Like Sands Through the Hourglass, Those Were The Days of My Life
They say everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten. Well everything I needed to know came from watching my soaps. Although I've been "clean and sober" for about 10 years now, the first 18 or so years of my life were spent in fictious towns, full of people who never had the same name. Ever.
In my defense, I was born into a soap opera watching family. My grandmother has slept through her soap operas for years now. And then there's my mom. I think she even watched soaps while I was in the womb. Some babies had soothing sounds of the ocean. I had overdone closeups and macabre background music.
A great thing about a daily soap opera is just that- it's on daily. Barring the occasional newsbreak (I'm still bitter, Oliver North!) or holiday, you got to "hang" with these people day in and day out and because of the VCR, you could visit them over and over again. There were no repeats. No summer hiatus. There was no need.
It wasn't until I was about 7 or so that I started to watch soaps pretty faithfully. I started out with Guiding Light because it was my mother's soap of choice. At the time, I wanted to be Mindy of Mindy and Rusty . After awhile, I also dabbled in Days of Our Lives because my friend watched it and loved Jennifer and Frankie. I never took to the super popular, super couple infested General Hospital, but everybody and their mother seemed to hang out there.
My eleventh year was when things really got out of hand. It was 1989. I was in 6th grade. Most girls were just getting into boys and makeup. I was just entering the the "living vicariously" phase of my life.
It was then that I first really got hooked on the "boring to most" pairing of Chelsea and Johnny. I was obsessed with them for about a year, as was often the case, before moving on. It was like a drug. I'd tire of one and find another, usually diving deeper into a downward spiral of shame, a la VH1's Behind The Music.
After Johnny and Chelsea I discovered Scott and Faith. I was in the 7th grade and as best as I can describe it, I was in love with the idea of love. But another pattern in my life has been being drawn to the obscure. This often backfired. So when it came time for contract negociations, it was usually no surprise that my faves were the first to end up on the cutting room floor. Scott and Faith were no exception. Words could not express how devastated I was when they got the ax. It felt like a family member had died. So much so that my actual family members wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Incidentally, this is also what I imagined a real life break up might feel like.
After Scott and Faith faded into the proverbial sunset, they were eventually replaced by my second favorite Days couple at the time,
Jack and Jennifer. This couple broke the mold. For one thing, Matthew Ashford, who played Jack, was hysterical and so it was the first time I saw a super couple also be funny. For another they were, at the time, immensely popular, at least in soap opera fan land. For the rest of the world, not so much.
This brings me to my other thing about soaps- soap stars simply do not age. I swear. It's eerie. The other day while flipping through the channels I caught a glimpse of the Jack and Jennifer of today and they looked EXACTLY the same. What the...? It's been 15 years!?
But before I get too far off track, let's get back to the embarrassing retellings of my psychotic tendencies. I don't recall the exact moment where one obsession ends and another begins, but I think I have an idea. I loved to watch the courtship. The will they or won't they. The hurry up and wait. The angst. The pining.
But shortly after the couple finally got together, my mind started to wander. I mean I was happy for them and all, but not happy enough to watch them be happy cause let's face it, happy soap opera couples = boring. You're happy! We got it! Where's the mystery there?
This is when I'd subconciously begin to seek out a new obsession and I found I almost always had a suitable replacement waiting in the wings. In 1991 I discovered Another World...literally. It was also when I discovered Dean and Jenna. With Dean and Jenna, the formula had once again, changed. Not only did I love Dean and Jenna as a couple, my fourteen year old self also believed I was truly in love with the actor who played Dean, Ricky Paull Goldin. I joined his fan club, and I even met him live and in person at random malls and fairs in NJ, not once, but twice. Believe me, it would have been more if I had just been a few years older.
But after Dean and Jenna died down, I slowly moved my way away from the now utterly ridiculous Days and the ultimately cancelled, Another World, and even finally the one where it all began, Guiding Light. Finally I was only dabbling every once and awhile before finally making a clean break sometime in college. It wasn't until then that the cliches began to wear thin and my interest began to wane.
Parting with my soap obsessed self was indeed, sweet sorrow, although traces of those days can still be found, if you know where to look. The watching of soaps, for example, definitely tempered my real life love life experiences, be it for the good or bad. And then there's the watching of daytime soaps which inevitably evolved into watching nighttime soaps like 90210, Melrose Place, My So Called Life, Party of Five and even now, shows like The OC, which is another irony considering Melinda Clarke, Julie Cooper on The OC was also Faith of Scott and Faith. And now everthing old is new again.
This brings me to something disturbing that is often the case in soap land. There's a lot of bed hopping. So I suppose a natural extension was there was also a lot of show hopping. Over the years, many of my favorites have surfaced on other soaps. In my experience this is rarely a satisfying experience. On one hand your happy for the star and wish them success, but on the other it just isn't the same. Just like the expression says, you can take the star out of the soap, but not the soap out of the star. Err. Something like that.
It's weird when former soap favorites resurface, but it's even weirder when they start pairing former favorites up with each other. My mom still faithfully watches Guiding Light. One of my favorites of all time, Harley, played by Beth Ehlers is now with my "former flame" Ricky Paull Goldin, which to me is just plain weird. It's like picturing your sister's husband suddenly marrying your other sister. Quite simply, it isn't done. Unless you move from fictious town to fictious town, of course.
Recently nostalgia got the best of me and I pulled out a few dusty VHS tapes for old times sake. Not only is it great to watch the old episodes, but it's also a great opportunity to see stars before they were stars in commercials and products that have seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth (Lifesavers Holes, anyone?)
Believe it or not, there are soap related stories I could tell you that would make me look even more pathetic than I do now. I know, I know, as if it were possible. While I've more or less let go of those days, and come to think of it, any "Days" actually, I sometimes still wish I watched, or could "relive" it all over again. Sure it was a bit overdone, but it was my youth. I guess my days in another world were apparently only when I was young and restless and no, I never watched that one.
Then again, never say never. There is this little known network now called Soap Net that I recently discovered has been playing, are you ready for this, old Another World episodes! Currently, they're on the year 1989, just a mere year away from when Dean first made his appearance, some episodes of which even I have never seen.
Do I dare go there again? As they say in soap opera land, tune in tomorrow...