I don’t have a TV. There. I said it. I can picture your face, blank stare, uncomprehending. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. And then I have to launch into explanations. No, no television anywhere in my house. No, I’m not Amish. No, my parents aren’t hippies or Quakers or Nazis. Yes, I know what a TV is. And on and on and on. But the real explanation is not even really an explanation. I simply don’t have one, never have, maybe never will. I just looked it up—99% of Americans own at least one television set. Along with this statistic I found several articles, all speculating about the true nature of those radical enough to go TV-less, one even going as far to say that TV occupies a spot among food and shelter as one of the basic necessities of life. Yet somehow, I do not feel at all extreme, and definitely not deprived.
As a kid, I never knew I was missing anything. Instead of watching TV I read. And read, and read, and read. My mom would take me to the library once a week and I would return home with the library’s limit of 20 books per visit, my worn tote bag bursting at the seams. Instead of watching Hey Arnold or playing N64, I spent my time immersed in the fantastical worlds that books created for me. I solved mysteries alongside the Boxcar Children and sipped tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter, rode in a flying Ford Anglia with Harry and Ron and braved the frontier with Laura Ingalls, battled a dragon with Bilbo the hobbit, and helped Matilda take down the evil Ms. Trunchbull.
But when I got to middle school, I suddenly realized that I was different, and I was ashamed. For years I tried to skirt around the fact that I was TV-less. I just wanted to be a normal kid, one who went home and laid on the couch channel surfing or playing Mario Kart, bag of potato chips in hand. I would beg and plead with my parents to give in and get a television, but they never caved.
As I got older, I slowly became less and less embarrassed by my lack of a TV. Gradually, I have come to realize that living without TV has been more of a blessing than a curse. I easily avoid the “I tried to finish my homework but then that one show came on…” trap that so many of my friends complain of falling into. A lifetime of painting my own mental pictures rather than having them drawn for me has given me a daydreaming capacity unlike any other, and I can sit and think for hours without fear of boredom. However, most importantly, through not having a TV I discovered words, and came to love them. I am constantly in awe of the power they have, and I don’t think beautifully crafted sentences, with the power to tug heartstrings, paint beauty, or make the impossible into something nearly tangible, will ever fail to amaze me.
Sara Hamilton was raised TV-Free in West Virginia. She is a Freshman at Yale, where she writes for Yaleepicurean.com and works part time for The Yale Center for British Art.