What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 45
Why I Love the Soaps 

[p.144]Now that summer is really gone for good, I can get back to the serious business of watching soaps.

There was a time when I would have denied that I watch daytime television. “Me watch One Life to Live? Surely you jest. I’d rather read important novels or listen to a tuba concerto,” I’d say. But then I’d accidentally give myself away. I’d overhear a couple of clerks at Smith’s

Food King discussing Santa Barbara, for instance, and before I knew it I’d be yelling down the aisle, “Hey, what gives with Mason and Julia these days?”

So I’ve decided to go public. ‘Fess up. Tell the truth. I’ve loved the soaps ever since my grade school days when I first thrilled to the moody strains of the Dark Shadows theme song.

Over the last twenty years I’ve sampled most of the soaps on television at one time or another. I even watched the Edge of Night for a little while and admit to that only because I read somewhere that Bette Davis watched it too. I assume that she and I and my Aunt Bea were the only people in America watching before the network indulged in a little mercy killing and pulled the plug on the series.

No matter. Edge of Night, General Hospital, All My Children—I’ve watched them all for the same reason. The characters may be shallow, self-absorbed, and silly, but they certainly lead more interesting lives than I do, especially during the fall and winter months.

Think about it. When was the last time you got stuck in a monastery with a really swell-looking monk. But that’s exactly what happened to Hope Brady on Days of Our Lives. Hope found it necessary to hide out for awhile with Brother Francis, a former All-American quarterback blessed with superior chest definition. Because Hope didn’t have a change of clothes handy, Brother Francis nipped like a good Christian into the catacombs and returned with a strapless sequined party dress—just the sort of thing that gets donated to monasteries all the time I’m sure. Hope put on the gown and promptly turned into a bosomy vision of loveliness. Poor Brother Francis! What’s a good monk to do?

 [p.145]Now that’s the sort of the thing that never happens to me. For starters I don’t own a party dress. Also I don’t know any monks. Of course maybe interesting things would happen to me too if I had an exotic name with three syllables like Savannah, Felicia, Augusta, or Santana. Maybe if I had a name like that, foreign agents would chase me around Stockholm or Trinidad, too. Not surprisingly, soap opera women date soap opera men who also have interesting names. Buzz, Cruz, Scorpio, Dakota, Roman (as in Ben Hur), Zed, and Zane—you figure right away guys with names like these (a) know karate and (b) hunt big game in their spare time.

Naturally these people look good, even after having babies in elevators. The men have teeth and hair to spare. And the women? Well, suffice it to say that none of them would wear sweatsuits from Sears like I do, not even to their spas or health clubs. No. These ladies have turned good grooming into high art. What long nails, what clearly defined brows, what small pores they all have! I like their earrings best, though. I don’t know anybody in real life who has to remove an earring just to talk on the phone. Do you? Nobody I know in real life has earrings that big. But call your favorite soap star on the telephone and she’ll start grabbing her ear just like she’s Joan Collins on Dynasty.

What I like very best, however, are the interesting things soap characters get to say to one another. While I spend most of my days saying things like “stop feeding your sandwich to the dog” or “what do you mean you got another parking ticket,” soap characters get to say things like “can you prove he isn’t really Victor’s child?” How I would love to flare my nostrils and shout along with Victoria Buchanan that I too have been to hell and back. Or exclaim just like Lars Englund, “I’m not a fugitive! I’m a dancer! And I gotta dance!” This is classic stuff. So are certain lines that show up over and over again. “Is that a threat?” a character will ask. “No,” another snaps, jaw muscle twitching, “that’s a promise!” My personal favorite, however, is the line that good-looking unmarried soap people use on each other all the time. “I want you,” they say. And who can blame them?

Certainly not me. So, Brother Francis, if you’re out there somewhere, listen to me: I want you.