I went to see Oprah when she taped her show in Central Park last year because my almost mother-in-law is a tremendous Oprah fan and I knew it was her dream. So I wrangled some tix and we had an awesome time. We got to see the show outside in Central Park on a beautiful day, Mariah performed, we left with a book club selection. We were in and out in two hours and the AMIL was back at work by noon. It was all very civilized and pleasant.
And I am a lifelong Oprah fan so getting to see her up close -- and she looked radiant that day with her jewels blinging as a billionaire's should -- was a real treat for both of us. So I get Oprahmania. Truly I do.
What I will never be able to understand is the Oprah's Favorite Things show and the insane hysteria it provokes -- in men, women, black, white, gay and straight alike. Is it just an American thing? To want more and more and more? And to feel you deserve to get it for free? Is it because the pricey gifts come courtesy of Oprah who has, in her twenty five years of prominence, risen to the level of a deity? Is it a mob mentality that makes everyone react that way? Is it that they've seen all the previous shows and they know they are expected to shout and shimmy and catch the Holy Ghost so at this point it's like a gag reflex? Is it because they know they're on TV so they feel the need to perform? Is it all of the above?
I don't (really) get it.
And I've been told that the people in the audience were teachers, volunteers, public servants -- the givers of our society -- and this was their chance to receive. I still don't get it. If Oprah was paying off my mortgage or my student loan then yes, I would catch the Holy Ghost. I would dance jig. I would sing an old Negro spiritual. On TV. But a copy of Jay-Z's "Decoded"? An 18-piece candle set? A Nikon camera? Some Tory Burch flats? These are just things. Nice things. Even nicer when free. But a cause for hysterics? Don't get it. And I loves me some Tory Burch!
I think part of it is that, as I've gotten older, I want less, not more. I have ADD tendencies so I'm always trying to stave off clutter. As a result, when people give me things I did not ask for I take it as an act of aggression. So that's part of it.
I can also be impulsive, another ADD symptom, and I used to buy things that I'd never wear and then wind up taking them to the Salvation Army, unworn, because every time I opened my closet the price tags -- $186 for an Anna Sui top? Really? -- barked at me like attack dogs.
Then I rented a furnished sublet in Miami in the summer of '08 and those were the best four months of my life. It was an adorable little place right on the beach owned by this hottie photographer named Jake. I had extra room in the closet, something unheard of in NY, because I only needed space for little sun dresses and Havaianas - no parkas, scarves, bulky sweaters or boots. But the main reason I loved my little beachside bungalow was because when I looked around I knew none of that shit belonged to me. When I left, I packed up in two hours and went to the airport. It was a blissful summer that changed my whole perspective on life, material consumption and the necessity of sample sales.
But it's not just recent perspective shifts that have me so befuddled by Oprah's grand scale benevolence. Remember the famous "You get a car! And you get a car! Everybody...gets...a...car!" show? I don't have a driver's license so obviously I have never owned a car and I have no desire to (living in NY I have never felt the need) so that colors my POV but I remember watching that and thinking, Now they have to pay for parking. Gas prices are astronomical. They have to get insurance. Do they have to pay taxes on that?
If I were in the audience for the Favorite Things show I know I would be grumbling to myself, Oh great, now what am I gonna do with all this shit?
And that makes me sad. Because it's a reminder that I'm one of those people who can never be happy even when Oprah wants to give me a diamond watch or a cashmere sweater or... a panini press. It's an unwelcome reminder that I'm a glass half empty person who can devolve into a 'glass half empty and can't you see that hairline crack?' person.
Now that the Oprah show is coming to its end, I'd love to see Malcolm Gladwell do a 7-page vivisection on Oprah's Favorite Things and get to the heart of its psychology/pathology. That might make me understand myself a little better and understand all the Oprah fans whose cups (courtesy of Lady O of course) runneth over.