Soap operas were a kind of omnipresent force of entertainment during my youth. Many of them are long gone by now, distant memories for aging fans: The Doctors, Somerset, Another World. But the one that had the most presence was Days of Our Lives, one of the few still soldiering on today. Back then, I mostly saw it during the summer when my cousin Kelly would babysit my sister and me. My aunt and others would videotape it daily and even if you didn’t watch it, you had some idea what was going on, like how I am these days with anything involving a Kardashian.
I’ve not paid much attention to Days of Our Lives since, other than to note that with so many of the show’s characters during my youth still appearing on the show today it’s become a living testament to advances in American plastic surgery techniques over the past four decades.
But during my recent trip home, I did find myself sitting with my aunt in her living room, along with Kelly and my newly centenarian grandmother, as Days played on the big screen in the corner and we were suddenly all watching a really hot, shirtless, gay make-out session.
At this point in my life with my family, I don’t have that many oh my moments left, but when they pop up they’re doozies.
Given that I’m so far beyond any need for a coming-out conversation, the moment itself simply provoked some giggles from me and my cousin. (I actually had a much more interesting conversation about Buddhism: Do they believe in heaven? ”Yes.” Do they believe in hell? ”Oh, a lot of them.”) But as I write this, Days of Our Lives is getting set to air an episode in which that hot young couple — who experience coitus interruptus in that early scene thanks to an untimely visit by angry father — will finally finish what they started.
I’m sure I too often dismiss the value of having LGBT characters on television, especially soap operas, because I’m so immersed in ”gay” most every day given my job, so it was good to have a reminder — seeing that scene play out on television while I looked out the window over some of the reddest, most rural acres of Kentucky farmland — that it’s not quite the same for everyone else. The ”stories” that still play may not have quite the pull on our culture that they once had, but they still have an influence. And there are still so many LGBT youth and their families who are going to benefit from seeing these characters and (one hopes) talking and learning more about each other.
And that gets to my current hobbyhorse that I’ve been riding for the past month. During the week after the re-election of President Obama and four groundbreaking victories for marriage equality, at lot of us have been doing some well-earned schadenfreude dancing. Each time I think we should give it rest, someone does something ridiculous — 20 states start secession petitions, Paul Ryan blames ”urban” areas for their loss because black people voting still seems such as surprise — and my feet just keep moving.
But we do have to stop sometime. I know we’re a deeply divided country. I know I’m just as susceptible to over-the-top rhetoric as anyone else. And I know there are some really awful, venal people out there working in the Washington offices of NOM or posting vile screeds on Facebook pages. I have to remind myself often that while politics should be taken personally, it can’t be taken as a reason to disengage.
Change can come in unexpected moments and places, from a soap opera plot to a corporate boardroom, but only when keep those spaces open to it.
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