The following is an excerpt from a larger essay.
I remember watching a lot of TV when I was little. Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, The A-Team. Especially The A-Team, because my little, 5-year-old heart was absolutely, positively, head over heels in love with Mr. T. I wanted to marry him and spend the rest of my life as Mrs. T. I didn’t really know what it meant to be “married,” but I was pretty sure it involved explosions, gratuitous violence and lots of jewelry. Working within those parameters, as far as husbands go, Mr. T seemed an ideal choice.
Children of that era were under the tutelage of “just like us” TV, hazy on the divide between reality and a way, way better reality. It started with Sesame Street, which worked so hard to build a world that we could relate to – the better to engage us, teach us, and ensure that we would willingly spend the rest of our lives buying nostalgia in the form of a red shag rug that laughs like the lost child of Satan and vibrates when you hold it close. Scaling the shelving units of a toy store like Spiderman in a khaki skirt, and kicking that guy in the face who dared think he could grab that last box? Just an added bonus.
We went from Sesame Street to Mister Rogers, where we were assured daily that we were unique and wonderful, and Romper Room, where we learned that we were so profoundly special that they could see us all the way from TV Land through a magic mirror. A really fun question to ask a group of 30-somethings is, “Hey, did they ever “see” you on Romper Room?” Without fail, everyone (except for those poor schmucks whose parents actually did things with them rather than flipping on a television) will have an answer and all the emotion of that experience – or lack thereof – will still be there.
“Yes! They saw me twice!” That will be Jennifer or Bobby. We hate them.
Others will tell about the one time they were seen, remembering surprising details about what they were wearing that day, or how they called Grandma away from her TaB and vodka to “come look!”.
Some of us were never seen. Why? Were we not special enough? Was the reception on the magic mirror bad on the day that was destined to be ours? We dragged our feet when our mothers made us go outside to play, certain that was the day that Romper Room would choose us. I could picture it: “Oh, we tried to see Jaimie, but she’s not home!” they’d say, not knowing to turn the magic mirror a little to one side to find me sobbing in the driveway because my mom was convinced that learning to jump rope was essential to me growing into a decent human being and, dammit, I just didn’t want to. I learned to jump rope, sure, but was I ever “seen” on Romper Room? No.
All these years later, those of us who were never seen on Romper Room are still a little bitter about it.