Embedding in Oprah’s ‘Cynicism-Free Zone’

Samantha Bee

It’s the eighth day of 2011, and my New Year’s resolutions are already in tatters. I have written three bad checks due to “not knowing what year I am living in,” and trying to go without white sugar for a day caused me to eat a half pound of artisanal honeycomb candy, hunkered over the bathroom sink, as my children desperately called out to me from the next room.

I have to ask myself, when I come home from work every day and transform, in a tornado of abandoned Spanx, from professional woman into sweatpants-clad, side-ponytailed “hot mess,” is this me “living my best life”? I just found a deer tick on my husband, reminding me that we haven’t actually looked at each other naked with the lights on since last July. Can we really say that my husband is living his “best life,” too? Are we going to find ourselves next December, chubby and disheveled, spending our date night gobbling Hot Pockets while we scrub melted crayons out of our dryer again? Or is this going to be the year that the Bee-Joneses finally get sorted?

To that end, I am curious about the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the transformative power of watching Oprah and her friends learn how to “live in the moment.” I’m capable of living in the moment. And I’m especially capable of living in the moment of sitting on my sofa and watching other people’s moments.

Let me preface this by saying, I love Oprah Winfrey. Love, love, LOVE. If you don’t love her too, that’s OK, that’s your prerogative. Just know that it makes you weird, and kind of withered inside, like Rumpelstiltskin or something. Full disclosure: I was on Oprah’s show once, briefly, years ago. (She probably doesn’t remember me. It’s OK. It was only one of the most heart-stoppingly exciting moments of my life.) In fact, I love her so much that I would not even decline an invitation to her Montecito ranch, even though I am not usually all that turned on by awe-inspiring vistas, or fountains that flow with the freshly squeezed juice of your choice, as is my understanding of her property there.

The word on the street is that OWN is a kind of “no-cynicism zone” with the potential to melt even the hardest of hearts. The other day, my husband and I watched YouTube videos of spectacular figure-skater wipe outs for about 45 minutes straight. What can OWN offer people like us? Have we ever, even for one minute, attempted to live in a “cynicism-free zone”? And what would happen if we did? What would that even look like? I mean, what happens to a person’s body when all of its connective tissue disappears? Do we just lie there? How do we make our eyes look doe-y after years of angry “New York face”? What would we have to talk about? After all, figure skating is stupid. Don’t even get me started on the outfits.

Blessedly, there is nothing of note going on in the sports world to distract my husband (except for something called “Wild Card Weekend,” which sounds uninteresting), and so I have taken the initiative to pledge our entire weekend to watching the Oprah Winfrey Network. It’s not just for the ladies, you know! It’s also for the men of those ladies! [ed. note: blatantly untrue] From the network’s website alone, I have just learned that it may be inappropriate for a grown married couple to sleep on a giant pile of their children’s cast-off McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Look at me! I’m improving already!

For my weekend experiment, I have arranged a babysitter. I have prepared low-fat snacks. I have purchased matching full-coverage Swedish long johns for my husband and myself, obviously: shapeless (I don’t want any sex getting in the way of our bonding). And the Bee-Joneses are off on their journey of self-discovery.

Perusing the offerings on the OWN lineup, I am struck by how many of the shows seem to have something just for us. Hoarders (“Enough Already!”): check. A guy cut in half by a train who lives to tell the tale (“Mystery Diagnosis”): Ooh, I wanted to see that one! Oozing religious icons (“Miracle Detectives”): perfect. And on Sunday a Meg Ryan four-pack between 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to divert our attention from all of that dull playoff football.

As my husband received this delicious news about our weekend plans, he carefully tried to contain his enthusiasm by staring off into the distance and twitching one of his eyelids intermittently. I gently reminded him that television doesn’t always have to be about hair-raising action on the gridiron, or the chance to drop $500 on the Saints with a sure-thing 10-point spread. It can also be about cozying up together to watch “The Color Purple,” one of the four runner-ups to 1985’s actual favorite movie, “Out of Africa.”

I could sense him reverting to his most primal self, preparing for either fight or flight. Whatever. I am fully prepared to become my best self, solo. If I don’t show up for work on Monday, someone please come get me, for I have most likely dissolved into a small puddle of human empathy. Look for me under all the discarded unisex thermal wear on the sofa.

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