I used to smoke. I was addicted. Sometimes I binge-smoked. Suppose you'd call it chain smoking. When I was 14, during a weekend hanging out with a girlfriend with more permissive parents than my own - who both smoked, BTW - I could easily puff my way through a packet of 20 Alpine. Loved smoking in those days, before we knew the health risks, before I'd developed my own smoker's cough. Years later, driving home from a day's teaching, or when I got home, I'd light up; have a few each night. Aged 23, over several months I screwed up and turfed many half-full packets of cigarettes; threw them away in self-disgust. I went cold turkey and quit. No nicotine patches or telephone counselling back then. Had to rely on one's mettle. Helped a bit that I'd fallen in love with a non-smoker. I considered smoking disgusting. Unhealthy. Made me cough. Exacerbated my sinusitis. Stank. I've never smoked since. Never looked back - except that I do all the time, for example, writing this.
Well, I've just quit another dirty addiction. It's been difficult, lasting as it has for many years in various forms. Now it's over. Finally. Think I can safely say that I will never indulge again.
Have you read or seen The Hunger Games? To control the population in this SF series, the Capitol, the ruling zone, selects 'tributes' - young people - from amongst other defeated working classes, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. In the novels, the games are sensational, barbaric, cynical and for the Capitol, hugely watchable.
My addiction reminds me of The Hunger Games. Okay, nobody dies, but I've decided it's equally cynical. And I've been buying into this garbage for years. What passes for entertainment simply feeds the insatiable appetites of idiots like me who can't get enough. Of course I'm talking about reality television. This year's contenders, MKR and MAFS .https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Married_at_First_Sight_(Australian_TV_series)- My Kitchen Rules and Married at First Sight. I'm so familiar with them that I refer to them by their social media tags. I've even followed along on Twitter to see who's writing what about whom. Sad. Sad. When I was teaching, I could justify this guilty pleasure by saying it helped me connect with my students. No excuses now.
Didn't mind the cooking aspect of MKR but this is secondary by far to the people-watching. The contestants are filmed slow-motion walking into each 'instant restaurant', eager to sample and critique each other's food. Inside around the table, breasts, often augmented, are almost served on plates. The costumes, sorry clothes, are often reminiscent of the outfits of citizens of the Capitol in The Hunger Games. Over-the-top hair, threatened into position, theatrical makeup, waxed brows and lots of filled, pouting deformed lips. (What do these people see when they look in the mirror?) Contestants are selected, presumably, for their enthusiasm and varying cooking abilities. But their backstory, and their potential to mouth off or stuff up and battle with their partners or other contestants is apparently vastly more important.
This year features a duo of self-proclaimed 'Christian brothers': home-schooled by Christian missionary parents. Christian? These brothers are like a couple of demons! I know it's death by editing, but sheesh. Cooking aside, these two delight in shit-stirring - is that cooking? - their sole aim, evidently, to relentlessly, shamelessly provoke other diners. The nastiness, the savage criticism, the arrogant mimicry of other contestants. And me glued to it in fascinated horror.
I tried to justify my addiction to watching MAFS by suggesting it was some sort of interesting study of human behaviour. Nah. Nuh-uh. Unless we're studying the network marketers' seducing the viewing public by giving it what it wants. The more extreme the better: people who'd sacrifice everything to get their plumped face on national television and thousands of 'Insta' followers.
This year, on MAFS, a few of the 'newly-weds' finished me off. Just the impetus I needed to kick the habit for good. This was the worst, and again I acknowledge the manipulative editing. A '29 year old virgin' - so what? - was served up for our viewing entertainment. His demeanour and excessive blinking suggested a timid, clean-cut naive man with a bit of an anxiety disorder. The alleged psychologists selected as his match a 28 year old woman, who'd 'need to take the lead'. After a honeymoon romantic bathtub scenario where our virgin got up terrifyingly close and personal with his bride's painted toe-nailed feet, so overwhelmed by panic was he that he had to be taken to hospital, still virgo intacta. Happily, the drama 'brought them closer' and whatever his name was was duly deflowered, announcing it proudly on national television. And then, and then...a couple of episodes later, the blushing bride reveals that she 'used to be a lesbian' - huh? - wanted 'more' and was into swinging and threesomes. Had this propensity been revealed in her bio? Seemed it was all a cynical set-up and this young fellow is potentially ruined for life, as if things hadn't been hard enough already. And how do either of them return to their normal lives?
I watched my final recordings of MAFS and MKR quickly, fast-forwarding through commercials, repetitious reminders of what had happened before the commercial break, narcissistic posturing and bitching. There was very little left worth watching.