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Christa Lawler column: Memories of free time emerge from reality TV binge

Christa Lawler

A few days ago I curled up with a body pillow, popped the iPad an appropriate distance from my face and settled in for Season 1, Episode 1 of the Bravo reality series “Vanderpump Rules.” For 43 minutes, plus commercials, I watched unreasonably attractive young servers from a West Hollywood restaurant-lounge try to out-horrible each other using moves straight out of a 1980s mean-girl junior high playbook. Then I watched Episode 2. Then, as you do, Episode 3.   

Hot dang, it felt good.

I haven’t had this kind of mindless leisure since before my ovum was fertilized. My muscle memory took over, though, and soon enough it all felt natural — so natural that I began to build a fantasy around it: What if I packed up my finest fleece and a laptop and checked into a Holiday Inn for exactly as long as it would take me to watch “Vanderpump Rules” in its entirety. The idea of it. The ooey-gooey luxury of it. No dust distractions. No yowling cat. No wrestling match, the overture to the 2-year-old’s every bath. Blinking into the hot sun two days later, my hoodie-footies covered in a dust of rows B through G from the hotel’s vending machine.

Time, man. Remember that? Me neither.

Make coffee, make meals, change diapers, change clothes, answer a series of questions that always winds its way back to: “Are butts private?”

There is work and working out. Scrubbing the floor, the tub, the oatmeal globs off the table. Performing the elaborate choreography meant to strengthen my shoulder, which contains a bunch of torn and frayed junk.

Make dinner, make believe.  

Every day is filled, from start to finish. There is a steady stream of things that have to be done to keep the planet in orbit. There is little time for anything else — and that “anything else” must be selected very carefully.

Sure, I was watching “Vanderpump Rules,” but more glaring were the things I was not doing.

A few months ago I was interviewing another writer. We had moved on to the social part, where we were realizing we could be friends outside of the confines of my story. I asked her about other creative pursuits and she said that right now her limited free time is spent writing.

“How do you spend your creative time?” she asked.

“On an elliptical machine,” I told her.

I used to have a lot of free time. I swam in it. Tossed it from the bed of a truck during parades. I used it for napkins, wallpaper and for the kindling in my bonfires.

Something about “Vanderpump Rules” hit me like a nostalgia-coated brick. All those long marathons of reality television from yesteryear. Sinking so deep into the futon that I started to hallucinate that these characters were my friends. Beyond that: Finishing a book at 4 a.m. and then, what the heck, starting another. Renting a stack of DVDs from Blockbuster. Deciding, suddenly, to go for a long, long hike. Just marinating in the infinity pool of free time.

We bought a Wii from Target in 2007. The employee rung up our purchases and asked if we were excited. Affirmative, sir.

“Do you have one?” I asked him.

“Nah,” he said. “I don’t really have time to play.”

“Really?” I answered. “Because I have All. The time. In the world.”

We cackled as we left the store.  

We cackled as we left the store.


It’s popular now to blow a harried mind by reminding someone: “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce.” How profound. All I’m hearing is: Make sure that hotel room has two beds. One for you and one for Queen Bey.

Christa Lawler is the arts & entertainment reporter for the News Tribune. She occasionally writes a column about pop culture — a broad topic that can include furniture, fitness trackers and sci-fi. Follow her on Twitter @dntane.