I’m republishing this. It originally appeared in Savvy Women’s Magazine, in the humor section, a few years ago.
My mother (bless her big ole Southern heart) should be presented with a medal in a public ceremony. I’m thinking it should be made of gold and look like the ones they give away at the Olympics. Once she bends over and it’s slipped over her head, the crowd should jump to its collective feet and give her a standing ovation. The presenter might then give a short speech in which she lauds my mother and concludes by explaining that the following sentence has been engraved on the medal: “She put up with Troy Headrick all these years.”
There are plenty of people who couldn’t have done what my mother did. (I’ve got two ex-wives to prove it.) Not only has she put up with me, she’s done it with aplomb and a sense of humor.
I suppose I was a difficult child from very early on. It wasn’t that I was one of those cranky babies, the kind that spend a lot of their time crying themselves sick. In fact, most people who knew me at that time in my life say I was a sweet-natured child. Nor did I fight with other children or torture animals or pee the bed thus requiring the use of plastic sheets. I wasn’t a gross child either, the sort that eats boogers when no one is looking.
I was difficult because I was different. If it’s possible for a child to be eccentric, then I was an eccentric child. As one might easily imagine, the older I got, the more unusual I became. Now, as an adult, many would claim that I have achieved the status of a full-fledged weirdo.
In recent years, my eccentricity has most visibly manifested itself in the lifestyle I’ve chosen to live. For most of the last fourteen years, I’ve been living overseas–in strange places too, like Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and now Egypt. For a lot of people, I suppose, leaving America and taking up residence in places like these wouldn’t be so unusual, but I come from an old-fashioned southern family where people just don’t do such things. My kinfolks stay put. As a matter of fact, most of those in my clan, young and old alike, reside not far from where they were born, in little towns where they don’t even wait until sundown before they roll up the sidewalks. Such folks live simple, predictable lives. For them, a real splurge is going out to Dairy Queen for a chocolate sundae in the middle of the week.
It goes without saying that a person can’t live the way I have done in recent years without also acquiring some pretty unorthodox views on a number of subjects. For example, I’m pretty critical of television and TV viewing. As a matter of fact, I haven’t owned a boob tube since July the twelfth of 2002. When I tell people this, their foreheads often sort of wrinkle up and then their eyelids flutter for a second or so. These are the unmistakable signs of incredulity. But why shouldn’t people be incredulous when they hear me say this? There are probably only six or seven people in the whole wide world who can make this same outlandish claim.
I’ll never forget that hot day in July, all those years ago now, when I sold my 24-inch Sony, the last television I ever owned, in an apartment sale to a friend named Stephanie just before I left Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE. Only moments before Stephanie handed me the two twenties and a ten, I got cold feet.
“Are you sure you want to buy this thing?” I asked her while trying to hand the money back.
“Why? Have you decided to keep it?”
“No, I want to get rid of it, but maybe not to you.”
“So you want to give someone else, other than me, your very best friend, the chance to make a really good deal?”
“You’re right. Enjoy your new television,” I said as I pocketed the money and then smiled weakly.
As the two of us loaded the thing into a taxi, I felt really troubled. If I truly believed that watching TV was harmful, then how could I, in good conscience, unload one of the accursed contraptions on Stephanie? Doing so made me feel like a drug dealer, a pusher.
About a year ago, on one of my visits back home to America, my mother and I happened to have a conversation about television one night. This gave me the opportunity to share my radical views. As I talked about all the ills caused by watching TV, I found myself getting all worked up. At one point, I jumped out of my seat, stomped around the room, turned red in the face, and tore at the hair on my head. I went on and on about how TV was one of those factors contributing to the dumbing down of America. I cited statistics about how few Americans read books. I argued, with great passion, about how the idiot box was turning people into unthinking automatons, easy marks, in other words, for manipulative demagogues. After I had said my piece, I fell back into my chair, exhausted but confident that I had spoken with power and conviction and insight. I’ll never forget how my mother sat there, listening to my ravings with this Buddhist-serene smile on her face.
“You may very well be right about some of the things you say,” my mother began after I’d cooled off some, “but I, and others like me, like to watch TV. We do so because we think watching is fun. It adds something to our lives. It may also take something away. That’s true. But most people think the trade-off is worth it.”
Because I was still breathing heavily, I was in no condition to offer a rebuttal, so I simply sat there and let her words sink in.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, Big Brother is about to come on. This evening someone will get voted out of the house. Why don’t you stay and watch a few minutes with me?” my mother asked.
When I didn’t immediately reply, she added, “At any point along the way, if you feel your brain getting all squishy, like it might be melting down, you can certainly leave the room in a hurry.”
“Well, I suppose five minutes won’t kill me.”
“Probably not,” my mother said, and then she hit the power button on her remote.
© Troy Headrick, 2008
Originally published in Savvy Women’s Magazine