Flipping out

If you want to see the average American male go spiraling into squirming insanity, take away his television remote control.

Men feel it's our inalienable right to hold the remote. It gives us a sense of command, of standing at the helm among the day-to-day storms of life. We might relinquish every other responsibility around the house, but when it comes time to turn on the TV, we men want to be in charge.

Take my household, for instance. My wife is a smart, capable former executive. She manages our household, competently dealing with accountants and utilities and government entities. I believe she essentially can master anything she attempts. I, on the other hand, am lucky to find my way out of bed each morning.

But when it comes to flipping through TV channels, she doesn't do it right. She leaves the sound on, for one thing, so we're exposed to blaring snippets of every passing program. She lingers on the wrong channels, such as the one that shows disgusting surgery 24 hours a day and causes me to run screaming from the room. She skips ahead at crucial moments, such as when a basketball game is going into overtime.

When she's flipping channels, I get itchy all over. It's all I can do not to snatch the remote control away from her. If she'd just hand it over, I think, I could zip back to the important programs necessary to being an informed adult, such as "SportsCenter."

To her credit, my wife recognizes that I feel this way and she usually gives me the remote rather than torture me. I think it's all the sighing and fidgeting I do.

But that's not the case in every household. Some women insist on running the remote, no matter how much it disturbs their spouses. If sociologists studied the root causes of domestic discord and divorce, they'd find that a substantial number of marriages hit the rocks because of the remote control.

It's a matter of tempo. When you're in charge of the remote, you pause on each channel just long enough to register the program in your brain. Then, bam, it's time to move on because -- let's face it -- there's never anything good on TV. The amount of time you stay on each channel depends upon your own interests, and those are different for each person.

Most guys, for example, can't hit the button fast enough if we land on "Oprah," while a woman might at least pause to see if the talk show topic is relevant. If a man hits a sporting event, he'll stick around long enough to check out the score, even if he has no interest in the game. And if he lands on a program that features women in bikinis, he'll probably hang around at least until the next commercial interruption.

It's not merely an issue of gender, however. Men typically don't share the remote with each other, either. The average man would no more let other men handle his remote than he would let them give his wife a bath.

We recently had a houseguest who wanted to watch TV and, as a matter of courtesy, I let him flip the channels. Within minutes, I was going nuts with thoughts like these: Why are we stopping on this station? They've never got anything worth viewing. Wait, go back, that was my favorite show. My God, he's watching commercials! And listening to them! Doesn't he know you only do that during the Super Bowl? Doesn't he know the damned remote has a "mute" button?

I had to leave the room before I throttled him. When I returned, he'd fallen asleep on the sofa. I gently removed the remote from his limp hand. Once it was back in my possession, all was right with the world. I turned off the television and hid the remote under the couch cushions. Better to live without TV than to let some other guy run the show.

To sum up, most men see it like this: You can have our remote controls when you pry them from our cold, dead fingers. And then -- finally -- you can watch whatever you want.


Louise Ure said...

The answer, I have found, is TWO remotes, Steve. Saves so much wear and tear on the marriage.

pete brewer said...

Pete Brewer said...
Two remotes don't work. Causes war.


I can see two remotes working. If you have two different TVs. In separate rooms.

Anonymous said...

I suggest turning the cable off. It makes people SO much more productive, especially those of us that work from home. :P

Admittedly, it can be hard at first. I went through Food Network withdrawals for a week. But after that it was smooth sailing, lol!