I'm Betsy, and I'm an Opraholic. There, I've said it. It's been
my dirty little secret for the past year or so, roughly coinciding
with the downturn in the economy. Up until then, I was too busy
running my consulting business to pay much attention to the small
television I had strategically located on the far corner of my
rather large desk. Once in awhile, I would click on CNN to catch
the latest headlines, but that was the extent of it.
Until one day my finger slipped on the remote, and there she
was, dancing onto the stage, with her theme music pulsating to
a feel-good vibration and the studio audience clapping rhythmically
to the beat. She introduced the theme of the show -- how to clean
up your clutter -- by showing videotaped vignettes of people
whose homes and desks looked far worse than mine, and promising
the Nirvana of a clutter-free existence. Okay, I can use this,
I thought to myself.
An hour later, I've seen firsthand how easy it is to take a
two-car garage chock-full of a lifetime of junk and once again
be able to get two cars into it. I've seen the messiest offices
transformed from haphazard piles of files, paper, and magazines
into models of efficiency -- replete with well-organized, color-coordinated
files, magazine racks, bookshelves, and even desks clear enough
to work at. I've seen playrooms strewn with toys over every inch
of the floor morph into rooms that one could actually play in
because the toys are neatly organized on shelves and in bins
-- all waiting appetizingly for junior to make a selection.
All it took to transform these spaces was a personal organizer,
a high-speed camera to record all the action in quadruple time,
and the embarrassment of being exposed as a slob on national
television. And for those of us who can't afford to hire a personal
organizer, we can always buy the book that tells us exactly how
to do it. (That book is now sitting in my office. I know it's
under one these piles of paper somewhere...)
Okay, I rationalized, maybe this show is a high-protein addition
to my information diet. Little did I realize what a slippery
slope I had embarked upon.
In the weeks that followed, I frequently checked in with the
show, which is on every weekday in New York City at 4:00 p.m.
I learned healthy cooking tips and how to feed your heart the
right kind of food (as if I didn't know that already). I saw
Celine Dion perform live, on Oprah. She's a career woman who's
taken a break and come back to her job on her own terms, I said
to myself. I can learn something from this.
I saw volunteer viewers take
the "what would you dare to
live without" challenge, in which they were forced to give
up, for a week, "the one thing they couldn't live without".
In one case, Oprah staff members removed or covered up every
mirror in the home of a woman who was addicted to looking in
the mirror, and recorded her reactions. “Survivor” was never
this juicy. In another case, a woman had every phone removed
from her home and her cell phone confiscated to see if she could
withstand the deprivation. “Thank goodness I'm not like that,” I
said to myself as I adjusted the headset to my office phone.
Finally, a man who had a computer in nearly every room in his
house and a pet name for his laptop was finally forced to interact
with his family instead of his keyboard. Now this was quality
television. Luckily, no one asked me to volunteer giving up watching
Oprah. I was hooked.
But the worst was yet to come,
for I had not yet met Dr. Phil. For those deprived souls who
haven't been exposed to him, Dr. Phil is the person whom Oprah
calls "America's therapist." That
must be because he's on Oprah every Tuesday, exploring a topic
we all secretly want to hear other people talk about. Want to
know how long you should wait for that single guy you've been
dating to propose to you? Ask Dr. Phil. Want to know how much
cleaning is too much? Tune in to Dr. Phil. Want to know if grown
children should feel obligated to give money to their parents?
See what Dr. Phil has to say. Want to know if it's “normal” to
bring a stuffed animal into your marital bed? Dr. Phil will tell
In the process, you can see lots
of people – some of whom you
would consider normal, some abnormal – mortify themselves on
national television as they allow Oprah's cameras into their
homes and into their hearts, where Dr. Phil will surely hold
an unforgiving mirror up to their behavior. Among Doctor Phil's
favorite sayings are: “Get over it,” “Grow up!”, “Get real”,
and my all-time favorite – “Duh!”, pronounced with two syllables.
"This is not therapy," Oprah disclaims, "but
a way to show you the kinds of things you may need to think about
in your own life." Absolutely, I say to myself. I need to
know what sexual behavior among teenagers is considered aberrant,
even though I do not have teenage children, or any children,
for that matter. I need to see a woman who excessively cleans
everything she touches, just to assure myself, as I sit in my
messy office, that I am completely normal. I need to see the
makeovers resulting in "five amazing transformations" so
I can learn how, if I spend a lot of money and time on myself,
I can look ten years younger.
Okay, so my information diet has got some fat in it. That's
not the worst part. The worst part is the guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
It's not as if I can talk about these shows to my friends and
colleagues. After all, I am a liberated, Ivy League-educated,
professional woman, not a stay-at-home housewife. The few times
I have caught myself alluding to something I've seen on Oprah,
I've had to bite my lip. It would be like admitting to reading
People magazine instead of Fortune, even though People magazine
can be so much more interesting. My lip may require cosmetic
surgery soon, and thanks to Oprah, I know just whom to call.
It's gotten bad. I don't just watch the show, I videotape it.
Client meeting at 4:00? No problem, I just set the VCR so I can
Recently, I've discovered the
most guilty part of my Oprah pleasure-- "After
the Show". That's where those of us with high-speed internet
connections can tune into the online continuation of the juiciest
topics -- usually those in which Dr. Phil and Oprah's guests
really let down their hair, now that the TV cameras are no longer
broadcasting the conversation. It's amazing what people will
say out loud. Here I learn that there is actually home exercise
equipment you can use to exercise your vaginal muscles – this
from the “After the Show” version of “What your Mother Never
Told You About Sex.” You see, these after-show gab-fests are
indexed online, and you can watch after-the-show chats even for
the shows you've missed. Okay, so this high-speed connection,
which I originally bought to download large documents from clients,
may be worth 40 bucks a month after all, I say to myself.
I know what the warning signs are, and I've hit rock bottom.
I've tried and failed to watch less. I set my VCR on Oprah so
I can watch whenever I want. I watch when I'm supposed to be
working. I watch alone, rather than with others. I lie about
It's way past time to admit it, but I'm Betsy, and I'm an Opraholic.
Anyone want to share?