Star Searching by Shebli Zarghami

     I have lived most of my life with the misconceived perception of my own superior intellect. My longstanding inability to comprehend this fact only stands to reaffirm its legitimacy. There was an extended period during which I was certain my wife’s extensive disparaging of my intelligence was just a form of ‘negging’ to ensure that I would not leave her. Reflections on my childhood, however, have brought to light an alarming amount of supporting evidence for her case.

     There is a story I like to tell at dinner parties (or used to, anyway) about my search for Star Search. As a five-year-old, I had no understanding of television programming or scheduling. One day, while watching television with my older sister, we came upon a wonderful show that had a mesmerizing collection of performers. There were people of all ages singing, dancing, telling jokes, being judged, and simply entertaining viewers like myself to no end. Well, not quite. There was an end, and it came just twenty minutes later. I was not ready to let go. The first sign of my potential intellectual inadequacy was that, due to a mix of shyness and because I often found explanations tedious and complicated, I rarely (if ever) asked questions about things I did not understand. Choosing indefinite ignorance over momentary ennui is a sizable red flag. Not the choice of champions. A good example of a question that might have stimulated some development of my mind would have been, for example, to ask my sister how a person might come upon Star Search again. Today, this entire issue seems absurd to me. There is obviously a schedule to everything. Still, the five-year-old version of me could not fathom how to regain access to this particular program. Over the course of a period that is far, far longer than I care to admit, I would turn on the television at varied intervals on a daily basis and scan through every channel at least three times before giving up again. Star Search continued to elude me. Once, when bedtime was arriving, I overheard the burly yet soothing voice of one Ed McMahon, and recognized it instantly. I ran to the living room and found my parents watching as Mr. McMahon, with his arm around a young boy, wished the audience a good night. Broken, I looked over at my parents, then down at my feet, while muttering to myself “I like this show.” The good parents that they are, they sensed my cry for help. They just had no clue what this particular cry happened to be. They looked at each other, confused, and suggested I get some sleep. In another sad twist, I distinctly recall quietly sobbing on my upper-bunk bed that night while my sister listened to music with headphones. Eventually, about a year later, I would catch on to the wizardry called ‘programming,’ and I did track down an episode of Star Search, but it was too late. Predictably, the show was not as good as I had recalled. There was no way that the show could live up to the expectations I had built during the chase.

     As I mentioned earlier, I often told this story at dinner parties. I now realize that there is a disconcerting element to that, in and of itself. Furthermore, it has also come to my attention that it was not particularly common for five year-olds to not comprehend the concept of scheduled programming. This realization took some of the shine off of my cute story. The darkness that is my newfound introspection into my own stupidity, however, came as a result of some inadvertent research. While arguing with my wife after one of my more vivid retellings of the Star Search story at one of her law firm’s work functions, we came to look up the show on the Internet Movie Data Base. While I had already become aware that many five year olds, even in my generation, would have been able to track down a show they wanted to find, I had always known that nine year olds should be able to do the same. As my wife indelicately observed, Star Search only began airing shortly after my ninth birthday. Which brings me to my introspection. I believe my wife when she says she wasn’t ‘negging’ when she called me a high functioning retard, but the irony is that I’m starting to seriously consider leaving her.

Joseph Zargha


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