So I’m standing on the eliptical trainer at the gym this morning fighting the urge to take my heart rate above 140 beats per minute, a level I think is wholly ludicrous given that my heart rate can jump to 170 at the mere mention of Britney, but the doctor says that if I’m going to exercise during this pregnancy I have to keep it under 140. The other day at the drugstore I stuck my arm into one of those do-it-yourself blood pressure machines, and I swear to God the reading came back “You must be dead.” My resting heart rate was 115.
So I’m there on the eliptical trainer, elipitical training away, which seems to be doing nothing except elevating my already vorcaious appetite to the level of a national threat, and I get the distinct feeling that the people I see at the gym every morning are looking at me and my bloated belly and are thinking that whatever I’m doing must not be working. How could I possibly work out every single day and gain five pounds in one week? And you know how sometimes I have the tendency to exaggerate tiny details just here and there for maximum dramatic effect? The thing is, I AM TOTALLY NOT EXAGGERATING. I gained five pounds last week. One, two, three, four, FIVE. I refused to stand on the scale this morning in fear that it would laugh at me.
So I’m eliptical training away, trying to concentrate on anything but how much I want to sprint or jump up and down or do cartwheels or sit-ups or chug a gallon of tequila or any of the things that my host organism state of being prevents me from participating in, and I’m looking at the four silent television screens on the far wall, each tuned to a morning news program, when all of a sudden the words “John Ritter dies” flash across the bottom of “American Morning.” And I instantly cry out, “Jon! Look!” to my husband who is stair-stepping behind me. I am immediately shushed by the four or five bike-peddlars and treadmill-walkers around me who want to work out in reverent silence, as if the gym were some sort of holy fucking temple. Only in Utah!
But I can’t help my astonishment, my utter crushing sadness at this news. And I know that Johnny Cash also died, and that recently there have been many seminal figures in pop culture pass on, and they all deserve their tributes and remembrances. But today I am deeply affected by this one passing, almost as if it were the passing of an uncle whom I haven’t seen in years, but who played a significant part in my childhood. As terribly American as it may sound, if I had to pinpoint one constant in my early life, through moving at an early age and changing schools and my parent’s divorce and their consequent remarrying and puberty and all the changes of adolescence, that one constant would be “Three’s Company.” Jack Tripper was my ambiguously gay guidance counselor.
I was never allowed to watch “Three’s Company” before I was 11 years old because my very Mormon parents didn’t like the constant sex talk or the fact that a sitcom showcased members of the opposite sex living together. As far as they were concerned, sex talk and co-ed living didn’t exist in the real world, and why couldn’t I just watch The Smurfs, for crying out loud? Of course, like any other living, breathing child I sought out things that were denied me, and I would sneak over to my friend’s house to watch the show as well as to enjoy other contraband items like Nintendo, cable TV, and the highly dangerous, eternal salvation-endangering ouija board.
I loved the show, not because it was particularly good or relevant to me, but because everything was just so outrageous. Even after my parents allowed it in their house, I never fully understood what I was watching, I just knew that the women looked like I wanted to look, Jack wore very cool shorts, and they lived in a place that had palm trees. How exotic! Every night at 10:30pm from the ages of 11-16, I would watch reruns of “Three’s Company” in my bedroom on a 10-inch black and white TV as my mother and step-father watched “Mash” in the living room. I probably saw every episode of that series, perhaps two or three times, and I never caught on to the fact that Jack was pretending to be gay. In my adolescent eyes, Jack was just a dramatic, flamboyant caricature of a man that didn’t exist in my world, a represenation of something that wasn’t allowed in my world, a part of life I wasn’t even supposed to know about.
Over the past few months I’ve been watching syndicated episodes of “Felicity” every day, starting with the first season, and just this past week the series has reached the point in the fourth season where John Ritter plays one of the character’s dying father. For the last three days I’ve watched John Ritter playing a man lying in a hospital bed dying from liver failure. When I heard this morning’s news, it was hard to separate the scenes in “Felicity” from reality, and because I have such a fondness for him as an actor, I couldn’t help but scream out my husband’s name in the middle of my workout. Part of me is just sad that he died so young and unexpectedly, but the biggest part of me is mourning the passing of someone who played an integral part in my realization of the world, outside of the sterilized paradigm my parents tried to present to me.
This does not mean that I will allow my own children to watch reruns of “Three’s Comany.” They might turn out evil like me, and I’ll have none of that.