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At Least “Wifeswap” Makes Your Family Look Normal

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-03-10


I’m watching “Wifeswap” right now and I’m chuckling at the domestic train wreck they’ve put together for this week. It’s a highly educated, worldly, driven California family vs. a paintball playing, junk food eating Missouri clan. It’s always amusing to watch these freaks clash. Whoever the producers of this show are, they manage to pick some seriously weird families to mix it up.

However, part of me wonders if the participants have been primed, like a Jerry Springer show audience, like a pump. Do they intentionally ask more “traditional” men to pour on the caveman act? Are the girly women encouraged to be as feminine as possible?
I find it sort of difficult to believe these families are so rigid. The slobby families are always uneducated, the neatniks have advanced degrees. Tonight, the producers accentuated the stereotype that people on the coast are thinner, wealthier and more educated than Midwesterners, who are portrayed as overweight, uneducated and not having any money.

Usually, the families are obsessed with SOMETHING. It might be a family like tonight, who is way into paintball, vs. one that is education-happy. I think back about my family and how we were all into our own things at various stages of our lives. Dad liked shortwave radio and various styles of music, mom was into do it yourself home improvement and building doll house furniture, my brother played hockey at McMillen Ice Arena and helped coach powder puff football, and I was into horseback riding and playing the piano and cello. But that was a different era. No wonder our family didn’t achieve fame and fortune! We weren’t “focused” on a single goal. We each did what made us happy, and well folks, that just doesn’t work in today’s world.

The program seems to end the same way. Occasionally there are surprises. But usually barriers are broken down, families learn new things, some enlightenment is found, and tears are shed. Tonight, the Midwestern family balks a little, but overall the dad acted better than I thought he would. It’s the British-born dad who gave his new wife the silent treatment, and his kids followed suit. I’m hoping for a fistfight to break out at the table meeting, which is coming right after a few commercials from Humira, Kraft and Yaz, my brand of birth control pills.

Okay, the table meeting just happened, and it was dull. The British dude was a little too egotistical, but a telling moment happened when the Midwestern wife confronted Mr. Snooty about his putting her down all the time. Mr. Snooty’s wife had her head down, which made me wonder if she’d been put down too, despite all her certifications and successful business dealings. I give kudos for the Midwestern dad being a little more open and accepting that there’s a world beyond paintball and fattening food. I wonder why the British dad came to the US. in the first place. It seemed he hadn’t shed his class snobbishness despite moving here. I read in a quote in Kitty Kelley’s The Royals from someone who said most people in Britain think Americans are savages. That’s fine, but if you don’t want to live among savages, don’t move to a place that you think is full of them.

“Wifeswap” is one of those guilty pleasures, because it points out what we all know but refuse to admit: families are nuts. Hell, Douglas Coupland wrote a novel entitled, All Families Are Psychotic. Alcoholism, drug addiction, various forms of abuse, depression, homosexuality, unemployment, neat freaks, slobs, dads who played Tito Puente’s music a little too loud, mothers who cleaned their kids’ faces with spit on a paper napkin (I experienced both those last ones, which is why I ended up the way I did, thanks for asking) perpetual jail dwellers, teenage mothers, the list goes on. From America to Australia, Bolivia to Britain, Canada to Cambodia, families either have some sort of quirk, or are made up of quirky people. “Wifeswap” makes me thankful I grew up in the family I did, even though it wasn’t all perfect. The families on the show aren’t much different from anyone else, except they are crazy enough to expose their way of life on television. I’m hoping for an episode featuring an Amish family vs. one that’s into S&M, but ABC will never show anything like that. Cowards.

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