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I have been spending a lot of time lately watching reality TV. This is highly abnormal for me, but seriously, it is like a train wreck -- you just can't look away. In an effort to save at least some of you from my fate of recording all of these shows to watch late at night after the kids are in bed, let me just sum them up for you so you can pick which ones you want to risk addiction to.
One of the shows that I have become addicted to is on Lifetime and it is called "Dance Moms." Really, if you haven't seen this, you need to watch it at least once. These women spend over $16,000 a year for their daughters to be on a competition dance team with this overweight and psychotic woman named Abby, who dresses them like "prostitots" and has them gyrate on stage like they're trying to make the rent. I am not what I would consider a prude, but no, I would not let my 8 year old put on a metallic blue bra, bootie shorts, and thigh-high stockings and dance on a stage. Not even at gun-point. Ever. And I would pull my kid out of any school that promoted that type of dance and give the "teacher" a serious tongue-lashing regardless of how many titles and trophies she had won. The moms on this show, raise their eye brows, talk among themselves about how it is inappropriate, too sexy, and too skimpy, but they always go with what the nutcase says because "Well, she knows what wins." Look, YOU are the parent. It is your job to raise your kids up in the way they should go, and unless you want them swinging on a pole by the time they're 20, you're doing it wrong. Don't get me wrong -- being a professional dancer on Broadway is an admirable profession and I am sure that some of these students make it that far but all of them won't. And if your 8 year old spends more time in the dance studio than she does at school, then you're not giving her any other option than to be a dancer. When she doesn't make it on Broadway, what is she supposed to do instead? These "Dance Moms" need a reality check.
Another show I have started watching is "Outrageous Kids Parties" on TLC. This one is about these parents who throw parties for their kids that cost more than most cars. They have original songs composed in their kids' honor, they hire dance troupes to do dances to said original songs, and they invite hundreds of other kids to bear witness to the performance. They rent bounce houses -- plural -- for the party, they hire caterers, order specialty cakes and treats, they have party favors that would rival my kids' Christmas haul, and they act like this is normal. The tab on one episode I saw for a pre-school graduation party was over $30,000 -- and that isn't a typo. It also isn't the most expensive party that has been featured. I guess since society isn't doing a good enough job making kids think that life is all about making them happy and about them being the center of attention, these parents feel the need to greater inflate their kids' egos. Seriously, everyone cannot be the center of attention all of the time -- it is just not possible. I have to be very careful not to let my kids watch this show. Since we have moved to Texas, my kids haven't really had a birthday party at all. There are rules at the school about inviting everyone or no one and since I don't have room for 30 kids at my house and I can't afford to take 30 kids anywhere, we just haven't had any parties.
Another TLC show that I have to keep from at least one of my kids is "Toddlers in Tiaras." My daughter Bella did a pageant when we lived in Georgia. It was a small, local pageant that benefited the PTA. She got 1st place. She was three. She has wanted to do another pageant ever since. I showed her this show once to let her see how absolutely nuts the pageant world is and to deter her from wanting to do another one. It didn't work. Now, she not only wants to be in another pageant, she wants to be on this show. Neither one is likely. I am NOT a pageant kind of mom (in case you couldn't tell). I wear make-up on Sundays for church, or for rare occasions like dates with my husband, but glitz and glamour really aren't my thing. One episode of this show will have you wanting to call child protective services. The moms are INSANE and the kids are all brats. I most likely be banned from the pageant circuit for giving most of these moms a piece of my mind. Or for physical violence towards one of the moms or "pageant coaches." First time I saw some mom hand her 4 year old a foot-long pixie-stick and a Red Bull I'd probably lose it.
Not all of the reality shows are full of crazy parents. Some are full of just crazy people. If you get a chance, check out "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" on TLC Wow. That's all I'm gonna say about that one. Just wow.
I love watching "Say Yes To The Dress" and all of it's variations on TLC. There are some normal people on these shows, but there are also a bunch of nuts. I am guessing that a lot has changed since I was married nearly 13 years ago, because no one I knew spent anywhere close to $5,000 on their wedding dress, but this seems to be normal now. There is nothing wrong with wearing a $5,000 gown (or a $30,000 gown) if your budget allows it and the dress is worth it, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around when that would be exactly. My wedding dress was less than $500. Granted, it fit off the rack and it was on sale, but still, I have a hard time accepting that in 13 years, the average wedding dress cost has increased that much. Then there are the dress styles. When I got married, I wore lingerie under my gown. It was a white lace corset-like thing that was very uncomfortable. These days, brides wear that corset with a big poofy skirt and put some crystals on their boobs and that is a couture wedding gown and sells for $13,000.
After "Say Yes To The Dress" I continue the whole wedding thing and watch this competition show called "Four Weddings" where 4 brides agree to attend and judge each other's weddings and the winner gets a free honeymoon. The wedding budgets on this show range from $10,000 (which I can totally understand) and $100,000 (which would cause me to elope and use the budget to buy a house). The best thing about this show aside from the outrageous weddings themselves, is watching these catty brides go all "Judgey McJudgerson" on each other's weddings. I may not like to participate in conflict, but watching it can be pretty entertaining.
I am not by anyone's definition a "fashionista" but I do enjoy watching the wedding shows and one more TLC show -- "What Not To Wear." If I wasn't absolutely convinced that they'd tell me that I had to either start going to yoga class or throw away all of my yoga pants, I'd nominate myself to go hear what Stacey and Clinton think I should be wearing. In fact, one reason that I wear yoga pants all of the time (aside from the fact that they are the most comfortable clothes in the world) is that I don't know what I am supposed to be wearing. I have a hard time finding clothes that fit everywhere and look right on me, and I figure if I am going to look "wrong" then I might as well be comfortable. So I sit in my t-shirt and yoga pants and watch as they set other fashion faux pas prone people on the right path (some who are even worse than me).
Now, I love to save a buck whenever possible and I am in awe of people who can go to the grocery store and get everything that they need for next to nothing, so I was pretty excited when I heard about "Extreme Couponing" on TLC. After I watched it though, I was disappointed that it was less of a "How-To" and more of a freak show. No one needs 873 bottles of salad dressing. These people clear out store shelves of products that they do not need or will ever use because they are free or because they actually make them money. Do they donate the excesses to local shelters or churches? NO! Of course not! They have to add it to their "stockpile!" They are very proud of these stockpiles. Their stockpiles often have their own rooms. Sometimes they spill into every room in the house. I saw one episode where a lady kept her stockpile of barbeque sauce in her 3-year old's room. (I really wanted them to leave a hidden camera in there for when the 3-year old discovered the barbeque sauce and figured out how to open it.) They have enough detergent to last them 2-3 years, so much ketchup that even if they had burgers everyday they could not possibly use it all before it expired, and enough toilet paper to roll the white house from tip to shrubs. They have shelves of cat food and they don't have a cat, stacks of diapers and no kids, or wall to wall soda and they're diabetic. They spend 40 or more hours a week planning their trips, stealing their neighbor's newspapers, and cutting and organizing their coupons. I want to hire one of them to shop for me. They're doing all of this prep anyway, and they have all of this stuff that they don't need or use. Instead of me dragging my 4 kids to Kroger every week and to Costco once a month, I'll give them $500 a month to keep me stocked on the stuff I need. They'll make money, and I'll save money and everyone could be happy.
Some reality shows are worse than others. I have noticed that the ones I am usually in shock and awe over are the ones that showcase parents and kids. Lifetime, which until the last few years was better known for its cheesy movies than anything else, is home to the highly addictive and REALLY inapropriate "Dance Moms," but most of the reality TV I watch is on TLC. After watching these shows, I have decided that TLC needs to change their name from "The Learning Channel" to "The Lunatic Channel." It would be much more accurate and apropriate.