I spent the early part of this week sick in bed. And when I'm sick, there's nothing I like better than to gorge myself on trashy TV. I lie in bed, with the shades drawn, and watch hour after hour of Worst Red Carpet Moments and The Fabulous Life of... and reruns of America's Next Top Model. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read my Project Runway review. I'm not ashamed. Because now that I'm not sick anymore, now that I can lift my head without it pounding incessantly, now that I can walk upright without feeling like I'm about to fall asleep on the floor, I am free of this weird addiction to bad TV. It cures me, like chicken soup or Emergen-C.
Anyway, one startling new trend in trashy television is the new brand of reality shows on MTV aimed at teens. The one that I got sucked into was so disturbing on so many levels I just had to keep watching. And of course, they hook you in by showing a whole bunch in a row, so you can't get away. It was called My Super Sweet 16, wherein some insanely spoiled rich kid takes you through the planning of their "over-the-top" 16th birthday party, which will be the party of the year that all the kids at their high school will be talking about for centuries to come. I saw three episodes of this show, and these kids were the most obnoxious, whiny, shallow, stupid kids I have ever seen. And I'm sure they really exist, and are really like that, and there's hundreds of thousands of kids out there that aspire to be just like them! It's unbelievable. Their parents are buying them $50,000 cars, spending $150,000 on their parties, and just sucking it up like it's their duty to make little Marissa or Alexa happy. Unreal. Starting with the passing out of the coveted invitations, complete with security guards, bullhorns, and V.I.P. lists ("You don't even go to my school! You are so not invited!"), down to guest appearances by the likes of Puff Daddy and Kanye West, these parties really are "off-the-hook," and there's lots of pimply, loser friends screaming into the camera "This party is so amazing! Oh my god!" Each episode usually concludes with the obnoxious teen, finally secure in their superiority over their other less-fortunate peers, climbing into the shiny black Mercedes or Eclipse of their dreams and yelling "Mom, Dad, I totally love you!" while speeding off into the night with their best friend on their way to God knows where -- Dairy Queen or whatever.
On the absolute opposite end of the teen spectrum, when not watching bad TV or sleeping, I spent the rest of my down time reading the new after-school special of a book by Michelle Tea called Rose of No Man's Land. I'm a big fan of Michelle Tea, being a local gal and all, and her books tend to fall into two categories: the baby-dyke prostitute memoir, or the white-trash coming of age memoir. Rose of No Man's Land is a novel, but fits comfortably into the latter category. I would say this book should be marketed to the young adult audience, however, if any parent got a hold of it there would definitely be wicked hell to pay.
Trisha, our narrator, lives a poor, boring, sheltered existence with a hypochondriac mom, a fame-seeking older sister, and mom's hoodlum boyfriend. Trisha chooses to stay cooped up in her room, not really ready to seek out the world and what it may have to offer. She doesn't yet know who she is or what she wants, and she's just fine with that. When Kristy, her glammed-up older sister, cons her into taking a job at the Ohmigod! clothing store in the local mall under somewhat false pretenses, a chain of events begins to shake up and wake up Trisha's life into being, well, lived. She meets a kindred spirit, a wild-child working at the mall named Rose, and together they embark on an odyssey of debauchery and recklessness that only two teen girls with nothing to lose can create for themselves.
The book reads like a teen fiction, and in doing so can sometimes seem a bit shallow and trashy. But underneath the fast-paced narrative beats a dark heart of sexual awakening, self-realization and vividly painted moments that give Trisha and Rose their truth and their beauty. For those of us who did things as teens that we are not proud of, and for those of us who only went so far as to have a bitchin' Sweet 16 party, those years were nothing short of atrocious, intoxicating, and electric. Tea captures that feeling beautifully, and for that she is totally "off-the-chain."