Aside from a couple weeks ago, when I attempted to injure myself by bingeing on all the movies and shows I’ve missed in the last five years, I don’t watch a lot of TV. I admit a ghoulish weakness for Forensic Files, but that’s more of an occupational hazard than anything else.
While I was on mandatory couch duty, I hooked up my virtual IV and mainlined Netflix for about a week before turning to the sketchy street product, aka, network TV, where I was subjected to roughly 523 ads for skin treatments and as equally as many dog-and-ponies for products that could have been cars, sleep-aids, or both. Lunesta. Lumina. Pro-Series Xarelto…which might also be an over-engineered golf club, I’m not totally sure.
I watched a lot of ads for reality TV shows, which got me waxing philosophical (aided by painkillers) about TV role models and the day I channeled Garcia, the technical goddess from Criminal Minds, one of my favorite characters. Sure, Felicity Smoak from Arrow is awesome, especially Season One, walk-on Felicity with her nerdy glasses and verbal diarrhea. But as far as all-seeing, all-knowing geek girls who have access to ALL INFORMATION at the tips of their fingers, Garcia is an eye-searing, tropical-colored fiesta of technical prowess.
Aside: I use the word prowess here on purpose because of its roots in describing male virility and battle power. The word comes from an Old French origin, proesce. Thanks to my Arthurian Lit. prof, Mary Baine Campbell, who could roll a good, throaty rrrrr while pronouncing it. Also, I said root.
Yes, there are a lot of males in this TV trope of a role—many of them relegated to the part of keyboard god by a limp, a cane, or a wheelchair, as if to say, Yeah, I’d be out in the field kicking butts if not for this damn emasculating cliché. Logan Cale from Dark Angel. Finch from Person of Interest. You could probably make a case for Data from Star Trek TNG. And basically, any actor within the last three decades who sat at a desk or inside a windowless van, mashing a keyboard with two fingers and wearing a headset.
Flipping channels, I found an MTV reality show called Catfish about people who, well, catfish. That is, pretend to be someone else by stealing or creating a fake identity on the internet, thereby committing heartbreaking but entertaining fraud. To a lesser extent, I’ve encountered catfish on Twitter, so occasionally, if I respond to a direct message, I like to find out more about who’s hitting on me, berating me, or asking for a white woman to marry. Or little things, like employment, cash, or pictures of my children.
In one stellar week of catfishing in the swampy gene pool of Twitter, a “teenage girl” bombarded me with messages about how she was my greatest fan, how she’d decided to sleep with her boyfriend, and how she’d just found out she was pregnant. She was going to name her baby after me. Of course I wished her the best, though the discovery of her pregnancy and subsequent delivery of her baby spanned the course of five hours, and I insisted on naming Catfish, Jr., myself, after a lesser-known porn star. “Congratulations! And just don’t Google that,” I said, mowing down the tender sapling of our relationship.
The next morning, a random catfish surfaced through the surface scum of my direct messages, asking me how to find a ghostwriter for his autobiography. When I suggested he maybe tweet that he was looking for one, he went ballistic and called me names I haven’t heard since I did time in the Big House. (Not really, but I have a good imagination and the internet.)
And while I sat there in my pajamas, feeling verbally and undeservingly assaulted (believe me, I know how to deserve verbal assault), I entertained numerous revenge fantasies, most of them beginning something like, “Mr. Peter Darwin. You’re standing in front of Pronto Pizza in Ocala, Florida, in a tank top, cargo shorts, flip-flops, and a hat that says, TWAT Team. You live with your mother. You’re 43 years old. You’re unemployed and on probation for a Drunk and Disorderly. Don’t you think it’s time to move out and live on your own?” I wanted to make him regret his onslaught, to make him squirm like a bug on a pin the best way I know how: with useless internet-derived trivia.
At the end of the same week, yet another be-whiskered ictaluridae (I Googled that) started chatting me up, confident in his emoticons, all bluster in his swagger. He had a weird Twitter handle that would have shattered glass like Darryl Hannah’s mermaid name if you tried to say it out loud.
So, I used my elite internet prowess to…look him up on Facebook. And here’s my PSA, parents: this kid hadn’t protected any of his information. Nothing was locked down–posts, photos, dates, and locations. I learned his real name, his age, his hometown, high school. His parents’ marital status (divorced). His friends’ names. His little sisters’ names and where they hung out. What he looked like before his current ridiculous hair style.
Luckily for him, I’m not evil. Much.
Because inevitably, after a few more minutes, he swam out of polite territory into C’mon, kid, that’s sick land. I mean, seriously, I was older than his mother, which I now knew for a fact.
So I opened a can of Skynet on him. “Listen, James,” I said. “You’re supposed to be in school right now. I know you’re sitting at home based on your location tag, so I hope you think long and hard about the example you’re setting for your little sisters, Monique and Dee. Without a constant and supportive male figure in their lives since the divorce, there’s a higher chance they’ll experiment with drugs and sex at an early age. One day it’ll be creating fake profiles on the internet, the next, cooking meth. Are you going to be there for them? Are you going to make the right choices?”
For a minute, I was all powerful.
I was brilliant.
I was frickin’ baby girl Garcia.
I was blocked.
My couch tenure up, I cracked my knuckles and took off my headset.