August 18, 2010


I have a special relationship with Shark Week.

I wouldn't say that I'm just a fan, but I also wouldn't say that I'm obsessed to the point of shaving my head into a dorsal shape and walking around with my arms out like fins in anticipation of its arrival.  What I do believe, though, is that Shark Week and I are sort of symbiotic; in essence, I think Shark Week is a fan of me as much as the other way around.

SW has always sort of been there in my life.   It launched in 1987, and every year following that -- even in the days before Tivo and the Internet and promotional advertising being EVERYWHERE -- I somehow just knew when SW had arrived, and it would find its way onto my TV; SW and I were like that creepy little girl in Poltergeist and her TV.

For that whole week, after school and homework and dinner, SW was the top priority.  The dog went unplayed with.  The fish no longer had me to gape at their antics.  Even my Nintendo would be relegated to the background during the glory of SW.

I'd sit for hours at a time, huddled under a blanket with a bag of Doritos or some other healthy snack suitable for the growth and development of a young chap like myself.  I'd watch, slack-jawed, as the huge beasts sailed across my screen and haughty British narrators used words far too large for my then-undeveloped vocabulary.

It's an odd thing, my life-long love of sharks...  I praise the holy name of SW, but never step foot in the ocean for fear of being swallowed whole (except for a recent trip to Florida, when Girlfriend lured me into the water with a trail of snacks).  Usually, whenever I step more than ankle-deep into the ocean, I'm convinced that this is about to happen to me:

And then of course there's the Jaws conundrum.

Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all-time, but it took me at least a couple dozen viewings during my childhood to actually watch the whole thing, start to finish.  My grandma, Grammy, had the VHS at her house from around the time I was 7, and I was transfixed by the cover art.  I thought, if this thing is half as good as SW, I've got to watch it.  What I'm told, though, is that every time I'd get to one of the scarier scenes, I'd announce that I had pressing business in the kitchen, always coming back just after the carnage ended and the waters had grown still again.

Eventually, of course, I valiantly fought through an entire viewing, and fell in love with the movie, and wanted Quint to adopt me and take me on adventures and teach me old sailor songs.  Nowadays, I only run to the kitchen when Snooki appears on-screen.

So, considering all of this, how odd it was to have SW come and go this year, and be almost completely unnoticed by me.  Sure, Girlfriend and I would watch in bed at night if we happened to come across it, and I would never miss anything with "Air Jaws" in the title, and my friend Rachel and I even developed a SW-themed arm-chomp signal for our flag football team's post-TD celebrations (we basically just stole Florida's Gator Chomp but say "Chomp, chomp" while we do it).

But SW no longer created that sense of urgency within me to watch it all that it'd done for 20+ years.  It was no longer appointment viewing.  Life, as it tends to do, had gotten in the way, so to speak.

It's all part of that grand experiment of growing up, I guess.  The realization that the things that used to mean so much to you just don't, all of a sudden, as the last vestiges of your adolescence flake away.  With my generation, it lasts longer than those before us. The way we were raised, the length of time we can stay in college, the lack of hardcore "adult" responsibilities that we have thrust upon us once we come of age that were simply a fact of life for our parents and grandparents... All of that lets us hold on to those "childish" things that we cherished for so long just a little bit longer.  But sooner or later, they have to be left aside for more important things.

I never thought I'd see the day, but apparently now I can throw Shark Week onto that pile.

At least until next year.

(Chomp, chomp)

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