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Fortysomethings enjoy sex, and tots shouldn't watch TV

It must be August, says Lisa Schwarzbaum, if those stories are making front-page news

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Fortysomethings enjoy sex, and tots shouldn’t watch TV

Two signs it’s August: 1) A survey in Modern Maturity magazine, which found that men and women over 40 still enjoy sex, made front-page newspaper news; 2) A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that children under the age of 2 not watch television, that older children not have TVs in their bedrooms, and that parents supply a ”media history” as well as medical data to their kids’ doctors made front-page newspaper news.

I have little comment about the stunning Modern Maturity findings besides ”Wow! Good to know!” But those pediatricians have made me think — especially because their recommendations follow yet another recent Report From Experts — that the whole notion of a kid’s brain being formed by the age of 3 is false.

What we now know, in other words, is that exposure to the images of Teletubbies and the sounds of Mozart either is or isn’t harmful or beneficial to children. Kids either will or won’t be affected by images of violence. And they either will or will not get fat if they spend hours in front of the tube.

What’s more troubling to me — what the experts haven’t measured — is how insufficient exposure to these same stimuli can thwart adult development, and interfere with the ability to form lasting relationships with other human beings.

Consider: A pleasant, lonely man in search of romance places a personal ad in a respectable publication. ”Ray Romano look-alike,” he writes, ”seeks sane, sexy woman for suburban happily-ever-after.” Meanwhile, across town, a pretty woman — a Patricia Heaton look-alike — dreams of love. Trained since childhood to keep TV viewing to a minimum, she listens to ”Eine kleine nachtmusik” in her living room while she flips through the personal ads of that same respectable publication. One ad catches her eye because she, too, longs for suburban happily-ever-after. ”Ray Romano? Never heard of him,” she says, and turns the page, missing a match even the American Academy of Pediatricians would sanction.

Consider, too: My mother, an elegant senior, has never seen ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” ”ER,” ”Teletubbies,” ”Jaws,” Titanic,” or Ricky Martin. She loves me and she’s proud of me, but she has no idea what I’m talking about. Except when we listen to Mozart — because that taste was instilled in me at a very early age.

Were EW to commission a study to determine the primacy of pop-culture references in the formation of lasting adult emotional bonds in a premillennial, multimedia world, I do believe the findings would result in front-page headlines the size of which would push aside all mention of Bill, Hillary, Talk magazine, and the Blair Witch — at least for one day, in August.