My family started watching Survivor after the first season. My dad didn’t like that Richard Hatch walked around naked. Said that qualified him as gay, which is why I think I have personal issues with being naked in front of other people. However, we picked the series up in season two. Because my family is competitive by nature, we picked our favorite contestant and you were literally damned to Hell if you decided to change your pick halfway through. We were so dedicated to watching it that when we got our doublewide moved in, the only things we had moved in our first night were pillows, blankets, and our television. My pick was Tina Wesson, a hometown hero of mine from Knoxville. Dad chose Colby, and Momma chose someone who didn’t make it past week three. If your pick lost, you were subjected to constant humiliation until the next season came on. Tina Wesson was the only reality television star I chose that ever went on to win, and that’s why I nervously approached her in a Maryville Chili’s a couple years ago to thank her for everything she had done in Australia during her stint on Survivor. I decided to return back to my table once I started crying.
In my weird, alternate world, the odds were stacked against me. Most of the freshmen in the class had some kind of dance experience. My simple deductions of form and grace were nothing in comparison. Some of these people had taken ballroom dancing before: the Jennifer Greys of the class, as I would privately refer to them in my head. I knew that I had to bring a lot to the table in this room of (pretty much) professionals. In the face of adversity, I still considered myself the Nicole Scherzinger of our dance class. I didn’t have a lot of expertise, but I did have my Pussycat Dolls days… and by that, I mean that I sometimes practiced steps that I learned offline while I was alone in my room (what? who said that?). With my basic understanding, I considered myself practically a natural.In response to this fascination with reality television and my natural desire to perfect anything I do, I began comparing my life to a reality television show at a very early age. I would spend extra time packing my books up in Mrs. Brown’s class, watching each student file out the door. I would imagine each of them being voted off as I became the last student standing in our English class. In high school, I would run to my car, pulling along my brother screaming, “This is the final stretch, Casey! We’re almost there.” I don’t think he ever understood what was going on, but if we didn’t get in my Jeep and get pulled out in time, I was convinced that we were trapped in the traffic of Mumbai and that we would never win that daily installment of The Amazing Race. On slow days, I would respond, “Look what you’ve done to us, Casey.” In retrospect, I feel like there’s a lot that I should apologize to Casey for. Most of my reality television antics were secret. No one besides Casey would ever know about them, and I would patiently await the day that I would turn eighteen so that I could apply to be on Survivor/Big Brother/The Amazing Race. Past any aspirations of a professional career, I wanted to be famous for outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting fifteen other Americans.
It was never a problem until I casually signed up for a ballroom dancing class my last semester of college. It was supposed to be innocent; it was supposed to be fun. But, I should have known better. As an avid Dancing with the Stars fan, I wanted a partner that was committed and experienced. After my original partner dropped out, I inherited Rachel: a dancer with five years of experience and a current dance team member. Jackpot. I would win the first season of Maryville’s Dancing With the Stars if my life depended on it. My religious watching had paid off. I understood how pivotal posture was; you would never find me carelessly stomping around the dance floor, I know that’s right. After an assessment of my skills. I needed to evaluate my competition.
Weeks went by: we learned to swing, salsa, cha cha, and waltz. Once tango week came, I knew that this was my moment. If I could bring anything to the table, it was attitude– the same attitude that I would use when I secretly played my other reality television games. Because I’m a giant and my partner is seventeen feet tall, we could magically do cortes and dips unlike any other. We were set to go to the finals… we could win the mirror ball trophy… that didn’t exist. After class, we would secretly practice lifts, and during class, certain songs would come on and I would tell Rachel, “Let’s do this.” We would spin around the class as I shot what I thought were intimidating glances at my fellow competitors. But like most compelling reality television shows, there was a twist. Our dreams (well, my dreams) were almost shattered: an injury had occurred. At the hand of a poorly executed lift/intramural softball incident, I had fractured my wrist. It was the week before our host/professor was to announce the top four couples (and by top four, I mean the four with the best attendance who seemed to not totally mess up the steps). After being put on top four probation, I had to preform the next week sans wrist brace to prove I was ready. We were in the top four.
The odds were as such in my head:
Team Black– 10:1
Team White– 12:1
Team Green– 8:1(That’s my team, naturally.)
Team Orange– 15:1
In our final week, we preformed a nearly flawless routine, gaining five perfect 40s with only two points deducted because of poor leading (and I whipped myself for that, DaVinci Code style). In my mind, we were champions. What did it all amount to? I’m not really sure. At this point, I don’t know what reality television show I’m in, but you can rest assured, I’m in one. Maybe Real World: DC or possibly a really country version of The Osbournes, but if I know anything for certain, it’s that this obsession with turning my life into a television show has had to cost me at least a couple friendships… but I’ll stand by my philosophy: you don’t come to make friends; you come to play the game.