In 1989, I was eighteen years old. I had just graduated high school and had quickly moved out on my own. I was living in a townhouse in Attleboro, Massachusetts with two of my friends. One was going to college and the other worked in manufacturing. I was managing a McDonald’s restaurant. None of us had much money, and our typical meal consisted of elbow macaroni and canned soups. During our first winter, we could not afford to turn on the heat and stayed warm by sitting side by side on a hand-me-down couch under the same blanket. We owned a television, which sat atop a baby changing table in the living room. It was color but small, even by 1989 standards.
I can still remember the night when we sat down together and watched the first episode of The Simpsons, jazzed about this new show that we had heard so much about. We fell in love with it immediately, and for years, I hardly missed an episode.
In fact, it was so cold that night that once The Simpsons were finished, no one in the room was willing to get up and change the channel (no remote back then for us), so we simply remained in our places and watched the next show that came on. It was Beverly Hills 90210, a program that turned out to be quite horrible but spawned a series of 90210 parties that were well attended by many lady friends.
The Simpsons was great, but 90210 turned out to be a bonanza for us in terms of meeting girls.
Years later, I was living in a different apartment, with slightly more money and two fewer roommates. My wife and I were on our first official date after years of friendship, though neither of us was initially certain that it was a date. We spent the afternoon climbing Mount Caramel together, and on the way down, Elysha reached out and took my hand, signaling that we had moved passed “just friends” status. After a bite to eat, we returned to my apartment to relax. We were sitting on my very uncomfortable futon, discussing our hopes and dreams, when my future bride cut me off in mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s 6:00. Do you think we could watch The Simpsons?”
Any doubts that I might have had about our future together evaporated as the skies opened and heavenly light bathed me in happiness and joy.
The girl liked The Simpsons. And she liked the show better than she liked talking about serious things.
A couple years later, my wife and I would have another serious conversation regarding The Simpsons. This time we found ourselves shamefully and grudgingly admitting that despite the greatness of Matt Groening’s creation, South Park had transcended The Simpsons on the animated landscape.
It was a sad day, indeed.
But still, The Simpsons carried on.
The Simpsons has been on the air for twenty years, which is equal to the amount of time that I have spent living outside my parent’s home, taking care of myself. So much has happened in those twenty years:
I have lived in three different states, in eight different homes and apartments, and spent a short period of time homeless.
I’ve earned a living as a restaurant manager, a bank manager, a marketing strategist, a delivery boy, a wedding DJ, a teacher and a writer.
I’ve attended five different colleges and earned three different degrees (including a Masters), plus a teaching certificate.
I have been arrested, tried and acquitted for a crime that I did not commit.
I have become a husband and a father.
I’ve lost my mother and possibly my brother.
I have been teaching elementary school for eleven years. More than 200 students have made their way through my classroom door in that time.
I have published a novel, have another on the way, and am finishing a third.
With all of those changes over the previous two decades, it’s comforting to know that some things never change. Homer and Bart and the Springfield gang have been around for as long as I have been living on my own. In fact, it’s about the only consistency that I have had over the past twenty years. The Simpsons and my best friend, Bengi, are about the only two things that have been in my life since my eighteenth birthday.
So here’s to another twenty years of The Simpsons, even if I only watch it sporadically now. Just knowing that it’s still around makes me feel good.