It was not my intention to watch THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT on "Jon & Kate Plus 8" tonight. It was not my intention to watch it at all this season. Many, many episodes ago, Kate's germophobia and Jon's passivity wore me down.
Before the weariness set in, I did watch the show. When Lil E and I lived with my parents, we either watched or heard each episode detailed by my mother, who is delighted by all reality TV that involves a) small children, b) fashion, c) island challenges, and 4) food. Lil E and my mother were equally squealy to see kids Lil E's age times six, with two older, bossy girls corralling them through the house. When Lil E and I moved into our own place, we'd sometimes glory in the fact that we had our own cable and we watched old episodes while unpacking boxes and arranging pillows on the floor until we got furniture a few months later.
It all seemed innocent enough then, barring a yelly mommy with bad hair and a doh-dee-doh-dee-doh daddy and the tension of bringing so many children out of womb at one time. I no longer had the time or energy or emotional reserve to commit to any of the many television shows I formerly watched. And so there they were every once in a while, Jon and Kate and all their maniacal outings with too many children.
In the past few months, I've paid some attention to their lives off-screen. How could you not? I've oscillated in my sympathies, first rolling at my eyes at the all too familiar cheating husband and then watching in horror at the footage of Kate denying her daughter water while she sipped from a bottle herself. I felt for her, for them, but I was done. I didn't need to watch more.
So I am not sure how or why I ended up tuning in to the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT episode tonight. But I clicked on it and never looked away.
What I saw, what I heard saddened me more deeply than I anticipated. It saddened me because the words they each said -- about choosing to separate, about trying to find happiness, about hoping for friendship, about having absolutely no relatioship left with the person they are married to -- sounded so damn familiar. Except for the bit about striving for friendship (no thanks), it could have been a script out of my own divorce.
I don't feel sorry for Jon because I don't understand how a person can choose such a damaging, unfair, disrespectful way to leave a family, all in the name of finding himself. I do feel for Kate, not as the cringe-worthy mother but as wife on the end of all that other crap, and only because I understand how scary and sad it is to face the end of a love affair and the beginning of being the official primary parent.
Of course, I feel for the kids. Oh, those kids. But that's not what surprised me. It surprised me that I ached in relating to the parents.
Sure, they have cameras and access and money now. One day, the show will be cancelled and the parents will be left with split holidays and kids trying to play Jon against Kate. One day, the kids will be awkward teens and taller and louder than their mother's yelling and overhear the dad complaining about child support or never really completely escaping Kate's control. I mean, unless by luck or the grace of God, something goes differently for that family than too many others.
I am not Kate Gosselin and I am the mother of one child. But I have certainly had my yelly mommy moments, had horrible hair (and skin), acted out and been a bitch out of a need to be right or ahead or in control. That said, I also did my very best to get through my divorce. It wasn't always pretty.And I certainly am glad it wasn't all captured on camera or splashed across magazines. That was (and is) their choice, but divorce doesn't care if you are famous or not. It brings the bullshit no matter who you are or how much money or how many kids you have.
But maybe, they really will find happiness outside of their marriage, the family that was, possibly even the show. I was as full of pain and anger and fear that I imagine Kate is right now, and I have found more happiness than I ever dreamed. Than I ever dreamed when I first filed for divorce, and even long before I realized my marriage was over.
Not all divorcing or divorced people are the same. This I know. But I can't deny the similarities that I saw and heard tonight. I can't watch Jon & Kate anymore, but I also can't pretend that there's not some reality behind that reality TV.