I’ve been watching soap operas on and off for nearly the length of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of me hiding behind the sofa – instead of napping – while Mom folded laundry and watched As The World Turns.
Since leaving the US, I haven’t watched soaps much, and most of those I have caught up with now and again are long gone anyway. Occasionally though I catch a glimpse on YouTube, and sometimes, it’s intriguing enough for me to watch for a little while. I like seeing the grown up versions of characters who were infants or toddlers on shows I was watching while I was in high school or university. It’s like catching up with old neighbors, classmates, or the people you worked those crappy service work jobs with when you were in school.
Recently, a show I was addicted to when I was in high school had a character come back from the dead. I love that about soap operas. No one is ever dead until the writers are ready for them to be dead, and even then – it’s still negotiable.
The character in question was little more than a plot device decades ago. The accidental offspring of an affair that evolved into a messy divorce slash murder mystery. The exact details are fuzzy, but the child was eventually packed off to boarding school not to return until he was a more useful teenager.
The actor who played this love child – turned annoying teen, who eventually morphed into a mobster – left the show a few years back but has returned of late. The character he played had been recast but that’s never a problem in soap land.
Sometimes writers create an elaborate imposter story line to cover the plot holes, but my favorite plot device when these issues arise is the long-lost twin.
I only bring this up because of the twist. The twins in question are in love with/and/or married to and have a child each by the same woman.
That’s strangely more real life these days than when I was a teenage soap opera viewer.
And why would this interest me? Well, back in my widowed message board days, the subject of “what would you do if your dead spouse showed up alive and well on your doorstep” often came up. They don’t call it magical thinking for no reason.
As I’ve caught this and that YouTube episode, I have noted the fans responding to the dilemma faced by the widow/wife, who finds herself with a not-so-dead husband and married to a man she’s just discovered is his long-lost twin. And nearly every single comment was “well, why doesn’t she just admit that she loves not-dead husband and go back to him? They are soul-mates, dammit!”
I’ll save my disdain for soul-mates for another day, but my reaction has been to chuckle and hold fingers back from the keyboard.
I know exactly why the writers leave her with her now husband.
Time travel isn’t a thing.
We live in a forward trajectory. All of us. Though I know everyone can think of at least one person they know who seems frozen in the past that’s simply not how life works.
Once a moment is lived, it’s past. It’s a memory. Memories can capture and hold us like Narcissus’s reflection held him, but they can’t be lived again or even recreated.
My first husband has been physically dead for almost a dozen years. A side effect of his illness caused him to develop dementia early on, and so my reality is that I lost him three years before he died.
It’s been so long ago that I can’t clearly remember his voice, laugh, or conversations that we had before he got sick. All that’s left are some plans that never left the drawing board and a tiny tot who is nearly out of high school now, and who he never had a chance to parent at all anyway.
If he were to show up on my doorstep would I even let him in is the better question. But trade ten years of marriage? A life that I love so much every other time of my life comes in a distant third to it. Swap the present for a past?
No one would. And if they would, they might want to ask themselves, why aren’t they actively searching for a better life already? Because that’s the only time people look backward longingly, when they aren’t happy right now.
I do understand the appeal of stories like these. Humans are such “what if” creatures. As Yoda said, never our minds on where we are or what we are doing. Grounding ourselves more in what’s going on around us is really how happiness and contentment are found. I think Buddha said something to that effect too or maybe it was Jesus. My Catholic school and yoga training really do overlap sometimes.
But I do love me some back from the dead to find his long-lost twin was brainwashed and living his life. Corny 1980’s soap drama never goes out of style. Just like people’s wrong-headed notions about love it seems. Not completely.