Everything Reality TV Has Taught Me (This Year)

By Anne T. Donahue

In case you weren’t already aware, the pandemic’s still raging and I would very much like to burrow into several tonnes of blankets and stay there until we’re not all swimming with disease. But alas, that dream is unrealistic. First, because I have no idea where to acquire literal tonnes of blankets, and also because I’ll have no access to food, water, and a working toilet if I did.

So instead, I’ve chosen not just to cope but to learn. And not just learn, but mentally thrive as I justify my hours and days and weeks spent watching Below Deck and its sexy contemporaries by taking what they’ve taught me and applying them to my very small, low-stakes, indoor life. And maybe yours. Let’s go to school.

Wield your age as a weapon
Is it normal to be a 36-year-old woman relating to a 60-something-year-old sea captain? Should I be concerned that when watching Captain Lee (of Below Deck, duh) I aspire to his level of self-assuredness? That I long to yell “goddamn it!” with the same level of purpose? That I know if placed on a yacht and made to work there, that I would want the only job that allows me to remove myself from all drama and eat meals the likes of which I can’t really afford? I don’t care. In the spirit of the captain whose approval I crave despite not knowing him or anything about him, I have chosen to begin using my own years as a means of doing or not doing whatever I want just like a seasoned person of the sea. And I suggest you do the same.

And I mean, why wouldn’t we? Why not scream “I’m in my thirties!” when faced with a buffet table of nonsense? Why not duck out of another person’s confrontation by simply saying, “Absolutely not”? Why not, instead of spending a day on the beach watching yacht people get day drunk, sleep on a beach chair outside and mind your own business? Exactly. I want a life that’s full of nothing even remotely abrasive. Please just leave me alone, I’m elderly.

Ward off arguments by getting upsettingly defensive
Or, you could live in the way Captain Lee never would. For most of my adult life, I avoided reality TV because I was not of sound mind or soul. And then when I stumbled upon it (and watched season after season of Real Housewives), I learned that I may not love actual confrontation, but if faced with it I must defend myself by screaming pure garbage at my enemy in a way that leaves them wondering why I’m so mad and why I keep saying, “OR WHAT” to whatever they’re saying.

After all, it’s the year of our lord 2022 and we all know that any/all fights that involve raised voices will never be solved by reason. So I say: abandon logic. Choose a phrase to repeat over and over. Tell a story so shockingly untrue that instead of being called out, you become the subject of other people’s conversations while you do your grocery shopping and live the beautiful life you deserve. Begin to cry whenever the thing you did comes up at dinner, and then guilt everybody sitting nearby for stoking the fires of your discontent. Be the human equivalent of whatever animal screams at an ear-piercing pitch so that even your Las Vegas casino heist will never, under any circumstances, be something you have to admit or deny.

As long as you understand that this will cost us all our friends. Or at least the ones with strong moral compasses and good, kind hearts. Who, for the record, would never instigate a yell-fight anyway so never you mind.

Lead with a confidence you don’t necessarily deserve
One of my favourite things about cooking competition series is that each and every participant believes they invented food. They sidle up to nearly impossible challenges, mock their fellow competitors for, say, slipping on the floor and hurting their hand, and blame everyone they’ve ever met for not being able to cook risotto.

This is clearly the only way to battle imposter syndrome, particularly when dealing with an issue you’ve never dealt with before with stakes so low no one knows who or what you’re talking about. And, because you likely don’t work in one of Gordon Ramsey’s kitchens, you don’t have to lead with slamming dishes and verbally berating a scallop – instead, it’s a question of asserting your expertise; of asking how somebody’s day is going, and then when they tell you how tired they are, go into why you completely understand because you were the first person ever to have been tired. Explain that you’ve never been so busy in your life, and that until this moment, you were the only human alive who used that word. Wipe sweat off your brow, even if you’re outside waiting for a bus in frigid January temperatures. Hold eye contact so that whoever you’re speaking with knows you’re fearless and also a little bit weird.

That is, unless you’re doing this to someone who identifies as being the emotional equivalent of a seasoned yacht captain. They are too old for any of this, and haven’t actually watched reality television once in their lives.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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