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Sidonie Sawyer Headshot

No TV in My Life

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I grew up in Paris without watching TV. My strict parents believed their TV set was an adult-only apparatus, and did not let their kids sit in front of it. Period. Besides, as far as I could see, there was nothing worth watching for me on French TV, but the national news at 8 p.m., which was not a choice us children were even considering remotely interesting.

Before my time, there was an era in the 1960s where TV programs in France were restricted to a few hours a day, nothing overnight, and even nothing during the middle of the day. During those hours, you were lucky to get a static color grid to stare at. The target audience was families sitting at the dinner table for the daily news. Advertising was not yet king, and the government of France was regulating the only three (yes, three, as in three) channels of the television programming. Regulating as in censuring, restricting, supervising, and selecting. Some freedom of expression.

Then as a young adult, I moved to the United States, California to be exact, and TV was not my main priority either, as I was busy discovering a new country, and a new city built on dozens of hills, with impossible streets that would require hiking skills to climb and just go home; mastering the art of parallel parking with a stick shift car at 45 degree angles, and getting my driver's license successfully.

Then there was the job, the husband, the grocery shopping in supermarkets where people would actually pack your stuff and wonderfully take your shopping cart to your car, and unload it for you! How about that! To this day, this does not even exist in France; first, you have to bring your own shopping tote or basket, as most large chains grocery stores will not supply packing bags, in an effort to save on plastic. Then, forget taking your cart out the door, and finally no clerk will nicely assist you, the concept is totally foreign in France.

An then there were the sunsets at the dark red sand beach at San Francisco's Seals' Beach, where I discovered that absolutely nobody would neither dare to swim, not lay out on the sand. A mystery to me, as a beach is meant to lay out or go swim, in my book.

So my life was busy, and it took months before I encountered a television set, at a friend's place, only to find out that he had about 93 channels of available distraction in several languages. This was positively mind-boggling to me. How do you make a choice? How do you know what is on? How do you decide what you want to watch? The decision process in itself was exhausting to me, and I simply gave up trying to watch anything while visiting friends. I became known as the strange book-worm foreigner.

Plus the advertising was so intrusive and so loud and so ugly that I was not going to submit myself to such an outrage, just for the recreation fun of it. This was no fun to me; this was painful, irritating, brain-draining, and flat out offensive to me.

So I gave up. Now that I have lived in America for over 25 years, I still do not watch TV, I still do not own a TV set. I do love movies and watch them on my PC, using the popular rental program that delivers shiny movies inside red envelops directly to your mailbox; because I am a fan of movies and would not live without them.

Some of my friends say I have missed on some great shows on TV, such as Friends, The West Wing, Mad Men, Downtown Abbey or 24, but I can rent those and watch them in better conditions, without having to wait for a week in between each episode, something that would definitely drive me bonkers!

Oh, ok, I cheated once last year, I watched the opening ceremony of the London Olympics on TV at a friend's house in the South of France, but that was neither my living room, nor my TV set, so I could hardly say no, and the experience was quite nice, I admit, but only due to the high volume soundtrack provided by 11 people sitting together and watching.

And you know what's funny? My three grown kids, who never had a TV at home while growing up as well, since they left the house to be living on their own, do not watch TV either, neither do they even own TV sets! So I guess my parents did something right after all!