A completely casual moment in our social routine at home, which is also work (anyone relate?) caught my attention this week and inspired this blog which will also have a significant reference to something called…
”Bell; Let’s Talk Day”, taking place on January 26, 2022.
But, first, the screen shot pictured here is Dominic Astrada, or as his name badge states, “Dom” and he was a contestant and eventual winner on an episode of Wheel of Fortune this week. Notice all the “Art” or “Ink”? I sure did and count me among those who have conflicting emotions about people who cover their entire bodies in it, but I’ve made a conscious decision to embrace the practice rather than condemn and be nauseated by it!
At first, I just watched Wheel and I didn’t think about it. But then, all I could think about was how this “image” symbolized how much our human culture has shifted, some of it horrible, but some of it truly inspiring and creating hope for people like me. I’ll get back to this in a bit, okay?
Like a significant percentage of the population, Covid has made us slaves to habits we may not normally have. Like watching Netflix, or Prime, or Disney, or the countless clones of subscription services praying like predators on our bank accounts! I acknowledge that these “stations” have some pretty amazing productions but I admit to being a bit old school, so we still have cable!
But, In 1991, when Darlene and I became “us”, there was no Netflix and we had a fraction of the stations available today so choices were limited to cable and also like lots of folks, we had our favourites like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. So much so, it became a family routine and we always watched these back to back before dinner when we lived in Regina.
After moving to Calgary in 2000 and owning a teenager, “family time” shrunk. Part of it was a busy boy named Vance and the other part is teenager stuff. But, we simply stopped watching programs like we always did. Time goes by (Vance is 36 now) and tastes change, of course.
But, when March of 2020 flipped the entire planet on its head, the world was forced to “stay home” and the gravity of family gained so much weight, even Oprah couldn’t help! Us too. All of a sudden, my travelling for speaking engagements went from 150 days a year to Zero! I vividly remember after a few months slinked by like a sloth, Darlene kept looking at me like…”Shouldn’t you be somewhere that isn’t here”?
Thank goodness we are very fortunate to still like each other after all these years and with no options but to stay inside, we did. We watched “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Peaky Blinders” and “The Crown”, all extremely well done. But news arrived that the world was going to lose beloved television personality and the iconic host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek. He had pancreatic cancer and it was terminal. I felt so bummed, so to appreciate every minute of him while he was alive, we started watching it again. It actually had been twenty years since we were every day viewers so even though so much had changed, even on Jeopardy, watching it felt like a warm blanket.
We watched Matt Amodio win 38 straight games and look unbeatable. We watched as they attempted to fill the void left by Trebek’s passing bringing in an assortment of celebrity guest hosts (my favourite was Aaron Rogers of the Green Bay Packers) but the show was never the same. Covid was also reminding us “nothing” would ever be the same for over 7,000,000,000 people and in our home, we just kept being grateful for our health and all our blessings and the major objective was that this new world order wouldn’t take its toll on our mental health like it was for millions! It felt to me like the simple pleasure of a meaningless game show was far superior to listening to the daily news and it’s incessant “doom & gloom”.
So, just like the 90’s, we went back to our routine of watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy before dinner, and we did this every single day. Matt Amodio’s streak came to an end and as renewed fans, we observed that nobody could ever win that many in a row again.
Then came along Amy Schneider. From the first episode she won, there was something about her. Clearly, she was highly intelligent and her personality, I felt, was quite magnetic. That’s how I remember feeling. I also felt like there was something extraordinary about her but I couldn’t put my “toe” on it. Then, social media announced that Schneider is transgender.
Question: How does that make you feel? Another question…does she look it? I’m going to be really blunt. It’s common for some people to equate “transgender” with “freak”! Honestly, that’s a very compelling topic for me, especially since that’s how some folks described me when I was born that remarkably disrespectful observation would follow me around for years. But not so much anymore. What changed? I acknowledge these may seem like pretty simple and obvious questions and that’s actually my point. We’ve made this topic of Inclusion and Diversity so complicated.
I am truly fascinated that the Jeopardy hosts haven’t dwelled on Schneider’s back story but consider why that’s also important. I don’t believe it’s based on being polite, respecting her privacy or using the politically correct game book. It’s her genuine and authentic life…just like mine. She may qualify for being “different” but what if I offer my go-to word…”Typical”? I have no arms; that’s not typical, but for me, it’s totally “normal”.
What are the odds that way back in 1991 we would have an openly transgender contestant on Jeopardy? Or a dude with tats? And how about all these contestants on these two shows alone. They openly discuss being in gay marriages in a country like the United States that had huge struggles even making them legal like these people had the plague! Okay, bad comparison, but you get the point. What happened?
Its easy to credit “movements”, like the LGBTQ one, a code that still scares, or at a bare minimum, confuses folks that aren’t one, and is well deserved because it took a ton of courage for so many people to “Come Out”.
I have actually heard the term “slippery slope” applied in this discussion suggesting that “family values” are being eroded. Isn’t it worth considering that some gay families may actually present a “better” set of values than the ones being critical and judgemental? When I married Darlene, it came with a cousin who is gay. He not only fell in love with a great man, but my cousin is white and his new partner is of Asian descent! Remember when mixed race relationships were taboo? And then add “gay” and the odds of societal acceptance were zero to five percent. And then, they decided to get married…because it became legal. Why did that take so long?
And then, they decided to have a family and through a surrogate, had a baby boy who is now seven and added a beautiful little girl, now three. They are easily among the most adorable family I know and the “values” these children are learning are part of the new reality of our planet! It’s about time!
It It Just Talk?
“Bell: Let’s Talk Day” has been oddly criticized by some as taking advantage of a problem in society for marketing value. What wrong with that? Our society is “plagued” with something that was around before Covid showed up and that’s about stigma, stereotype and prejudice. Making it “cool” to address this huge problem in our world changes the dialogue and hopefully makes those suffering not feel alone and isolated.
One more question that intrigues me. It feels like the word “prejudice” has been replaced by “racism”. They aren’t the same for me. I’m “white” but have lived for over sixty years with prejudice. The root of the word, of course, is “Pre-Judge” and that, of course is a bit of human nature but a lot of “choice”. It was something I heard over and over and over again growing up: “You can’t control people’s attitudes about you. All you can control is your own and maybe you can teach people a thing or two”!
We never called it this back in the 60’s but my “mental health” was so strong because the influence of my parents and a supportive community “celebrated” my life which allowed me to “live” my “authentic one”.
It’s so ironic that a cure for what ails so many human beings lies in others and the way they treat people who aren’t “Typical”. Maybe “Bell: Let’s Talk Day” should be rebranded to “Bell: Let’s Listen Day”!