What it is and what it isn't
I know, I know. It’s been a minute.
On paper, October was shaping up to be a hectic month. My Farmers’ Museum gig would be in full fall mode, complete with festivals and weddings and ghost tours. The county government gig would be all about budgets.1 Add to that a trip to visit family in Florida and a race/retreat out in Portland, Oregon.2 I figured if I could just about handle all of it and coast on fumes into November, secure in the knowledge that there wasn’t anything all that interesting on the docket for the rest of the year.
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Then, of course, I started sneezing on the red eye from PDX. By the following day, I knew I was doomed.3 The day after that, my life choices narrowed to laying down in my bed or sitting vaguely upright on the couch.4
Which mostly meant that I gave up on any illusion I could do some work and get my shit in a ball.5 I just leaned into the extreme slack my fevered brain required.
Which mostly meant I watched three of the TV shows on my long list of TV shows to watch.
First up was finishing season three of Couples Therapy on Showtime.
I know, I know. Watching strangers trot their very real, painful, and embarrassing dysfunctions out for the cameras is totally not my thing.6 But this isn’t that. Not really.
I wouldn’t have known about Couples Therapy if not for running buddy Marianne, with whom I ran a race in Connecticut in September. Three mother runners and I rented a place7 and made a weekend of it. Said place, had a smart TV and a bunch of free content, including some Showtime shows.
I intended to go do something else when Marianne (or Shannon, maybe?) started the first episode. Not because I was morally opposed, mind, or like offended or anything. Just that I really needed to get my race shit in a ball. But then I was held absolutely rapt by Orna and the four couples from that first season.
The show is both gentle and raw. The producers and cameras seem invisible in Orna’s office, which makes it feel intensely private, even though, duh. There are clearly cameras. But that sense of a protected zone means that the clients aren’t playing to the audience at home.8 Instead, what follows is actual therapy,9 with all of the joy and pain it invokes.
But what really makes Couple Therapy work is Orna10 herself. She is very, very good at this — as are her advisors, who we also get to meet. She’s not going into sessions without a loose plan to get to what appears to be the core of the conflict between the two people11 in the couple and knows that that issue is never what’s most immediate and loud. I was genuinely shocked by some of the outcomes and how we got to them.12
Moving from the sublime to the, well, not really ridiculous but certainly less fundamental to the human experience was season two of The Hype.
I know, I know. I’m exactly the first person you think of when you think of streetwear and the young, urban culture that surrounds it. But I cannot resist a fashion competition, especially one that gives me a glimpse into a part of our designed world that I know next to nothing about.
Like, I honestly have zero idea why whatever designer wins any given competition because I don’t know how to understand what I’m supposed to see. I also don’t care that I don’t know because it’s just so interesting to watch creative people work through their inner critics and the limitations of the competition and make something great.13
And finally, The Mole, which is a very silly show that is perfect for someone who feels like hot garbage and can’t move.
Short description: contestants are put through a series of challenges. Meeting the challenge’s requirements put money in the pot; failing to succeed does not. All of the contestants — except one, (you know, THE MOLE) — want to grow the prize. To win, you need to figure out who the Mole is and outlast everyone else.
I want to make some high-toned argument about how the dynamics players display as they work out the complex social interactions necessary to win the game mirror what we must do in real life to navigate situations where there is only one way to find victory but seriously. It’s just fun to let it all wash over you while you swan about on the sofa and sniffle.15
The most boring kid’s book ever.
True story: on our family calendar I simply blocked out the days and wrote “Portland” through them. Couple days before I left, beloved spouse asked when I’d be leaving for the trip. “I’ll be driving up to the airport on Wednesday,” I said. “Why would you fly to Portland,” he asked. “Because it’s the one in Oregon,” I said. “Oh,” he said. “That makes more sense.”
Which brings up this question: when you hear “Portland,” which state to do you assume? And which state are you in?
It isn’t COVID. After three negative tests over four days, I’m pretty sure it’s some other crud.
Sneezing, coughing, and moaning pitifully were not optional. I’m still shocked beloved spouse didn’t smother me in my sleep. He’s a keeper.
Somewhere along the line, “get my shit in a ball” became the phrase I use instead of “get my act together.” It comes with a mental image of a dung beetle rolling its pile of manure into a sphere. Feel free to use this in your own life.
It’s fine if it’s your thing, mind. But my second-hand embarrassment is easily triggered and makes me so very uncomfortable.
75% of the very small townhouse was well thought-out and newly remodeled. The other 25% … well, I believe the phrase “murder room” was intoned.
I’m gonna put a plug in here for actual therapy, with or without cameras. Even if you feel like you are winning at life, a couple of months of talking through even minor stuff does wonders. 10/10. Highly recommend.
This New Yorker piece tells you a lot about Orna’s background. And only vaguely related: I love that she is an older woman who hasn’t done much to her face. She still has facial expression. That seems super useful when you are a therapist.
Couples of all types are represented: gay, straight, queer, young, old, poly, trans, traditional, etc.
I may also have shouted “HOW DO YOU THINK A BABY WILL HELP THIS SITUATION” to the TV on at least one occasion.
The Elmira I see as a straight, middle class, white lady is not the same one Knoxx sees. There’s a deep piece on race in rural, Upstate New York to be written — but I need to wait until I have gone more than a few hours without need a nap.
Trying to figure out who The Mole is is a huge part of why it’s a fun show. I did not succeed but my initial hunches all made sense in hindsight.
my shit is definitely not in anything resembling a ball and I have to work tomorrow