Getting Real

Who says television can't help you be a better person in 2012?

I wish I watched only the History Channel, Discovery and C-SPAN on television and was so high brow and well educated that I clicked right past every reality show. But it is mighty embarrassing and sad how many of those shows I watch. I do, however, get something from them—besides a cheap, voyeuristic thrill and a sense of superiority at times, I regularly get ideas on how to improve my behavior and life, and no time is better than now, the beginning of the year, to tune in, view the craziness and learn enough to make a few resolutions for 2012. My reality show-inspired list includes:

Have a few trusted mentors
Unless you’ve been a bride, you can’t imagine that a whole show like Say Yes To the Dress can be based on the process of buying a wedding gown. But former brides understand the premise right away. For most women, what they’ll wear is an important decision and one that requires advice from others.

Mix “importance” with “others”—especially many “others”—and you get conflict, which equals good television. Everyone has a different opinion about what is “best,” and often, one person’s “best” is another’s “worst.” If I were a bride to-be, I would take the show as a warning and not bring a dozen friends with me to the bridal store. Since I’m not, though, I will apply my lessons learned from Say Yes in a different way: I will be confident in narrowing my list of trusted mentors—and in the end, always follow my gut.

Honor thy family
I rarely lack material for personal essays and blog posts because my family is crazy. Oh, drats. I’m already breaking my resolution to not pick on my loved ones in print. Just how devastating and destructive such a practice can be became evident to me as I watch Teresa Giudice from Real Housewives of New Jersey during the reunion show. She couldn’t understand how some relatives were upset when she poked fun at their looks, jobs and nationalities in her most recent cookbook. I say “poke fun,” but the family members would say “attacked,” and therein lies the problem—your intended message isn’t always the one delivered. Moving forward, I plan to be much more careful about what I write.

Delegate, delegate, delegate
As a “control freak,” I’ve never been one to ask others for help. What an ego I have, thinking only I could get something done right. I also have to add “martyr” to labels that fit me. Sure, I can tackle another project, but I'll still be bitching about it long after the work is done. I see stylist and designer Rachel Zoe in a similar light (although a much more fashion-forward light).

Her pregnancy helped her change and learn to trust people—at least for the most part—and take them up on their offers of help. My situation is different—no baby in my belly and no staff to delegate to—but I will rub my belly anyway when I’m tempted to “DIY” and tell myself that I’m pregnant with possibility, if only I ask for help in getting it all done.

Be nice: Everyone has problems
Watching Dirty Soap, I was reminded that we all have “issues” and that I need to keep this in mind when interacting with friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. One of the stars of the show, a soap opera actress, recently consulted with a nutritionist.

Her goal: To gain weight. I can’t exactly relate to that concern, but there she was—beautiful, talented and thin—and she thought she could use some help in making herself healthier and happier. Some might snicker at the “first-world problem” and dismiss the actress as spoiled, but she only reminded me that I should give people a break more often, maybe especially when I think they’re perfect.

It’s OK to not be perfect
Contestants on the past season of Project Runway were frustrated by a fellow designer who had just learned to sew. She would regularly hand-alter—rip, really—her garments so that her model could fit into her latest look minutes before the week’s fashion show would begin. And more times than not, she’d win for that week’s favorite look. The lesson: I might not have all the skills I need to “win” right now, but I shouldn’t let that keep me from putting my creative work out there for the world to see.

I’d like to end this column by saying I also resolve to stop watching so much reality television in 2012, but if I did that, how in the world would I be reminded to keep these resolutions?!

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