I hate Marlena Evans. The woman’s not only rich; she’s indestructible.
Marlena’s been in more than one plane crash, her house has exploded, she’s been trapped in a gas chamber, possessed by the devil, and held captive by the evil Stefano DiMera in a giant cage, decorated like Liberace’s living room, somewhere in the catacombs of Paris.
Still, every time she returns to Salem after an extended absence, she resumes her successful psychiatric practice. None of her patients ever bother getting a referral.
Years ago, Marlena was held hostage in a sanitarium, while her mentally ill identical twin stole her life. Not long after, she was drugged by Stefano and held in a vegetative state on some tropical island for almost a decade. For more than 35 years, a parade of villains have tried to foil Marlena’s happiness. But she always wins. And I’m always there, breathing a sigh of relief, swearing to wean myself off this God forsaken show before another outrageous storyline hooks me like a gullible trout.
Yes, I admit it. I’m addicted to Days of Our Lives. My husband took me on a one-week vacation to St. Lucia years ago, and we ceremoniously turned off the VCR. When we returned, I kept up the momentum for an entire year, only to be sucked back in, like a pathetic addict, during my maternity leave. This same pattern has repeated itself for the last 17 years. I quit the show for a few years, then get reeled in again when I’m home sick, on vacation or between jobs. It goes away and keeps coming back … like daytime herpes.
Marlena’s just one annoying character. I haven’t even mentioned John Black, a former priest and international jewel thief who, for years, was manipulated by the evil Stefano via a microchip secretly implanted at the base of his brain. John’s memories were transferred to a computer disc that was tragically destroyed, so he can’t recall his former life and never will. Equally tragic, the actor who plays John Black can’t recall taking any acting lessons, because he has only one expression in his toolkit: an ability to flex his eyebrows while flaring his nostrils, which he uses for every close up. Whether he’s lying in a hospital bed or seducing his son’s fiancé, he always looks like he just smelled a rotten Gouda.
And who can forget Vivian Alamain, whose antics included burying Dr. Carly Manning alive and sneaking into a fertility clinic to pull the ol’ petri dish switch, so she could be implanted with the rich and powerful Victor Kiriakis’s baby?
Forget Marlena in the Liberace prison cell. I’m the one being held captive … in a world where almost everyone has suffered amnesia, awakened from a long-term coma, had their babies switched at birth and survived multiple bombings with their hair still holding a miraculous set.
And let’s not forget doppelganger surgery: when a powerfully rich, but evil mobster crafts a body double who lives your life, while you’re held hostage in a secret chamber in his mansion basement … or characters who repeatedly return from the dead (she wasn’t actually killed in the plane crash. She was nursed back to health by a Pygmy tribe, while regaining her memory).
Have you recently discovered you have a long lost child out there you never knew about, because your frozen embryos were sold on the black market by a shady fertility clinic? Don’t sweat it. There’s a good chance your long lost son is conveniently living in your town and — you’ll be so proud — he’s a doctor! In fact, he is your local hospital’s only surgeon, specializing in everything from appendectomies and brain tumors to liver transplants and open heart surgery.
How I ask? How does someone with a master’s degree in journalism can get sucked into such obvious nonsense?
An editor at Soap Opera Digest once told me it’s because soaps become part of your extended family. These people come into our lives on a daily basis, in a society where cousin Betty Lou doesn’t live down the street anymore. They fill a need. But I don’t even like these relatives. Why am I letting them in my living room every day?
A fellow addict rationalizes that soaps are guilt-free gossip. We talk about the characters (“What a skank!” … “What a sap”), but we’re not actually hurting anyone’s feelings.
But as I search for meaning in my dirty little obsession, I’ve decided soaps are just an escape — a mindless way to decompress after a rough day — no different than Facebook or Candy Crush. And they make my life seem so much less complicated. So what if my husband just closed his business and we can’t afford the frosted Pop Tarts? So what if people in my current state are getting sucked into sink holes in their sleep? So what if the nation’s been under a 12-year terrorist alert and you can no longer take a full-sized bottle of Garnier Fructis on an airplane? At least no one’s sneaked into my fertility clinic and stolen my zygotes.
(Are you judging me? Yeah, you — the reality TV junky who’s spent hours watching Kate diaper eight, Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June whip up “sketti” and Melissa Rivers pass a kidney stone. You seriously think you’re in a position to weigh in on my dysfunction?)
I think of the time I’ve invested in the good people of Salem and acknowledge it could be better spent. I have dreams that haven’t come true yet, novels to write, a bucket list to tackle. I can do this. I can quit this show, stop recording it on Fios and exile friends who try to keep me up-to-date. Granted, I may never know if Father Eric learns that he was drugged and date raped on video by the evil Kristen DiMera to get back at Marlena (Eric’s mother) for turning her fiancé against her, even though Kristen was planning on dumping him at the altar as an act of revenge.
But you know, putting that into writing just now was actually exhausting and may be just what the fake doctor ordered to help me finally comprehend the caliber of garbage I’m feeding my rotting brain on a daily basis.
So that’s it. I’m done.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can (like the channel) and the wisdom to know the difference.
The alternative is frightening.
Five hours a week, 52 weeks a year, multiplied by at least 30 more years of living, if I’m lucky enough to live to 80 … that’s 7,800 hours of mental rubbish, not counting the hours I’ve already invested. Just think of what I could do with that time!
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of my life.