The Soap sap

I must be a romantic at heart, because why else would I care if some imaginary people ended up together and lived “happily ever after?”

When I saw that Tina Sloan, of Guiding Light fame had written a book, I was overwhelmed with memories.

I started watching Guiding Light in high school, during the summer breaks.  Most of my summer was spent working, either for pay with various jobs, or just helping my Dad with the mowing or gardening.  Dad timed our lunch breaks to coincide with either The World Turns or Guiding Light, or if we were really lucky, we ate lunch in front of both programs.  This was in the day when each show ran an hour long, so you can imagine our delight when we extended our lunch through both. I hope I am not divulging a secret that my father would rather keep hidden, but he did like these two soap operas and watched them even when I was home ill during the school year.  I don’t know how long or even how often he was a viewer, but I do remember several summers watching them with him.  Enough so that when I had my first child in 1980 I started watching Guiding Light again, picking up where I left off with Josh and Reva, two of the main characters whose off-and-on again romance fascinated me.  I couldn’t watch it all the time, but I tried to view it at least on Fridays to catch up.  By the time my third child was born in 1987, I watched regularly, and called a 1-800 number for recaps when I had to miss several shows in a row. When I gave birth to my fourth I stopped attending college classes and became a stay-at-home mom. I planned my children’s naps around Guiding Light and rationalized the waste of time by folding my laundry every day in front of the television.  At some point Michael gave up naps and he quietly played with his toys beside me as I folded the laundry. By this time, the young characters Beth and Philip were romantically involved, but when Beth was raped by her stepfather, they fled for New York, followed closely by Bradley, the rapist.  Philip didn’t know why they were fleeing, he just thought Bradley was a mean stepfather.  It was only later that Beth would confide in him.  Bradley carried a gun, and Michael, at age 3, was fascinated by the scenes where Bradley would pull it out.  It was mild violence and the subject of the conversations went way over his head.  I thought it was harmless.  This is a (bad) recording of one of those scenes:

One Friday, and we all know how exciting the Friday episodes were to make certain that the viewers tuned in the following Monday, Bradley pulled out his gun and aimed it at Philip.  Of course, the episode ended at that point, but as I was tucking in Michael that night he sweetly asked, “Did Philip get shot?”  That was a wake-up call to me.  These people had become real to him, and he was worried about them.  I realized then that I, too, had been escaping into the imaginary world of soap operas. With all the adultery, unwed pregnancies and drama, it wasn’t really a world I wanted my child to be a part of.  That was the last episode I watched.  I didn’t go completely cold-turkey.  I did call the toll-free number every Friday for a couple of months, and when Michael occasionally napped I did indulge in order to catch up with the large extended Bauer and Lewis families. I’d run into them once in a while; in hospital waiting rooms, once at a consignment store, and on the front cover of the weekly soap rag at the checkout.

That was in 1989 or 1990.  I stopped thinking about Josh and Reva, Philip and Beth.  Then last year I heard that Guiding Light was ending a 72-year run.  I felt a small pang of sadness.  It had been a part of my life for so many years, after all.   I didn’t watch the final episode, or even read about it.  I briefly wondered how the producers would tie up the loose ends, and if Philip and Beth, Josh and Reva were still around.

Today, when I read about Tina Sloan’s book, I wondered anew.  And for some reason, despite the fact that I no longer watched the show, I wondered again how the producers tied up all the loose ends, and if my favorite characters were still in the program.

They were.  In reading reviews of the final episode and looking at photos from prominent scenes I ascertained that both couples did, indeed, end up together.

I smiled, watching You Tube scenes from the final episode.

I guess I’m just a sucker for a happy ending.

What about you?  Any Guiding Light fans?  As the World Turns?

Memories of days gone by when  the soap operas were still popular?

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