Soap Operas & Modern Times

Flashback to March 4, 1997; North Shore University Hospital in Long Island. I wake up (I think wake up) in a recovery ward somewhere. Everything is a blur. I hear voices around me, talking about something… me? There is one and only one voice I recognize. That voice says “Mag her”.

Mag her? I realize the ‘her’ is me. The voice I know is Dr. Seaman. All jokes aside, he is my OB/GYN.

As my mind comes around, I remember I am in the hospital and had a scheduled cesarean section earlier. I was 100% conscious during the procedure per medical standards. My then beloved husband stood dutifully alongside me watching the medical team help bring our first born breach baby son Thomas into the world.

More than 22 years later I can’t tell you whether or not I was fully conscious the whole time… but the memory I recall is that my BP sky rocketed and I was in the high risk maternity ward where I remember hearing this “Mag her” phrase.

The ‘’mag’ was magnesium. Until this day I have no idea why or what for- but I do completely and 100% remember the TV show that was playing in the recovery room.  It was NBC daytime and Kristin DiMera had a baby as well on the day time soap Days of Our Lives.

In my murky state of mind I was strangely intrigued by this story line. I watched in a beguiled state. I wanted to see my son. I only remember a little bit of him being put on my chest and some camera flashes. He was nowhere near me. I was in a lot of pain. And the show was a pleasant distraction.

Fast forward about a week or so. No sleep and a lot of pain. The days were initially filled on the couch with my husband and I taking care of a newborn. At some point the TV was on in the background when I noticed the same characters and thickening plot from the recovery room days before. It’s Days of Our Lives. My husband is about to change the channel- but I ask him to wait. I want to see someone else with a newborn.. and some baby switch.. and whatever plot lines are taking place at the time.

And there begins the love affair with Days of our Lives (DOOL).

Since, through the years I’ve watched the show. At first daily as much as I could live on TV. When Thomas was an only child I watched the show on days off ath home with while a cook in the US Coast Guard. When I got out of the military and was a military wife and reservist, I would put Thomas and his younger sister Gabby down for their afternoon naps around 12:45 pm, then make popcorn and pull out a Diet Coke over ice to cozy up with DOOL.

In 2002 I started working full time. Out came the VCR tapes. Even though I was no longer at home during the day, I wasn’t ready to give up Days! Most days I caught some of the show in the evening while making dinner. Sometimes I bundled up on a Friday night while my ex worked the night shift and the kids were in bed to catch up. And other times weeks may have gone by where I didn’t catch an episode – but they were always there when I wanted them, and because of the pace of soaps; it very easy to catch up when I had the time.

 

More years went by. I switched to DVR. And in modern days I just watch it on the NBC app, as every episode is just there- waiting for me when I’m ready.

 

The characters are like family. The Hortons, Bradys, DiMeras… The actors/actresses and the extended families are relatable. The traditions seem as important as my own. The baked goods the motherly and grandmotherly characters make, the town square, the Brady pub and their comforting dishes, the holiday traditions. The upscale bars that open. The seedy port in a shady area. The mansions and apartments that are used through the years. The town of Salem is my home away from home.

 

It’s bittersweet. Some of the characters that passed away in real life and were celebrated/mourned on the show after their death, make it a very large extended family of DOOL watchers all over. Many actors/actresses spent many years of their lives on the show. The show is their family as well as a pseudo family to the viewers.

 

Jack and Jennifer were getting divorced around the same time that I was. I skipped the show for a few weeks while in a very blurred and semi-depressed state. Even though I initiated the divorce, in many ways I felt like a failure because I couldn’t make it work. Then one day while making dinner I put one the latest DVR’d episodes on in the background, and to my surprise Jack and Jennifer were getting divorced! Silly as it may be, I felt better. If Jack and Jennifer couldn’t make it, how could I? They are back together btw, but not the point!

 

Just two years ago after spending a month in a mental health outpatient treatment facility I took another extended, yet unintended break from Days; and when I put it back on, JJ was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It was comforting.

 

When Kate had cancer on the show, I was able to relate and felt better about the reactions around her after watching my own mother and grandmother struggle with it (only they didn’t survive).

 

Just yesterday watching Maggie, Brady, and JJ in an AA meeting with Eric as the facilitator – helped me to feel more normal about my own struggles with addictive issues. They fall off the wagon. Even Maggie who was sober since I started watching the show a few decades ago and known as the rock that brought so many to AA for the betterment of their lives fell off the wagon last year. She is back now, better than ever. The show humanizes issues that we all face, whether or not we want to admit them.

 

Yes, yes, yes… there are ridiculous story lines too. Marlena possessed by the devil, brain switches and characters who come back from the dead. Just like all the jokes about soaps – there is always someone in the hospital (usually in a coma), an illicit affair, a baby switch…. There are the characters who talk to themselves with raised eyebrows only to be accidentally overheard. And speaking of “over hearing”, there are one too many people skulking around listening in on conversations, intentionally and unintentionally learning things they shouldn’t.

 

Soaps are campy and melodramatic. It’s what they are known for. In between all the scheming and constant trips to the hospital, there are real current day stories well woven in. Days has covered police shooting issues, same sex marriage issues, suicide, bullying, racial issues, depression, loss of children, addiction, job decisions that affect relationships, to mention a few.

 

It’s a comfort to know that it’s not abnormal for these things to happen. It is abnormal that people wake up looking like they stepped out of a fashion magazine – that is always stumping! But when you see a beloved (or not so beloved) character struggle and then overcome a problem, and have the support of people around them either during or way after the issue has passed is very encouraging. Time does heal anything that plagues you at the moment.

 

I took to writing this because a few days ago the show jumped ahead by a full year. That is not a normal thing to happen, so I went to google to see if it was for real or someone’s dream sequence.

 

It turns out the time jump was real, but I also learned the show took a hiatus from taping, but is already taped eight months ahead. All the characters were let go from their contracts. There is a lot of speculation on the future of Days. It’s future seems uncertain. No known decisions about the show at the time were made.

 

Modern Days soaps are perhaps not what they originally were. They cover serious relevant contemporary topics that the world faces. I can attest that it’s not just the lonely housewife with nothing to do in the middle of the day. Sometimes at work around noon I’ll walk through a waiting area at the hospital where I work at and see veterans in their 60s and 70s watching the show. I’ve heard two patients once a few years back softly arguing both sides of same sex marriage while Will and Sonny were up on the screen.

 

Maybe the ratings have dropped. Or maybe it’s impossible to capture how the audience watches these kinds of shows. It’s not all just silly fluff, bubble gum and characters who never seem to age. It’s a family for the actors/actresses as well as the viewers. It’s stability for the audience when the world seems unstable. And even when the fictious town of Salem is unstable (like when a serious killer is on the loose or Stephano comes back from the dead again), it’s truly a comfort to know that is how the world works on and off screen. Days is the crazy family and town you can relate to.

 

I do hope it does not go off the air. It would feel like a major loss to my life. Like sands in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

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