The amount of information sent daily to my in-box or copiously linked as I browse the web is phenomenal--almost incomprehensible, and also unmanageable. I believe it was Sir Francis Bacon who noted that knowledge is power, and I’m constantly trying to address my meager power quotient by increasing my levels of knowledge on anything from molecular gastronomy to sedation dentistry to how many times a pulsar rotates per minute to cognitive behavior rehabilitation in pure positive training for dogs!
But do you sometimes just feel like lightening up? Relaxing the gray matter and watching Property Brothers or listening to some Black-Eyed Peas? It’s Monday, and I look forward to this evening with great anticipation. Why? Because on Monday nights I can hang out for an hour with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I may as well kiss any notion of being “literary” or “intellectually sophisticated” good-bye now that I’ve revealed this. The Real Housewives franchise (any city will actually do) simply lightens the load on the hamster wheel of my inquiring mind. No real information to gather, no applicable relationship strategies to store, no political arguments to garner, not even helpful fashion notes to take. I love the Housewives like I love Hostess Ding Dongs, still savoring the chemical goodness while aware of the complete lack of nutritional value.
I am aware that BRAVO TV in general does not intersect with intellectualism, but hot-damn it can be fun. What does a writer learn from series like The Rachel Zoe Project? That she can walk within six inches of her one-time right-hand man, Brad Goreski, and pretend she doesn’t see him without a droplet of remorse. Or from Millionaire Matchmaker I can shelve that men prefer long, straight hair. Or from my narcissistic Beverly Hills Housewives I’ve learned that when you are born in a zip code, you OWN that town. From a language perspective (this is one of my anemic justifications for watching—it’s research) I assemble BRAVO-lebrity vernacular like “maj” (major without the or), “I die” (for I love it), jackhole (idiot), fierce (fashion or image bullseye), throwing shade (insulting), and “shut the front door” (no way!). Vernacular, incidentally that has entered the annals of post-gen-X zeitgeist vocabulary.
But I’m no longer hiding or excusing the vacuous guilty pleasures of my sometimes pampered brain in order to preserve my writing cred. The information age exponentially ups the ante and we’re expected to shift our focus in nanoseconds while taking copious notes and identifying the contextual crux of continuous newsfeeds. Sometimes it feels good to relax, to get our silly on, to absorb nothing more than who made it through tribal council on Survivor or how foolish someone looked in the 360-degree mirror on What Not to Wear. What does surprise me is how many folks out there either don’t admit to, or actually don’t allow themselves to indulge a modicum of trivial pleasure. Truthfully, I harbor a healthy suspicion for someone who professes to read Nietzsche or listen to Baroque Quartets in his downtime.
Because let’s face it—most of us will never “know” enough to feel intellectually or informationally secure. Particularly in the realm of the professional or literary writer, maintaining a veneer of constant contemplation and wholesale disdain for pleasure or vapid entertainment seems almost mandatory. But I wonder how much we (writers or otherwise) can really know about the meaning of desire, our participation in our own bad decisions, understanding humanity’s hubris, or how inherently fallible and silly we are if we don’t allow ourselves a regular dose of our own brand of The Real Housewives!