Fluff gets a bad rap. Reality TV, Sex & The City, beach reads - all purveyors of entertainment mostly associated with females. Also the entertainment given the least amount of weight culturally. And that bothers me. Why does what makes me happy also equal something "less than"? Give me a beach read any day - I'd kill to be an author on that list! Sex & The City? Heck yeah - I'll rewatch it until the day I die. And don't even get me started on my personal drug of choice, trashy reality television.
There is A LOT of value in things that have all the weight of a feather boa. I started thinking about this recently when I took a great writing class. I loved (still love) the teacher, but I noticed his resistance every time we talked about my goals - specifically that I want to write beach reads. It was a "serious" class full of talented people. The reading was weighty, the prompts heavy. My desire to join the mass paperback glitterati didn't fit in. That's fine - something for everyone and all that. But it got me thinking about the value of the things I love, even if they don't fit in the pantheon of great literature or highbrow culture. Life is wonderful. Life is also challenging. We need the light things so the heavy things are easier to carry. It's the balance that keeps us going.
A Case For Light Things
My sister-in-law has brain cancer. She can’t remember what a zip code is called anymore, but she hasn’t forgotten our ongoing joke: that she can’t pass away before the Sex & The City movie comes out. “You cannot die before finding out what happens with Carrie & Big.” “Obviously!” she replies. There’s a seriousness to our laughter, and laughter to our seriousness. We’re first in line opening day. Everything tastes like hot metal to her now, but we get movie popcorn regardless, clinging to small traditions. We gasp when we find out Steve cheated. We cry happy tears when Carrie finally walks down the aisle. We smile as we watch the four friends toast each other with Cosmos one last time. I turn to Penny and ask, “Was it worth the wait?” “So worth it!” She snuggles deeper into the seat, clinging to my hand. A melancholy washes over us as the lights come up. The theater is sold-out, and she can’t move fast, so we wait. We’re not ready to leave anyway. We stay to watch every credit, to hear every strain of music.
I’m sitting on the beach and I’m in so much emotional pain, I think my bones might break. One wrong move, and I will snap. It's our first trip away since being in Vegas the night of the 2017 massacre. We had gotten married in Vegas years earlier and I had so many happy memories. I didn’t know Vegas would later hold the very worst – will you take a bullet for me? Will you be the last thing I see before our heads get blown off? Luckily those questions remain unanswered for us, but others were not so lucky. We made it out, made it home, but the trauma still echoes for me. I lost myself to a darkness I didn’t know was possible in grieving for those people. But today. Today we’re together at the beach and it’s blue skies. I squeeze my husband’s hand before I open my chick lit paperback, taking solace in the fact that the guy will get the girl, that happy endings still exist. I smile and tilt my face towards the sun.
My internet pal needs me. It’s almost time for the Bachelor to start and she’s anxious to chat. Dedra lost her job almost two years ago, suddenly laid-off with little notice from a longtime position. Despite a lengthy resume, she can’t get hired anywhere. “Ageism is real!” she tells me in a note. As the years stretch on, she’s finally forced to choose between homelessness or relocating from L.A. to St. Louis to live with her Bible-thumping cousin. She chooses St. Louis but confides in me somedays she’d rather be homeless. Her cousin is demanding and insists that Dedra attend church several times a week in exchange for a roof over her head, despite Dedra’s agnosticism. There is no rent, but she pays with her soul. She is miserable. But the Bachelor! That’s her fun time. We’re not in the same time zone anymore, so she patiently waits for the clock to strike 8 on the West Coast. Finally, it arrives. She fires up her DVR so that we can be in synch. We hop on Twitter and chirp away, connected through wires.
SATC’s legacy is now mocked.
There isn't a single beach read that will win a Booker Prize.
The Bachelor will never be prestige TV.
All of this silly entertainment. And yet… ohmygod the relief it provides. Isn’t that worth something? Maybe it’s time for light things to receive the weight they deserve. Sure, it’s lowbrow; but man, you should join us sometime. There is so much joy here.