No, Eight is Not Enough

Everyone’s talking about eight babies. By now, you know the story. Crazy lady has a crazy doctor implant her with eight fetuses. She also receives a surgery to increase the amount of mammary glands on her body and install a convenient escalator in her uterus. I could care less about the controversial decisions made by the mother, who looks like she was also implanted with enough lip Botox for eight people. What I think is fascinating is the actual controversy itself. You could almost hear America’s gasp turn to a grumble as it discovered that the miraculous birth of eight living human babies was really just a genetic experiment wrapped inside a welfare embezzlement scheme. As I left the house for work this morning, Oprah sat down with the father of this extreme version of Angelina Jolie. He mumbled through what I saw of the interview and I became even further disinterested in the whole thing while my wife delved into it even deeper.

Miranda, bless her heart, loves stories like this. She is fascinated with the banal extremes of the human condition. She has wanted to watch every single story, be it an Oprah interview or a National News report about what the new mother ate for breakfast. I ask her why she is so interested in this, and she tells me that she just wants to know more about the big mystery. I personally don’t see much of a mystery. I rather see a crazy woman making a crazy decision. That is the plot that producers crave on every single reality show on television.

Speaking of reality shows and hideously oversized family units, Miranda has become attached to two other shows currently airing entitled “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “17 and Counting”. Both of these shows follow a family which has experienced a regularity of births akin to something reptilian more than mammalian. In Jon & Kate, we follow a husband and wife who bitterly resent every part of the other’s being, as they try to manage a household of a set of screaming twins and screaming and pooping sextuplets. In “17 and Counting” we watch as a fundamentalist-something family continues to exercise God’s will to create their own isolated super race of Aryan children to one day become soldiers of Armageddon. Not only that, but the very title of the show is outdated. The mom managed to have another child, which brings the final total up to 18. The child more just kind of fell out of her while she was sewing a bonnet. She didn’t even notice until Harrison Ford happened to point it out as she stood in a wooden bucket giving herself a sponge bath. But with the birth of Rachel 2 (they ran out of female Biblical names) they have cemented themselves as the type of crazies that a reality-show viewing public loves.

Both of these shows appear on the seminal cable station TLC. I knew TLC back when it stood for The Learning Channel. Coming from a poor home down by the river in Magna, I didn’t enjoy all of the luxuries and amenities such as cable television or barely adequate drinking water. My first exposure to TLC came as I stayed in my sister’s college dorm for a few days after Christmas in order to keep her company after she finished working. During the day, the television was a veritable wonderland of unexplored delights. Somewhere between trying to figure out what was so funny about “Arli$$” and learning about bands I didn’t know existed in Vh1’s “Where Are They Now?” I happened to accidentally turn to TLC. What I saw was a detailed surgical operation. There was lots of blood, gore, and fatty material, and I was a 14-year-old boy, and so I was, naturally, entirely captivated. I moved closer to the T.V. as I watched the skilled surgeons perform their incredible art. I wondered what exact type of surgery they were performing. Was it the brain? An eyeball, perhaps? Enthralled, I watched the telescopic camera pull back and show the stitches threading through the soft pinkish flesh. Then, before I knew it, the cameras were switched and I both heard and saw exactly what the operation was. They moved the patient slightly, adjusted the sheet covering the operative area, and then I heard the words that still haunt me this day;

“And now we will continue the vasectomy on the right testicle.”

I turned the television set off and curled in a fetal position in the corner of the room where my sister found me several hours later.

Disturbing as it may be, I still happened to learn something from the Learning Chanel. They later found out that they could market their programming to those people who tuned in looking for some tender loving care. And so, a new variety of show’s popped up on the schedule. A family full of midgets tries to make it in the world. Two neighbors redesign each other’s bedrooms while looking for the best possible way to turn food scraps into wall décor. An Australian chef goes to the home of the hottest woman in the supermarket and makes her and her less-filmable-of-an-appearance boyfriend a meal they won’t forget. All these shows are popular with the Lifetime TV crowd looking for a break from the based-on-a-true-story movies featuring one of the cast members from either “Growing Pains” or “Who’s the Boss” in some perilous situation at the hands of a disgruntled lover.

My wife willfully subscribes to this way of thinking. I can’t fault her too much. There is a sense of relief in watching other people who are in a much worse situation than ourselves. There is comfort in knowing that the brand of reality that makes it onto the television screen is far from the stark reality that we deal with on a daily basis. We don’t have to worry about asking a stranger to reach the baking powder on the top shelf. We don’t have to worry about the previous owners of the home we are trying to flip coming back to retrieve the black market pandas they were keeping under the floorboards. I hope to never have to appear in front of two vicious fashionistas as they criticize everything I wear in front of a circus mirror until I openly weep. We also, will never have to worry about having cameras follow around our gargantuan-sized family and divulging everything that we do in our home. We have two beautiful children and for now, that is enough. And, as far as the future is concerned, The Discovery Channel has a new program that shows all of the graphic details of various surgical procedures, some of which are, as of recent, much more appealing to a father of two like me.