Motherhood’s Guilty Pleasures by Andrea Santo Felcone

vintage televisionThis won’t do much for the image of the stay-at-home mom, but the truth is the truth, so here goes. One of the very best parts of my day is emailing a friend to discuss all the juiciest bits of our favorite television shows. Emailing “Maggie” (not her real name, she has some modicum of pride, whereas, clearly, I do not) about the latest goings on in either Genoa City, or Port Charles, or at the famed Forrester Creations–these are some of the best parts of my day. Now, before the full confession, let me just say that I have never eaten a bon-bon while watching my “stories,” so let’s just dispel that myth right from the outset. I will admit to carving out a bit of time (most days) to watch my favorite soap opera. Yes, there, I’ve said it. Now, judge all you like, but if you are watching reality television, you owe a bit of debt to the original soap operas. (So, there’s that.)

I know there are thousands of better uses of my time. But you have to understand that soap operas hold three worlds for me: they are a nostalgic link to my childhood, a reminder of the sweet days when motherhood was new to me, and a connection to my friend Maggie. The fact that Maggie is approximately 30 years my senior, hasn’t affected our friendship one iota. (Because I say things like “iota” you’ll know that I’m an old soul. And Maggie, she’s young-at-heart and adorable.) So, we meet in the middle, watching our shows and reporting back to each other. It’s a ritual that has bonded us over the years.

My strange fixation with soaps, characters living in far-fetched worlds; where did it start? Worlds where death is merely a suggestion–buried alive on a Tuesday? You’ll be back if the fans cry loudly enough. Where 5-year-olds go to boarding school only to return a month later as full-fledged teens, and where romantic partners are changed as frequently as socks. It all started with my paternal grandmother. Grandma would sit in her chair wearing her housecoat (more “house” than “coat” since Grandma didn’t go out much at that point) and time would stand still when “General Hospital” aired. Nothing, except maybe her hacking cough and her fickle t.v. (almost as fickle as the characters portrayed), would interrupt her stories. I was about 10-years-old, and I felt so grown-up watching these dramas with Grandma. Now, about that same time, my best friend and I would race over to her grandmother’s house after school. We would run into the spare bedroom where the “Guiding Light” would illuminate our lives for an hour. We watched (what I can only assume was) mildly inappropriate television for young girls. (This was the late-1970s and our childhoods were largely our own.) I wasn’t a “Guiding Light” fan, but you respect the show that plays in the house of the woman who makes you warm pork-roll sandwiches on buttered bread.

As I grew older, I started working, and left ‘the sand flowing through the hourglass’ to others. Then one day, while my firstborn was napping, I flipped on the television. Motherhood, especially if you are a stay-at-home mom with a newborn, can be lonely. And then I saw them, like old friends waiting for me. (People will say you can decipher the plot of a soap after just 5 minutes—however long you’ve been away. A true soap fan will tell you the truth—you’ll need at least 7 minutes.) I was back, and hooked again.

Maggie started watching “General Hospital” when it first aired, back in the 1960s. At first, she laughed at how ridiculous it was, but then when her three children came along, and with only the mailman to talk to during the day, her entrance into the world of those glamorous doctors and nurses, took hold. Once she started, she hasn’t stopped. My sister suggested Maggie and I start emailing each other, because few people still watch soaps. Once we started, we haven’t stopped.

Who else laughed when Phyllis went into a coma on one soap and woke up on a different network? Who else turned the television off when little Delia got hit by that car? (We wanted escapism, not anxiety.) Who else cared when I met a woman at the gym—an understudy for Erica Kane? (She played her from the back only, but the resemblance was uncanny.) Who else can I call–because that was a phone call kind of day–when Maya revealed she was once a man? Only Maggie.

And only after her cataract surgery–when Maggie realized her eye doctor looked just like handsome soap-actor Jason Thompson, who else, but me, understood how exciting that was? Maggie and I, we share a common language. We don’t feel judged or silly for our shared “guilty pleasure”. We have each other.

Over the years I’ve watched Maggie rally from things that would have sunk Erica Kane, yes, the Erica Kane, the one who fought off a bear. But, never more than when Sandy arrived. No, Sandy was not a new brassy blonde love interest of Sonny Corinthos, Sandy was the hurricane that upended Maggie’s life. Sandy brought New Jersey to its knees. Sandy washed away many of Maggie’s possessions, parts of her house, and most of her hope. Sandy was irrational, sparing the strangest things: like the picture of Maggie’s son’s high school prom date (a woman who isn’t his wife), while erasing important memories that mattered. Sandy didn’t care that Maggie was in her 70s, and in no mood to start life anew. I wanted to fix things for Maggie then. But, what could I do? Eventually, when she built herself back up, regained some semblance of normalcy and electricity, we returned to our soaps.

For me these soaps are a bridge to lovely memories of my childhood, as well as a bridge to when I was a new mom watching my sweet baby nap. They are also a bridge I cross daily, for what some may consider an unlikely friendship. Some days I think Maggie is “future me.” And some days I may remind Maggie of a former version of herself. Yet, we are decidedly unique, even as we share our thoughts, laughter, faith, anxiety, and the bond of an enduring “guilty pleasure”—our beloved soaps.

Tags: , ,

  1. 7 Responses to “Motherhood’s Guilty Pleasures by Andrea Santo Felcone”

  2. Love this…thanks for sharing! Back in my college days, it was a communal happening to watching soaps together and/or compare notes…this was a nice trip down memory lane.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on Feb 25, 2019

  3. So glad you enjoyed this. Yes! I remember “General Hospital” being very popular in college. So funny.

    By Andrea Felcone on Feb 25, 2019

  4. 2 words…
    Robert Scorpio

    By Pamela on Feb 26, 2019

  5. Frisco & Felicia…

    By Pamela Francis on Feb 26, 2019

  6. Luke & Laura…

    By Pamela Francis on Feb 26, 2019

  7. Somebody stop me!

    By Pamela Francis on Feb 26, 2019

  8. Pamela: LOL! YES! Those were the days, weren’t they?

    By Andrea Felcone on Feb 27, 2019