I blame it all on Oprah. I said that in the first post. I mean it. Well, I know I choose how to react to anything and everything around me, so I really blame myself for blaming Oprah. but…still, she’s the number one reason that this whole industry selling gratitude to the masses as some sort of balm for reality really rubs me the wrong way. I should say, Oprah is amazing. She’s the kind of amazing a person wishes she could be. Maybe that’s why this whole gratitude situation really just hit me the wrong way.
So, after I got my BFA, I moved to Brooklyn in the late ’90s. I started my first masters program and, like a normal adjunct with limited funds and too many things to tackle, I liked to get home in the afternoons and and occasionally avoid all sorts of reality by watching television. I didn’t catch Oprah every day, but I watched enough to see her weight evolve, her show’s platform transform, and her focus shift from what everyone else was doing to her own style of presenting. The trouble was, that in that transformation, there were still moments of the old tabloid style talk show in the mix. So, as Oprah was rolling out her whole gratitude focus and the journals and the kindness, and the this and the that, there were still episodes which really did not seem to match.
Now, my whole timeline thing may be off. This was years ago. I used to stay up till four AM (until I realized that drinking coffee to keep me awake in evening classes kept me awake much longer), get up at 7 to teach an eight AM class, and then go home and nap until time to get to my own classes, or my tutoring, or my adult education outreach. So, at some point in my relationship to the Oprah show, she started talking about this gratitude thing. It made sense, of course. If we focus so much on all that we don’t have, how can we ever find a sense of joy? Right?
In my sleep deprived brain, all of this totally fit. Until, that is, an episode with Glamour dos and don’ts. Now, I think this episode came after the whole gratitude platform began to be constructed, but again the timeline could be off. I just know I wrote the poem about it while I was in NYC, so this all sort of connects in my mind. This episode probably also occurred when Oprah was super skinny. Which will make more sense in a minute.
If Glamour and Oprah from the ’90s aren’t high on your list of things you must know and/or remember, Glamour offered lists of things people should do to be considered fashionable, attractive, and worth the time and attention of the rest of the world–the “DOs.” On the other hand, Glamour offered a list of things to avoid so as not to be seen as a horrible, ugly, terrible human unworthy of consideration by the rest of the world. All of this, and handy dandy photos as visual guides as well! No wonder I never bothered to read Glamour. However, Oprah, the amazing human whose show I liked to watch whenever I was home at the right time (no DVR then…and video taping? Only shows like Buffy or ER), thought Glamour was important enough to focus on for entire segments.
So, there I was, in the potential heat of Brooklyn (potential, because I really have no recollection of the weather at all, but I’m pretty sure it was hot since the segment focused on the beach) going to hang with Oprah, and in the process getting schooled about all of the things I should do to be considered worthy as a human. I don’t remember much about the “Do” list at the time. Something about certain jeans and bangs, or slouchy purses…nothing I cared about. However, the don’t list featured a photo of a woman on the beach wearing jean shorts and a tank top. She was walking away from the camera who stole her image, so they didn’t have to use one of those little black boxes to cover her face, but, her crime was clear. And, if it was not clear at first glance, Oprah and her guest, an editor from Glamour, spent at least five minutes talking about the horrible don’t this woman had perpetrated by appearing on the beach, in the heat, in shorts and a tank top.
Her don’t? Wearing clothes while fat. The editor from Glamour cringed as she pointed out that the woman had arms. Arms which could be seen. Arms which, in the heat, were not covered so as to avoid offending other beach goers who might be horrified by this woman with a body. Specifically with arms. As I sat there, in my basement apartment in Brooklyn, or in my fourth floor apartment in Seattle, again…not sure of the timing except that I wrote the poem in NY…I wondered how Oprah, whose weight and lifestyle choices featured in her own show so much, felt about degrading another woman for the sin of wearing beach appropriate clothing at the beach.
So, when Oprah started pushing the whole gratitude thing, I was not really in the mood to listen to her. The whole concept just seemed rather smarmy when coupled with Glamour and an industry designed to make other people feel as if they do not matter in order to sell them billions of dollars of products so they might potentially be worthy. Worthy of what? Well. I suppose that’s another post.
Of course, you’re reading this and thinking that Oprah in the 90s really should not have a lot to do with me and being grumpy and avoiding all of that gratitude stuff today, right? And you’re correct. Which is why this is just a starting point. I’m jumping in to all of this because I can’t see being a horrible grump for the rest of my existence. I have no idea if any of this is going to work or not, but here I go.