Thursday, June 21, 2012
THE LAST VESTIGE OF POWER
In an age where women's liberation movements have forced much of the male population to redefine their identity, both in the workplace and in relationships with women, some men are grasping for the last vestige of power--the remote control device for television and cable.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with this harmless fixation, it can become annoying. Men unable to control the women in their lives, have turned in desperation to controlling what is watched on television. Many of the most liberated modern women still like to have car doors opened for them, learning after over two decades that it's all right to be both aggressive and feminine. Some men have trouble realizing that they can relinquish power without losing their masculinity. Proof of this lies in the number of men obsessed with the remote control--it's beginning to get out of hand at my house.
The first thing my husband says as he plops down in his recliner after a grueling day's work is, "Where's the remote?"
"I don't know," I answer. "One of your grandsons probably lost it again."
He initiates a frantic search, mumbling things under his breath that I am better off not hearing.
"You know," I mention pragmatically. "There's a button on the cable box that turns it on. That is, if it hasn't deteriorated from lack of use."
He scowls at me and continues looking, recovering the remote under a pile of throw pillows. The tension in his body visibly drains away.
"I don't know why you need the remote," I say, looking up from my book. "You have to keep getting up and down to adjust the volume each time you switch stations anyway. But then, it's the only exercise you get."
He glares at me as if that statement is too stupid to warrant a reply, and begins his nightly ritual of channel surfing until finding a cable program showing someone building a log home from scratch, or a chef demonstrating how to produce a six-course epicurean delight in ten minutes. The shows are reruns which he's seen ten times already, although he vehemently denies this.
This is why I read novels in the evening, glancing up occasionally to observe swans mating, or a lioness bring down a baby gazelle and devour it. Flick, flick, flick. It goes on all night, catching a baseball score, the weather forecast,(always wrong) or checking the progress of the log house. After all, he points out, he might want to build one himself some day.
The man can easily watch three movies at the same time and somehow get the gist of all of them. God forbid he should actually watch an entire commercial. Books have a quiet continuity about them, which is why I prefer to read, especially since I have little chance of watching anything that doesn't involve a hammer, saw, feathers, gills, fur, or exotic food.
"Are you aware that swans and crows actually mate for life?" he asks, interrupting one of the more passionate scenes in my novel.
"Yes, dear," I say, having heard this particular documentary droning in the background a dozen times. "But it's been proven by researchers that they have continual affairs."
"That's riduculous!" he says, apparently feeling some need to protect the moral reputation of bird life. "Where did you hear that?"
"I read it in the New York Science Times," I answer. "The eggs in the birds' nests were found to be sired by several different mates."
"See?" He says, with that hint of arrogance that I hate. "That's the trouble with you. You believe everything you read."
I rest my case.
Flick, flick, flick. He gets up and down again and again, adjusting the volume, until I am ready to scream.
"Can't you watch just one program until it's over?" I ask, through gritted teeth.
"No!" he answers, a little louder than necessary. "I might miss something on another channel."
"Honey, why don't you give me the remote for a little while?" I ask, rather gently.
"Not on your life," he says. "You'll just put some sappy tear-jerker on." He moves the remote to the other side of his chair, holding it down with his hand, as if he believes that I might actually get up and physically wrestle it from him. It is getting to the point where he may need professional therapy, I think to myself.
It isn't just my husband who's obsessed with the remote control. Whenever my sons and sons-in-law visit, it's the first thing they grab, after raiding the refrigerator. I even have to carefully pry it from the tight little fists of my grandsons. I thought at first, it might be a genetic problem, but most of my female friends are struggling with the same phenomena. Maybe it's one of those male bonding things. I'm not well-educated enough in the field of psychology to suggest that the little black device might be a phallic symbol.
Anyway, being the loving, understanding mate that I am, I've decided, acting out of pure altruism, to tolerate the aggrevation, and allow my husband to hold on to the remote control--a final exercise of power in a confusing world of mixed-up gender roles. He'll give it up when he's ready.