I am sitting in the living room with my elderly mother-in-law, Mother Mary. We are watching television. Mother Mary holds the remote.
The television is enormous. I am talking about a TV that’s bigger than a king-size mattress mounted to the wall. The volume is cranked up so loud that bits of ceiling plaster are falling into my beer.
My wife is away tonight, and she has left me alone with Mother Mary. We are watching TV. Mother Mary is flipping channels.
You’d like Mother Mary. She is white-haired, with a voice like Scarlett O’Hara. She sits in her recliner, and we are eating pizza delivery.
She flips past all the major networks. She pauses on HGTV for a little while, but nothing appeals to her. She scrolls past all her favorites: TLC, TBS, USA, TNT, Home Shopping Network, Univision.
She finally lands on the Discovery Channel. The show is entitled “Naked and Afraid.”
On the screen are two forty-somethings. Male and female. They hike through the wilderness trying to survive. And they are both—how do I put this?—buck naked.
The gist of the show is simple and realistic. Two people with desk jobs suddenly find themselves wandering through the woods, fighting insurmountable odds, harsh weather, sleep deprivation, predators, and multiple commercial breaks. And they do it without wearing any pants.
The important thing to remember here is that these are not actors, and they are actually naked. Their primary body parts are blurred by special camera effects, but their secondary body parts are in clear focus.
For example: There is a man on the screen right now. He is bending over to get a drink from the river. And I see London, I see France.
“Oh my word,” remarks Mother Mary. “I see his little hiney.”
I cover my eyes. “Mother Mary, would you like another piece of pizza?”
“Would you JUST look at that?”
“How about something from the kitchen?”
“It’s so white.”
“Some orange juice? Tea, milk, maybe a double shot of bourbon?”
“Are you SEEING this?”
“Yes, I see him, he’s naked alright.”
“As a jaybird. I can see his salt shaker.”
Mary covers her mouth. “Have you ever SEEN such a thing? I’m so offended. I just don’t know what to say. It simply OFFENDS me.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
“Do you mean to tell me that people ACTUALLY watch this kinda stuff on TV?”
“I guess so.”
Mother Mary turns up the volume. She reclines in her easy chair.
And here we are. Mother-in-law and son-in-law, alone in the living room. Just a couple of in-laws, watching some good old-fashioned cable-TV nudity.
On this episode, the man and woman are trying to find shelter from the cold rain because, as I said earlier, they are only wearing their smiles.
Whenever the man’s backside appears on the seventy-two-inch high-definition flat-screen television, his haunches are roughly the size of a Philco refrigerator.
“Oh,” says Mary. “Look at that.”
“No, ma’am. I’m not looking at the screen.”
“He’s bony. He needs to start eating.”
The man and woman build a makeshift shelter out of bamboo and banana leaves. And I will say one thing, the guy is industrious. He might be naked, but he’s clever.
First, he builds a foundation. Then, drawing upon his background as a CPA, he devises a complicated machine that acts like a hydraulic crane. This helps him construct the roof to his shelter. When he finishes, this primitive dwelling is nicer than most one-bedroom condominiums.
But—and I don’t mean to be judgmental—at no point during the episode did it occur to him to make himself a pair of pants.
Cue the commercial.
Mother Mary says, “Can you believe what passes for television today?”
“Why, I remember when TV was wholesome. Ed Sullivan wouldn’t even show Elvis from the waist down, did you know that?”
“All I can say is, I wouldn’t do it.”
“Do what, ma’am?”
“Let someone drop me off in the Amazon so the whole world can see my bootius-maximus.”
“Oh, loosen up. Everyone’s saying that word now.”
The commercial break is over.
The show resumes. The man and woman are hiking through the forest again. This time, the man is climbing a tree for coconuts.
Mother Mary says, “Bony Butt sure can climb a tree. Did you just see what he did?”
“No, ma’am. I was trying not to look at the screen for that part.”
“Oh, you gotta see it. Let me rewind.”
“No, that’s okay.”
“Relax, I have DVR.”
So we watch the man scale a tree. Twice. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that from this angle we get a great shot of his blurred out salt shaker.
The TV program finally ends. Mother Mary clicks off the television. We have finished our pizza, and the night is over. She stands, holding onto her walker for support. It’s past her bedtime. She wanders into her bedroom.
My wife arrives to give me a ride home. She asks what Mother Mary and I did tonight.
“Nothing much,” Mother Mary says, “we watched television and ate pizza.”
My wife asks, “What’d you watch?”
My mother-in-law says, “A show called ‘Naked and Afraid.’ But I wish they’d quit playing reruns. I’ve seen that same episode three times already.”
Susan Adams - September 1, 2019 9:42 am
Thanks,Sean! A good belly laugh is just what I needed this morning!
Deborah - September 25, 2019 11:47 am
I love Mother Mary! LOL!!!!
CK Deitch - September 1, 2019 10:06 am
Oh my gosh! I laughed out loud! You and Mother Mary certainly have a way with words!
Roy Parker - September 1, 2019 10:52 am
That show, like so many other “reality shows” of it’s type, have very little “real” to them. They are scripted, use camera tricks, and are seldom very far from civilization. One contestant was accidentally poisoned by a member of the crew but they told her to act like it was because she drank tainted water. Reality shows are like our current media; believe very little that you see. Thanks, Sean.
Keloth Anne - September 1, 2019 11:04 am
Well what a wonderful wonderful laugh and I so admire how you love Mother Mary!!! ♥️♥️♥️
Naomi - September 1, 2019 11:19 am
For some reason that reminds me of my husband’s aunt who died a few years ago just short of being 101 years old. She was born a Southern Baptist and remained a Southern Baptist all of her life and was the oldest living member of her church. For about a little over a year, she had a home caretaker because she did not want to go to a nursing home. Anyway, one day I came by to visit her and she was sitting in her rocking chair reading a paperback book. I asked her what she was reading and she showed it too me. It was a “romance novel”, the kind of book teenage girls read. In fact, she had a stack of them. I couldn’t help myself, but I started laughing and told her that I couldn’t believe that she was reading romance novels. She just shrugged her shoulders. When I left, I thought to myself that regardless of her age and being very frail, she was still young at heart.
Renee - September 1, 2019 11:23 am
Oh, her last comment was so funny! I needed that little laugh today. Thanks!
Elizabeth - September 1, 2019 11:29 am
Oh that’s hysterical!!! Needed that one after yesterday’s! (I got behind)
Jess - September 1, 2019 12:17 pm
“…I can see his salt shaker.” I’d never heard that one before…and I laughed out loud. I’ve got to tell my wife about this column, she’ll get a kick out of it.
Shelton A. - September 1, 2019 12:48 pm
What TV will be like in hell…I wouldn’t watch that if they paid me. Just dumb…sorry Miss Mary.
Rhonda - September 1, 2019 12:49 pm
Mary and I could have had way too much fun together! And I have been reminded how words can make a situation. Once when the wind blew the neighbors skirt tail up over her head my Grandmother commented that her plum had turned into a prune.Simple words that leave you with a mental picture that is too clear!
Jim Porter - September 1, 2019 12:57 pm
That had me crying I was laughing so hard!😂
Camille - September 1, 2019 1:08 pm
I did not LOL, I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD! Thanks, Sean, great start to my day!
Marilyn - September 1, 2019 1:14 pm
Oh how fun! Mother Mary, we would get along very well, but I would not watch that show or most of the “reality” shows. There is not much “real” about them. But Sean, your writing caused me to laugh out loud several times and that gets me prepared in a positive way for the day! Thank you, and Mother Mary, for the humor. Send me some more….
John Simpson - September 1, 2019 2:03 pm
Hilarious. The show and your article. They would probably have a million more “Miss Mary” viewers if they showed the outtakes later on.
Heather Miller - September 1, 2019 2:07 pm
Past hilarious!! My mother-in-law and my mother would have watched for the same reason. I watched one show, and watch no more because I can’t stand thinking about insects, snakes, swamps, gators, etc. surrounding me, let alone being naked in the midst of them.
Jones - September 1, 2019 2:09 pm
Thanks for the laughs! You are a mess!! (And I know you’ll take that as the best of compliments!)
Mara Russell - September 1, 2019 2:11 pm
Great start to my day!!! Hilarious!!!! I haven’t had a belly laugh like this story made me laugh in a long time. Thanks, Sean!
Dru Brown - September 1, 2019 3:05 pm
Mother Mary is a straight-out blessing from God and I am glad you appreciate her. All the women I knew that were like her have left me for a better place. I hope they’re all laughing!
Kaye Cutchen Hall - September 1, 2019 3:37 pm
This one just cracks me up!
Linda Moon - September 1, 2019 4:01 pm
You were very kind to not be judgmental to the naked, afraid man. But…..as a relative hew said to me recently about another relative, “Stupid Is As Stupid Does”. Maybe they should re-title the show to Stupid and Afraid for being dropped off in the Amazon, naked. Apparently, though, Mother Mary is neither stupid nor afraid of sitting in the living room with her son-in-law while watching that episode for the third time!!
Heather Samuelson - September 1, 2019 4:36 pm
Your mother in law sounds like my kind of lady. That was a hoot!
Edna B. - September 1, 2019 4:41 pm
Thank you for today’s giggles. I don’t watch those reality shows, especially this one. I think it’s wonderful that you would sit and watch it with your mother in law. You’re a good man, Sean. You have yourself a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Dola Johnson - September 1, 2019 5:41 pm
Love the stories about you and Miss Mary. Thanks for another laugh to start the day.
Joe Patterson - September 1, 2019 7:56 pm
Janet Mary Lee - September 1, 2019 8:23 pm
I watched it one time..it was like a train wreck…you couldn’t help yourself..Oh yeah, my priority would be a mu mu, shoes and a fly swatter!! Bless Miss Mary for the wonder..Sometimes you just have to laugh! And save yourself for more important battles! This was a hoot!!
Vanessa - September 1, 2019 11:41 pm
This is the funniest thing you have ever written! Genius! I’ve been reading your posts for 2 years. This one has won my husband over!
Pat - September 2, 2019 12:42 am
Hilarious!!! Mother Mary ain’t dead yet!
Bonnie Herren - September 2, 2019 1:55 am
Sean I love this so much and our family had a great laugh! Why? Because my 92 year old mother who has dementia and is a white headed, southern and Southern Baptist Sunday school lady —came across this show when we moved her into assisted living 3 years ago.. we came to visit she told my husband, daughter and son in law she had watched something on tv and she felt like it would make the news the next day .. and everyone must be talking about it!! She said I don’t want the people her to know I saw it but those folks were neeked (not neaked). She felt like her preacher should be made aware of what was going on… she said I have NEVER seen such in my life —it is shameful as she still had it on watching it!! Thank you that I know I am not alone!
Kathy Coxwell - September 2, 2019 4:08 am
This is hilarious! Thanks for showing your readers that older people are neither dead nor lack a sense of humor!
Mary Grider - September 2, 2019 2:57 pm
I gotta say, I’ve laughed a lot while reading some of your stories, but I laughed out loud the entire reading of this one.
Thank you for this one, I needed that today!
Janet - September 2, 2019 7:44 pm
One of my favorites, Sean!
Mary Causey - September 3, 2019 10:06 pm
awesome. you’re the best, Sean
Gloria McIelwain - September 6, 2019 8:08 am
When I read Miss Mary’s words, I heard my long-ago friend, Granny Johnson’s, voice. We used to sit in her living room and watch “The Price is Right” or “Wheel of Fortune,” and she always had a running commentary about the folks on the show. We would all get up after the show and wander into her kitchen. It was the best room in the house, and one of my best memories of growing up in Chipley, Florida. Granny Johnson and her house are gone, but sometimes I catch the faintest hint of bacon grease cooking when I am in certain restaurants up here in the North, and for a moment, I’m back in her kitchen…
Mary Ellen Hall - September 10, 2019 1:04 pm
Debbie - September 25, 2019 8:59 am
Mary Ann Massey - September 25, 2019 4:57 pm
Montee - September 25, 2019 8:46 pm
This was better than the conversation I heard in Belk today between a great grandmama and the sales lady. Grandmama was buying some nice panties because she’s having surgery tomorrow and needs to look nice. I was chuckling. Thanks for the laugh Sean. My husband loves that show and we have some good conversation while watching. I’ll have to share this with him.
Sam Seetin - September 26, 2019 12:33 am
Good one Sean. Salty grandma has grit and knows how to enjoy life.
Dawnie B - April 3, 2021 6:05 am
HAHAHA! I love Mother Mary! God bless her and all of your family!
Dnna - April 3, 2021 9:55 am
Enjoy your articles, escape reality from in these difficult times!