

Third off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations for what the women in my life should do.  Here's a quotation from a Facebook status of mine from September:
Disney Channel has a knack for having female protagonists who are at once smart, spunky, strong, sweet, and lovely. That may be just television, but, I believe that such women exist in real life...because I've known lots of them. True, some of them have been older--much older, in some cases--but, regardless of age, I admire them for who they are and what they do.
 You could say the same thing about other female leads from other favorite shows and movies of mine, such as Mindy McConnell, Supergirl, or Princess Leia.  Strong women have been the "in" thing for quite a while, and are present in practically every popular entertainment franchise these days; years ago, I read an article in one of my mom's magazines that said of the Disney Channel shows of the day, "It's like a Gloria Steinem field day!" So, when I've thought about a relationship, I've always expected the woman to take charge: to ask me out, to drive me in her car, to propose marriage to me, etc.  While that may be true in some relationships--and what isn't these days?--in most cases--especially with Christians, who hold fast to old-school values--it's solely up to the guy to take charge.  Honestly, I'm not used to leading; I'm the only guy I know who has never been in a leadership position.  I'm not married; I have no kids; I'm the low man on the totem pole at work; I have no younger siblings or even any younger first cousins; I've never been able to train our dogs to do anything more than "sit"; and, I have never been a Bible class teacher or leader of any sort, other than one brief impromptu attempt at leading singing.  In everything I've done, I've always been led by women somehow, even in male-focused organizations such as Cub/Boy, why wouldn't I expect a woman to take the lead in a relationship? It's what I see them do on television and in books all the time!  You may say that that's fiction, and it is...but it seems so real!

Now, for my two concluding points.  First off: I recently read a book that told of a lonely young woman whose "only companions at home were on the other side of the television screen."  I've felt that way, too; when my mom worked a lot, and I was left alone--or with my oldest sister, which was essentially like being alone--cable television and my Nintendo GameCube were my best friends.  I think that was why I did the whole celebrity crush thing: Lizzie McGuire and Maddie Fitzpatrick were the closest things I had to constant companions or dates for the evening.  I'm not alone as much now, but, I still wish I had a companion around my age who did things with me, who understood me, who I could talk with about anything.  I haven't had that in years; most of the friends who used to do things with me have moved, passed away, disappeared, or won't talk to me anymore.  If I could just find a friend like Lizzie, I'd be simply overjoyed.

Second off: One of the things about the entertainment franchises I've always liked is that they usually have an earnest goodness.  You may remember some years ago before Man of Steel came out, where the makers said that they were going to go "as dark as the character [of Superman] will allow," saying that such "earnest goodness" is a hard sell.  For me, it's not a tough sell; I've always liked Supe because of his good nature.  Then again, you have to remember that I was raised on other cutesy franchises, such as Garfield, Pokémon, and Disney.  Most of my favorite characters--regardless of gender or anything else--have such a trait...but, that's not usually the case in real life.  Everyone has their demons, so to speak, and you probably won't know about them unless you're really, really close to them...which I would be to a woman I was married to.  I've admired many Christian women I've known over the years, do I know what they're like behind closed doors? If I were to do a Freaky Friday-style body switch with their husbands or kids--that is, nobody else knew about it--would I see a side of them I never knew existed? It's hard to say...but, I kind of don't want to find out; I could end up married to a jerk, and not know it until it was too late.  If that happened, I'd feel like shooting myself; I couldn't bear coming home to emotional abuse and harassment every day, because I've already suffered enough of that for a lifetime.