Home visits, as we’ve learned from this blog and others, are full of opportunity. Opportunity to learn how the family functions in their natural habitat, to see how they interact when not in a stuffy office, and to get a better sense of how they live.
They are also an opportunity for social workers to embarrass themselves, fail at counseling, and suffer awkward moments.
Often, television is a part of this.
I’m not one of those people who claims to not watch television, or thinks all TV is mind-numbing. Some of it is (that’s the point) but some of it is great. Dexter? Modern Family? Glee?
Sexy serial killers, blended families, high school rejects who sing…we’re not going to analyze my choices today.
Point is, I’ve always liked TV. I wish I had time to watch more of it. Home visits often give me occasion to do this. Personally, I would find it to be socially awkward if someone came to visit me and my imaginary children, perhaps with a prepared list of topics to discuss, and I couldn’t be bothered to turn the TV off.
I once had a woman turn the volume up. I kind of had to respect that.
Never one to let an opportunity for assessment slip by, I try to take what I can from what people choose to do, in terms of television viewing, when I’m visiting. If they leave it on and only focus on me during commercials, I assume I’m not high on their list of priorities. If they’re so absorbed in Snookie’s latest drama that they don’t notice their two year old trying to cook pasta, it might be time to place a phone call to the hotline.
What they choose to watch is also, always interesting. As I’ve mentioned previously, I love children’s television. And the number one show is always Yo Gabba Gabba. One of my young moms often has it on when I visit, to distract her two toddlers so we can talk.
But what keeps us from getting distracted?
“OK, so you received the eviction notice…is that Jack Black?”
“Yes, I think I can get emergency housing because of the DV history…oh, wait SocialJerk, I love when the kids do, ‘I like to dance!'”
“Right, so we’ve got a back up plan, and…I’m sorry, the orange guy makes me nervous.”
Another time, I was visiting a single mother and her teenage son. Naturally, the Tyra Banks Show was on.
The topic? “Women with two vaginas!”
That’s right. Not only is this a thing, but a former model, who now hosts a reality show in which skinny girls fight one another in a house wallpapered with photos of said former model, was able to assemble an entire panel. An entire panel of women with two vaginas. An entire panel of women with two vaginas willing to discuss this on daytime television.
No wonder that woman won an Emmy.
“So your son’s attendance has improved.”
“Yeah, he’s doing well, but…women with two vaginas? That’s what they’re talking about?!”
“Yeah, that’s interesting. Back to your son…”
“Oh no, we missed it! You need to Google this when you get back to the office! Unbelievable.”
“I don’t think I should Google ‘two vaginas Tyra Banks’ from my work computer.”
At least those scenarios were brief.
A few months back, I did an emergency visit at 7:30 at night. A mother I work with had just been reported for neglect. I went to the apartment she was staying in with her sister, to meet with her and the new ACS worker.
My client said she was on her way home with her children. She called a couple of times to confirm. This is why we waited.
Me, an ACS worker I had never met, and a client’s angry sister. For an hour.
My client’s angry sister allowed us to wait in the apartment. She had a right to be angry. Her sister’s vindictive ex had called in an unnecessary case against her as well. So while she was nice enough to allow us to wait, she wasn’t going to chat with us.
OK. That’s fine. So she turned on the TV.
Has anyone else ever seen that? Some probably feel like they have, after hearing about it being the worst film of all time so much. That movie destroyed lives and careers. But I don’t think many people are actually familiar with it.
First of all, it’s pretty deserving of its reputation. It’s a giant pile of shit. Jennifer Lopez plays a lesbian who ends up sleeping with Ben Affleck. Hey, Ben Affleck, maybe do one movie where lesbians can resist you, OK?
There’s something about them kidnapping an autistic kid, and the mafia, and blah blah mind-numbing blah.
But the real emotional weight of the film is carried by J.Lo, when she does yoga and tells Ben Affleck why she loves vagina so darn much.
That’s almost a direct quote. She goes into detail. And she uses the word “pussy” quite liberally.
Did I mention that I was sitting with an ACS worker and a client’s sister, two virtual strangers? For an hour? The only thing that broke the awkward silence was my occasional, “Well, perhaps we should try calling your sister again. Wherever could she be?”
I talk like a grandma when I’m nervous. “Heavens to Betsy, let’s move along before this former Fly Girl recites another ode to oral pleasure!”
So yeah. TV is fun. It’s good in moderation, and when it’s thoughtful and well-done. But there is a time and a place for everything.
Except for Gigli. Never Gigli.