I rarely watch TV. I’m totally out of it, I admit, having no idea what the ladies are talking about at the bus stop when they talk of the previous night’s episodes of Dexter or Mad Men or Idol…
There are, however, two shows I love to watch on a rainy day when I just want to veg for a few (for longer I’d choose a netflix movie or grab a book). They are iconic, lush with meaning and oozing symbolism, not to mention the fact that they provide endless teaching moments (although the kids just nod and smile when I philosophize during the commercials and the husband fast forwards through them just to shush me up).
All that I ever learned in life was from animals and waiting tables, forget kindergarten. Actually I don’t think I ever went to kindergarten which is perhaps the root of all my confusion in life.
The first is Chopped. Cooking as a metaphor for life, because you never know what it holds for you. Nonetheless, whatever cards you are dealt, however bizarre or disparate the ingredients you are given in your basket of life may be, you must not only make the best of them but must create from them beauty and magic. The pressure is intense, the stove hot, the competition fierce, yet you still must stand humbled before the critics and take what they give with calm and respect, even when you think they are wrong, oh so very wrong.
The second is The Dog Whisperer, and I suggest you click on this link if only to see Cesar Millan standing with arm raised holding his balls (tennis balls, that is). I don’t even have a dog anymore, and my cats basically ignore both my whispers and my yells, but I just melt watching Cesar spin his magic. I see from the website that there is even an iphone app which will allow you to “bring Cesar with you wherever you go…includes well known quotes and his signature ‘tsst!” (For those not familiar with his methodes, the “tsst” is a sound he makes by placing tongue on the roof of his mouth which makes dogs stop in their tracks and gives me a frisson of… I digress.)
In all seriousness I do believe that there are a myriad of lessons to be learned here which are applicable to our dominance of self and others. I don’t mean dominance in a macho aggressive obnoxious way, but quite the opposite. Calm-assertive direction. Balance. Clear expectations. Communication which is direct and simple. Not reacting emotionally but constructively to bad behavior.
When I did have a dog I witnessed a “dog whisperer” when I took him to a training class full of angry shelter pit-bulls and crazed terriers. The instant the instructor took the leash there was a transformation in even the wildest of dogs, yet he never raised his voice or jerked the leash. We were all in awe. He established himself as competent and someone to listen to, someone to trust.
In college I worked as a waitress in a small but fabulous restaurant (I waited on Jackie O, the then very cool Michael Jackson came on my night off), where I learned many things. Everyone, I think, should work as a waiter or waitress. I not only learned how to hold multiple plates using only the angling of my elbow and how to open an obscenely expensive bottle of wine without breaking the cork, but so many other things: multitasking to the max, teamwork, the ability to take criticism and provide excellent service to even those you want to smother with hot béchamel or strangle with smoked eel, while still retaining your dignity and your composure… all important lessons in life.
Meanwhile, watching the shows is just so amusing. Even a moment of Snooki or the plastic-surgeried “housewives” makes me feel like I have bed bugs.
I wonder if Cesar can dominate bed bugs too? Bet he can. Tsst. Tsst.