by Dan Morey
Let me begin by saying that I am an educated man. I’ve read Melville and plumbed the depths of Emerson’s transcendental theories. I’ve published essays on Alcott and Thoreau. Indeed, I could expatiate on the aesthetics of Hawthorne in any academic arena. But none of this matters. I am as susceptible as the next man.
Nefarious entities lurk in television studios. They scurry about behind sets and dart into backrooms where they devise plots. Do not doubt their power. Even the strongest minds are defenseless against them.
My own downfall occurred some twenty-five years ago. I was reclined on a couch, perusing an essay by Swedenborg. When I grew weary of his argument, I turned on the television. This was before the era of psychologically beneficial daytime shows like Dr. Phil, so I was forced to watch a soap opera. The scenarios were ludicrous, the acting rigid, and the dialogue melodramatic. I chuckled and went back to my book.
Later that week, I found myself craving the kind of relaxation that only a television and a couch can provide. I decided to try the soaps again. Days of Our Lives was on, and I noticed that the women, particularly Hope and Carrie, were rather winsome. There could be no harm in gazing upon beauty, could there?
Over the course of the next month, I began, almost unconsciously, to take an interest in the plot. When would Stefano, that evil genius, return to Salem? Was Peter really dead? Would Marlene ever be freed from the secret room behind the wine casks in Kristin's basement? These were just a few of the intrigues. Jack was in jail. Billy was on heroin again. Kristin wasn’t legally married to John Black, and had never given birth to his child. The baby had in fact come from the womb of a deranged Elvis fanatic. And there was more! Beau was infiltrating a drug operation in Rome. Sammy had her memory back, unbeknownst to everyone except Lucas. Hope was on the brink of finally finding out what really happened at Maison Blanche.
Still I believed I was invulnerable. After all, this was just an hour's repose, a meaningless activity meant to calm my brain. Why shouldn't I alleviate the stress of an academically rigorous morning? I began to remain on the couch, shrouded in blankets, for Another World. Grant was being drugged, but everyone believed he’d gone insane, so they committed him to a mental ward.
Around this time, I received a letter of reprimand from the university regarding my frequent absences. My tenure was in jeopardy, but I didn’t care.
One day, for a change of pace, I went into a local tavern to watch Days of Our Lives.
"Think Stefano will make an appearance this week?" I asked the barmaid.
She gave me a strange look. “You know Stefano?"
"Of course. Who doesn’t?”
My personal appearance deteriorated rapidly. I was a pallid wreck, with red eyes and unkempt hair. I clearly needed help, but in those days there was no Dr. Phil on the air to explain my condition or its consequences.
I hit rock bottom one afternoon in the tavern. I asked the barmaid to put Days on and she refused. "I think maybe you shouldn't watch it so much," she said. It was after one o’ clock; I could no longer control myself. "You task me!" I cried. "Turn it on now, thou sheep-head, or I'll clear the world of thee!"
Shortly thereafter, my remaining friends resolved to confront my addiction. I came home to find five of them stationed in my living room. A handsome man with a Texas accent informed me that it was time to “get real” and join Dr. Phil’s Soapoholics Anonymous™.
“Now, are you ready for some tough love?” he said. “Boys, remove the TV.”
After a year of painful self-denial, Dr. Phil pronounced me stable, but uncured. In fact, there is no cure for Soapoholism. My obsession is only dormant, waiting for a moment of weakness and a television set.
Let my folly be a warning. As you sink into your easy chair in front of the television, know that you are assailable; know that those evil entities in the studios are dragging their clawed fingers over keyboards, forming characters, hatching plots to ensnare you.
Please, if you must watch daytime TV, make it Dr. Phil.
*A paid advertisement by Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery™
Dan Morey is a freelance writer in Pennsylvania. He’s worked as a book critic, nightlife columnist, travel correspondent and outdoor journalist. His writing has appeared in Hobart, decomP, McSweeney's Quarterly and elsewhere. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Find him at danmorey.weebly.com.