The Syndicate

18 February, 2009

In 1995, an awkward fifteen-year-old sits at a long, white cafeteria table in an anonymous New Jersey high school.  On blue recycled notebook paper, she writes a letter to a friend who lives about five towns away; in these days before email or cell phones, the letter is really just an exaggerated note, written over the course of many periods and lunches. The letter says nothing of substance, merely updates on stupid assignments and irritating peers.  It speaks of the days when high school will be over and done with, although the skepticism that that day will ever arrive is obvious.  It gushes with musings on the older boy that they both know and dream of dating, whatever that means.  The letter radiates the hope that better times are to  come.

A boy approaches her.  He, too, is awkward, but confident enough to talk to her – they are friends, but he does not hide the fact that he wishes her to be more.  She reminds him of the fact that he has a girlfriend; he shrugs it off as a formality.  He is amused by her non-flirtatious flirtatiousness.  The fact that she has no idea how much she charms him only heightens his crush.  He smiles and seats himself next to her and takes a look at letter she’s written, laden with doodles and fancy lettering.  He takes the paper and her pen.  In the top margin of the page, he writes:

“Please help.  Mandy’s life is playing like a TV sitcom, and we’re in fear of syndication.”

The letter was never mailed, it remains in a box somewhere in my old room in parents’ house.  The words, written by a boy who  later claimed I broke his heart, and whom I have not seen nor heard from since high school graduation, have resonated with me for all these years, yet only recently did I really begin to understand how they might apply; not to my mundane, teenager’s-life of 1995, but of my life now, as a single woman in her late 20’s, living the dream in Brooklyn, trying to enjoy the ups and downs of the inherent drama of this life, all while keeping Nielsen and his ratings goons at bay.  It’s not easy.  But if I can keep the stories entertaining and maintain a cohesive and intriguing narrative, maybe, just maybe, we’ll keep ourselves off basic cable for one more season.

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