Reality TV or Really Fake?

It makes no sense, but I want reality TV to be real.  I want to see real people doing real things and experiencing real emotions.  I still remember how betrayed I felt when I found out that so much of The Hills was staged and scripted.  If they are going to pass it off as real, I want it to be real but the thirst for drama and the competition for ratings has only gotten more intense over the years so I am having to learn to accept that half of it is fake.  Why do I watch these shows again?   
Season 1:  Monet & Vaughn, Jamie & Doug, Jason & Courtney
Is anyone else watching Married at First Sight?  Or is everyone still obsessed with The Bachelor?  I quit watching The Bachelor a long time ago.  The episodes were too long.  It was two hours weekly hours of what could have been condensed into one without all of the long pauses and elaborate rose ceremony back when I was watching it.  After the show became a hit and spun off into the Bachelorette in alternating seasons with the loser from the previous episode getting their own show it was just too obvious that everything was contrived.  The runner ups go on Dancing with the stars and all I could see is a circus for people who want a free vacation and the chance at reality TV fame.  I love drama, I really do, but I wanted to watch people fall in love and everything but was happening.  I wasn't that crazy about it to begin with.  I have fond memories of Trista and Ryan, but it wasn't too hard for me to quit.  

Then I heard about Married at First Sight.  This groundbreaking show in which people agreed to be matched up by experts, and have their first meeting at the alter right before they say their wedding vows.  Everything happens in their own city and they continue their regular lives as they are filmed for the show.  Crazy right?  I am already happily married so it's hard to say if I could bring myself to do such a thing.  I hate the idea of cameras documenting it, but...I think I might be open to it.  Some people walked out of the casting when they heard it would be a legal marriage.  Nobody knew a thing about the show yet and the ones who remained were truly interested in taking this bizarre chance to find their life partner.  Well, that was season 1 in NYC.  All the crazies came out for season 2 NYC, and it was a complete train wreck.   We are approaching the end of season 3 Atlanta, casting has already been announced for season 4 Miami and any hope for authenticity or true love is starting to look like a lost cause.

I love the idea of it.  Why not?  People meet on the internet, arranged marriages are very much a thing in some cultures, and if you have had struck out on finding a life partner on your own....well it is not entirely impossible that someone else might do a better job of it.  Married at first sight, the honeymoon, move in together and 6 weeks after "I do" the couples have to decide if they will stay married or get divorced.  On season one two out of the the three couples stayed together and are both entering their second year of marriage.  The third wife that got divorced is now part of a spin off show called Black Love.  On season two there were two out of three couples who decided to stay together, but six months later they were no longer together.  Jessica and Ryan D were  reduced to restraining orders.   Sean and Davina had geographical barriers and Davina was a raging narcissist in my opinion. All three seasons had a couple in which the wife didn't find the husband attractive.  In season one Jamie overcame this.  She and Doug are still married.  In season two Jaclyn overcame this and became attracted to Ryan, but he couldn't commit or overcome his attachment to living with his mom and niece.
Season 2 (Top): Jessica & Ryan, Sean & Davina, Jessica & Ryan // Season 3:  Sam & Neil, David & Ashley, Vanessa & Tres
Which brings us to Season 3 which is looking like only a little bit less of a train wreck than it did in the beginning.  Samantha is not initially attracted to Neil and was a plain old meanie at the beginning, but seems to be coming around.  She was so mean, rude and immature I can't believe Neil was so patient.  David continues to profess his affection and shed tears for Ashley who is probably friendlier to the cashier at the grocery store than she is to the stranger she agreed to marry.  She's so cold that even after David is accused of inviting another girl out for drinks I'm still in his corner.  Nobody made her do the show yet she acts like she is totally put out that now she has to try to like the guy.  She has a serious stick up her butt.  Maybe it's the camera's, but she is stone cold and so closed off that she probably is not a good fit for a show like this in the first place.  Tres and Vanessa had instant attraction, and that may or may not have something to do with them being the only couple out of the three to consummate their marriage.  Neil and Sam have progressed to hugs, but Ashley won't let David touch her hand.  Tres and Vanessa hit road blocks when Vanessa's daddy issues are triggered and she gets upset at him for things she is afraid he may do, but I have hope that they will last.   Only recently do I have hope for Neil and Samantha.  David and Ashley don't stand a chance.

These couples try to fit what usually happens in months and years into six weeks.  The learning to live together, the petty fights, the move towards trust, the falling in love.  People are people and marriage is tricky.  As a married person myself, I really find the expert advice, counseling sessions throughout the season and the way the couples navigate this process to be very interesting.  There is useful information in every season.

Married at First Sight seems a heck of a lot more thought out than The Bachelor Casting.  I'm sure they do a psychological evaluation as all reality TV shows probably do, but good looks and a potential story line is probably just as important if not more important as personality traits.  The experts of Married at First Sight stand by their process.  The questionnaires are thorough, every angle is considered, and they are truly matching people who they deem compatible, but any season after the first one is a bit spoiled for me because once a show "takes off" I really question the intentions of the participants.  I should probably do that anyway, but I'm one of those people who wants to believe everything is real.  Not only that, but the cameras themselves probably skew the entire process as well.  Do they just want to be on TV?  Do they just want to get paid?  I don't know if it's true or not, but I am hearing that they are paid to be on the show and that all of their living expenses are taken care of.  Are they thinking ahead to a possible spin off show like Jamie/Doug and Courtney/Jason did for staying together?  Everyone from season 1 is still on TV and Jamie has started her own jewelry line.  She is also a former Bachelor contestant.

Season one was legit.  All three couples really seemed to be in it for the right reasons and very committed to the process.   I give Jamie the side eye now and then because she seems so eager for fame, but on the other hand I think she really wanted to find love and why not capitalize on the exposure.  This show seems so much more realistic than The Bachelor.  I mean, they get legally married.  To a stranger.  I don't think anyone can take that too lightly.  I want it to be real, but in the end each episode is just a snippet of what actually happened.  There are cameras and ratings and the lines are so blurred that it is impossible to tell one way or the other.

We Don't Want Kids

One weekend stands out in my head for the crystal clear lens through which it showed me how different we are from everyone else.  It started with my high school reunion.  At the first one you are an oddity one step away from cat lady status if you aren't married but at reunion number two you are a freak of nature if you don't have at least one or two kids at home.  I found myself saying we don't have kids, so we travel a lot.  Repeatedly.  They wanted answers and I didn't want to go into it so that was the easiest thing to say. "No kids?" a former classmate said in confusion.  "Wow. Your life is a fairy tale."  And I guess in a way it sort of is, when you consider how rare the childfree choice is. 

The next day was a pool party and it isn't a party in your thirties without at least one child present.  One baby made an appearance at my high school reunion and at the party all married couples present had kids except us.  The following day we attended our very first pony party.  Things like that happen when all of your friends have kids.  We were the only childfree couple which I would totally expect for a pony party considering the weight limit is 100 lbs, but at least we have the kind of friends where you can always expect adult beverages even when the guest of honor is four.  It was a busy weekend, and I was very tired by the end of it.  I came home and took a long hot uninterrupted shower while my husband retreated to his Xbox.  I had no obligations that needed immediate attention so I fell into an exhausted slumber while I imagined our friends hustling home with kids in tow to the non stop marathon that has become their life.  I'm pretty sure there was no nap or leisurely lounging about the couch in their future.  Every single thing we did that weekend, even the nap was reminder that we are the only ones our age without kids. Not on the planet, although it feels like that sometimes, but at least in our social circle and among those around us.

No kids in your thirties is a fairly unpaved and little trodden path it seems.  In your twenties and early thirties, there are rumblings of three kinds among childfree couples not actively trying to conceive.

A.  We definitely want kids but aren't ready yet.
B.  We aren't sure about kids.  Maybe someday. 
C.  We aren't interested in kids and don't want any.

We are in category C, not interested don't want any group, but it was automatically assumed that we would shift up to category B and then ultimately land on category A at some point.  I mean, everybody does because everybody wants kids right?  And even if you don't, you do it anyway because the maternal instincts are so powerful.  If they don't get you, then eventually you succumb to the pressure of the masses.  It's not uncommon for women in their twenties to still be in their so called "selfish" phase where they are not willing to hand over their life to a child, but as you mature and it becomes the norm among your peers it seems like the natural step.  Even if you were against it, you start to see it as something you want.  If everyone else has abandoned their fears, turned their body into an incubator/food source, totally upended their lives, given up sleep, and freedom to move about the world then made it sound like the best thing in the whole wide world it must be the thing to do.  Preferably, before it gets too late because after you have one, chances are you will spawn another even if you don't know it yet because that's what people do.

You are not alone in your twenties, but the thirties separate the ones who were serious about not having kids from the ones who simply weren't ready.  It's been well over a year since the last hold out in our group had their first and they are already speaking about seconds while the ones who took the plunge years before already have.   Unlike most people we haven't shifted up from category C.  Do you know that some people have told me that they didn't even know it was an option NOT to have kids?  They get this dumbfounded look on their face when I tell them.  "Yes, it's true.  You don't have to have kids.  You can if you want to, but you don't have to.”  Mind blown.  When we say we don't have kids we feel the pink elephant sitting in the corner with large round questioning eyes.  If we don't say it first, they inevitably ask because people are very bold about sticking their noses into the reproductive lives of others.  Also, it's just that much of an oddity to come across a stable married couple of our age who have not gotten around to procreation that even if they had the restraint to refrain from asking a newlywed couple in their twenties they are probably going to ask us. "Why not?"  

From our 2010 wedding

We happily jumped on the home ownership and wedding wagon but the baby train has yet to leave the station and it's kind of a strange place to be right now.  What started with weddings, turned into baby showers, and shifted into birthday parties.  The number of kids at get togethers has multiplied and the dynamic of outings has shifted to accommodate friends with kids.  It used to be that my husband's friends could plan a bike ride or a group dinner with one week notice but the call for social outings are fewer and far between and  group sports have fallen by the wayside.  The social reservoir available to parents juggling life and children seems to have officially run dry.  There is childcare to arrange, time and energy already stretched to the breaking point, and a serious case of chronic sleep deprivation going around.  I'm happy to still have the freedom they don't, but also can't help feeling left out even though it's something that I never wanted in the first place.

I'm not a woman who always wanted a child, but it is really bizarre how you can know one thing and yet your body tells you something entirely different.  The maternal instincts didn't start kicking until my thirties after my nephew was born and after all of my peers had already started doing it. There was a tug of war happening between what I know to be true and instincts beyond my control.  Maternal instincts and the babies of Instagram with their tiny moccasins and gummy grins are an inescapable duo.  Cunning.  Convincing.  Impossible to ignore.  My body ached with the want of it even though it is something I didn't want.  I don't want the physical, emotional and financial strain that goes along with bringing another person into this world and yet maternal instincts threatened to convince me of otherwise.  My mind is objective and calculated but my heart was driven by emotions beyond my control.  I wavered slightly, he did not.  The important thing is that we have always been on the same page regarding this matter, but it should be noted that had he not been so steadfast in his position things could have turned out differently. 

If I see one more bump date, have another baby poop conversation or hear one more person say "it's so worth it," I think I will scream.  Hold on a moment while I stifle that scream with my hands.  Don't worry, it's not you, it's me and it's the same phenomenon that occurs anytime you buck the trend.  I imagine that people who don't believe in home ownership or marriage understand.  Everyone else is on board but you haven't quite bought into the notion that it could make a wonderful difference in your lifeWhen they say how awesome it is you can't relate and grow tired of feeling the need to defend your choices. The entire world is talking about it, dreaming about it, hoping for it, doing it and you are not.  Having it in your face day in day out starts to feel like a tiresome barrage you can't escape.

I may be tired of hearing it, but I believe you when you say it's worth it.  Once you have a person in front of you that you created it's pretty crappy to say oops we changed our mind it's not working out and we don't like you very much.  There is no going back when it comes to parenthood.  Even parents who feel that way are hard pressed to verbalize such thoughts because this is a helpless little person that you have agreed to take care of for a very long time.  They may drive you crazy with their ability to do nothing but poop, eat, cry, yet control everything and spend all the money, but they need you and you love them fiercely if for no other reason than because they are yours.  As ambivalent as I am I'm quite sure I'd feel the same.  The difference is that I'm not willing to accept the end of life as I know it and the ensuing trials and tribulations in exchange for being the one saying those words.  I'm not a monster.  I am not immune to those adorable baby leg rolls, round tummies and tiny dimpled hands.  Babies are indeed precious.  I adore my nephew.  He is the sweetest thing ever.  His hugs and sweet smiles melt my heart.  I admit, I'm torn between wanting to send him home with mom and wanting him for myself but they don't stay little forever and behind every adorable baby is a mountain of struggles that I don't want to have.

The DINK life suits us well.  Dual income no kids, for those who don't know.  I really enjoy the time that we have to ourselves, the vacations we get to take and a life I don't have to try to split between work, finances, self, spouse and child which seems to be an impossible tug of war that nobody wins. It's startlingly sad how little time working parents get to spend with their children and I barely have enough time and energy for myself let alone a kid who wakes up at the crack of dawn and needs to be entertained all day long.  We get to come and go as we please and our life is our own.  Pregnancy and childbirth sound awful. I'm glad I'll never have to do it. And then there is the money.  Money doesn't buy happiness but you are lying to yourself if you say it can't help.  People with less income have multiple children and I don't believe I can afford one.  They say you never believe you have enough and that you figure it out but I am the stubborn sort.  I don't want to just figure it out.  If I can't do it the way I want to then I don't want to do it all.

I realize that there are things we might miss out on.  I say might because nothing is a given when you have a child.  It is 100% fueled by hope, and just doing your best.  I won't ever know what our child might have looked like, what they would have done with their life or what joys they might have brought to ours.  I won't ever know what it's like for someone to call me mom or experience that parent child bond.  We are a family of two.  We won't have anyone to take care of us when we are old, because you know, having children definitely guarantees that.  

The childfree choice can be a lonely path.  The gap widens between yourself and everyone else. Children present their own set of challenges to relationships but so does not having them.    Our first few years together were a whirlwind with the house hunting, the wedding and everything that goes into early stages of building a life together.  Then it all stopped, and it hit me that this is it.  It is just us and this is how it will be for the foreseeable future. Without bath time, story time and car pools there are no distractions and no kids to shake things up.  Our relationship is what we make it just the two of us, for better or for worse now and ten years from now.  We have to be okay with that.  Part of me wishes I wanted kids just so I can be like everyone else, but I can't do it because everybody else is doing it.  I can't do it because babies are so cute and I certainly can't do it out of fear of future regret that may or may not ever occur.  Some call it selfish.  Some call it lazy.  Others just call it weird.  I call it making a rational, informed, practical decision that is right for us.  We decided the cons outweighed the pros.  We decided we are enough for each other.   

We don't want kids, so we aren't having any.