A few weeks ago, I turned the channel to ABC to watch Castle, and since I was a minute or two early, caught the very end of Dancing With the Stars. I had never before watched an episode of Dancing With the Stars, or of The Voice, America’s Got Talent, or American Idol. The reality TV shows I watch involve interior design, hoarders, or an occasional episode of Design Star when my husband happens to be watching. I did watch a whole season of The Bachelorette years ago with one of my AFS daughters, but couldn’t last through one episode of Survivor.
I did see enough of the Dancing With The Stars episode to find out that America’s favorite ice dancing couple, Meryl Davis and Charlie White were contestants, so I started looking for videos of their dances on YouTube, while using the first few Monday nights to follow the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and of course the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final, or at least as much of it as I could stand before it became sadly evident that Kentucky was going down to UConn.
That meant that it was not until two weeks ago, Disney night, that I actually sat through an entire episode of DWTS. However, I was up to speed on the prior weeks’ actions, gossip, scores, and innuendo through a network of fangirls posting on Tumblr, and the links they posted with regularity.
In addition to the actions, gossip, scores, and innuendo, I also found my way to a whole lot of fanfiction. I actually found my way to the fanfiction by googling “Meryl and Maks fanfiction”, much as it pains me to admit it. I mean, I am really too old for this stuff. I am especially too old to write the two examples of it that I did, and submitted to one of the fangirls I follow, who posts her own and others’ submissions on her blog. No, I won’t say where.
I can understand the allure of shipping for the young ladies whose Tumblr blogs I follow. Most of them are in their teens to twenties (hence, young enough to be my granddaughters), and for them, learning the nuances of personal interaction is a developmental task. That look that Maks gave Meryl? Is that the lingering gaze of love or just Maks being Maks? When Charlie smiles upon hearing praise for Meryl’s chemistry with Maks, is that a real smile, or does it not make it all the way to his eyes? (Or is it Charlie thinking for the 35th time, “I wish they’d stop cutting to me every damn time Meryl dances”?) What does it mean if Meryl posts a picture of her and Charlie skating on Instagram? What does it mean if members of The Fam post “like” to pictures of Meryl and Charlie skating on Instagram?
I read these posts and think what they are really asking is “What does it mean when that guy in Chem class looks at me while the teacher is lecturing?” “Is that guy I friend zoned really just joking about us going to the prom together or is he hurt that I won’t date him?”
(Yes, I know that is not all that they are doing. The functions of fiction are too many and too complex to be summed up in one blog post, especially one of my blog posts, but this is the one that jumped out at me.)
And what does it mean that Coleslaw is pondering and writing about this stuff when she has ironing to finish and a house to clean before her brother shows up for his annual visit one week from today? (Thereby causing her to miss next week’s episode of DWTS, since we are taking him on an overnight to Natchez.)
I wrote once before about the strategies that people use both to conceal information that might be hurtful and to tease that exact information out of the carefully phrased statements that other people make to hide it. There is an arms race going on between our need to fit harmoniously into a group and our need for information. The folk wisdom of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” always clashes with “forewarned is forearmed”. So we study other people’s body posture, facial expressions, eye gaze, and gestures; parse their sentences for hidden meanings, and at the same time strive to keep our own faces neutral and our words tempered. As important as it is to do so in everyday interactions, or job interviews, or if, heaven forbid, ever dealing with the police, it is even more important to be able to do so in matters of the heart. There is a saying, “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve” for a reason, and that heart is not safe out there.
So I would like to say that my reasons for obsessively looking for updates on the sites I am following are purely high minded, that I am exploring my fascination with the ways in which people communicate. I would like to say that, but who am I kidding?
I don’t even know what my reasons are for following DWTS, except one. I’m a fangirl.