Just like a scoop of ice cream after a work out, Trading Spaces comes to us at the end of each week as a little dish of empty calories, devoid of nutritional value, feeling right as you watch it then, if you’re lactose intolerant as I am, leaves you kind of queasy afterward. The question always is: Was it worth it? Just as in the case of pineapple coconut Haagen Dazs, the first half of the Hammond-Girone split did not disappoint on any front.
Conservative Californians and Non-Holy Rollers: A Study in Contrast
The first family we meet tonight are the Hammonds from Mather, California. Mom Alyce says she’s very conservative, she doesn’t like music with “bad words” in it, likes only the music they play at her church, such as “Shake the Devil Out” (which is not to be confused with “Shout at the Devil”) and she teaches nursery bible school. She’s has three kids with her husband Tim: Chantel, 13; Jasmine, 10; and Adrienne, 6. She and Tim met in 1989 at a youth dance club and he’s the only man she’s ever been with. Alyce is a black woman and Tim is a white man, but race isn’t an issue with them. What is an issue (aside from the horrible 80’s hair in the snapshots of Alyce and Tim back in their dance club days) is her faith. Her kids thinks she’s controlling and overpowering, and want their dad to hang out with them more. Tim seems fairly addicted to his online life. He says that what keeps his marriage together is that neither Alyce nor he believe in divorce. That just smacks of a very loving relationship doesn’t it, when that’s the go-to reason for sticking together. Alyce takes it further saying that if she does decide to divorce Tim, in her church, she can’t remarry until Tim is dead. What a happy thought.
set of victimsfamily are from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mom Barb and dad Tim (ye gads, two Tims!) have a 9 year old son Vincenzo, who has long hair that makes him look like a girl. Both Barb and this Tim are tattoo artists, and Tim owns two tattoo and piercing shops in Pittsburgh. Barb also teaches art and is heavily into roller derby. They’ve been married for twelve years, are full of tats and piercing, and Tim has those giant holes in his ear lobes from wearing big spacer earrings. They teach their son to think for himself, which apparently consists of, in part at least, asking him if he wants to do chores and Vincenzo turning the offer down. They are not at all religious and don’t go to church. You now can see where this is going.
Tale of Two Tims: Compu & Tat
On the first day of the swap, both sets of parents get up at 3:30 a.m. Alyce is awakened by CompuTim ten minutes early and is annoyed. She gets dressed, goes down to the living room with CompuTim and begins her praying for the day. She asks her husband to join in, but he declines. She then kisses the girls goodbye and asks them to pray for her. Across the country, Barb also gets ready to leave; TatTim says goodbye and will miss his wife and Barb kisses her kid on the head and heads out. Then, of course, the wives arrive at their destinations and everyone looks the fool trying to find the other because Fox still thinks this tired scene is good television.
As first impressions go, Alyce sees TatTim’s tattoos and piercing and declares him a stoner and becomes paranoid in the car ride home. She tells TatTim that she’s very involved in her church, and he says that will be their biggest difference, as he’s more agnostic than a devotee of organized religion. They get to the house, which at first looks kind of small and boxy, but it’s one of those houses that all you see is the top part, as it’s built on a hill. The house is multi-level and pretty large; I guess the tattoo business is pretty damn brisk. The house is also more modern than what I’m used to seeing in Pittsburgh, but I try not to visit too often, lest another aged relative drop dead as they are wont to do when I’m in town. Alyce is put off first by the Buddhas in the yard then put off by the skull and native-looking art around the house and then finds Barb’s paintings something she would not condone in her house. She thinks the place is satanic, and then she is put to ease by finding, much like a dead Laura Palmer, a bible wrapped in plastic. Alyce thinks the bible called to her, and TatTim says she honed in on like the freakin’ thing had GPS. Why the bible comforts her is a mystery, as she’s brought her own and several other religious books with her.
Barb meets CompuTim, and comments that her husband’s name is Tim, to which CompuTim just kind of stupidly nods. Either he’s as dull and meek as Barb thinks he is, or CompuTim, like many men before him on this show, is getting the dullard edit in this episode. He does ask Barb is she likes sports, and she says that she’s into roller derby, which seems to pique his interests a bit. Barb asks CompuTim what they do for fun and he says that, as his wife is a Christian, she and the girls go to church every Wednesday night. Methinks not all is well in the Hammond household, and CompuTim is a little off-put by all the bible thumping. When they get home, Barb is somewhat surprised to learn that the family is a mixed race lot. The house is big, spacious, warmly decorated, and almost maniacally clean.
Disconcerting Moaning and Money Grabbing
On the second day, Barb wakes up around six, gets dressed and heads to the kitchen. She finds the girls already there, dressed and eating breakfast. Alyce has apparently instilled some sort of love of regime into their young hearts right along with the notion of Christianity. (They never mention the particular brand of Christianity Alyce belongs to; it may be one of those big, no-specific-allegiance mega churches, but that conclusion based on the size of the church facilities alone.) Barb is curious as to why the girls are up, and they tell her that they have to go to bible study at 8:25. As CompuTim is still asleep, probably from a long night on line with his
virtual pornfantasy football friends, Barb agrees to take them to bible study, which turns out to be a youth minister “preaching” or “shouting” at the kids. His core message is twofold: first, anyone who does not believe in “God” and “Jesus” is really dead and second, kids need to come up and put their cash on the alter. I’m all for charitable giving, but the way this guy just blatantly guilted the kids into giving up the money, as if buying God’s love, weirded me—and Barb—out.
Speaking of being weirded out with just cause, Alyce woke up early on her first morning too. She was eating a lovely banana and then heard all manner of weird moaning. She followed the sound and found an odd looking man bending TatTim into all sorts of different shapes. TatTim says that this guy is his yoga instructor and that he and a bunch of guys even started a group called yoguys for doing yoga. The creepy instructor guy asked Alyce if she wanted to do some yoga and she weakly agreed. Had it been me, I’d have declined and gotten out of that room as fast as I could. She gets her legs bent a bit and starts worrying because the instructor says that yoga is based on eastern spirituality, which she takes to conclude that the instructor was using her body to perform rituals.
Acceptance is not a virtue.
Day three happens to be Sunday, and Alyce gets up with the expectation of going to church because, as she says, that’s what people do on Sunday. TatTim says that they don’t go to church, but he does ask her about her church, to find out if anyone could just attend. Alyce says her church is very accepting, as long as people who attend believe in God and that Jesus was his only son who died on the cross. So, TatTim says, a Buddhist couldn’t go there? She says that sure, a Buddhist could go, as long as the Buddhist accepted Jesus. Alyce says that people must have a purpose in life, and if people don’t go to church, then they don’t have a purpose. TatTim says he’s always had a purpose in life—do good things, love his family—so he’s never had to seek out something from a church. This offends Alyce, who breaks down into almost childlike logic about how you have to have faith or you won’t go to heaven and cannot even fathom the notion of someone who doesn’t believe in hell.
TatTim may not believe in hell, but Barb is about to meet one of the devil’s minions. She’s tasked with taking the girls to get their soccer team pictures done because CompuTim is—you guessed it—on-line. Sure, he says he’s got “stuff” to do around the house, but that “stuff” happens to be in the computer room and involves the internet. Out on the pitch, the girls are getting their team and individual pictures made and along comes Grandma Joyce, Alyce’s mother. You know what the say about apples and trees, right? Well, Joyce is a far more severe version of Alyce, and looks like she’s never met a parade she can’t pee on. Somehow or another, she starts questioning Barb about her religious beliefs, and, upon learning that Barb is agnostic, proceeds to say that she feels, as part of her religion, that it is her job to tell people they need to believe in God, even though it is not her place.
If these folks are in heaven, I’ll take hell any day.
The next day, CompuTim informs Barb that Alyce would normally be participating in bible study but, as she’s subbing for Alyce, Barb will get to do bible study and she will be hosting it at their house. Apparently, Joyce called CompuTim and told him that Barb wasn’t a religious enough woman to be hanging around her grandkids, so she was going to come over and threaten her into being a Christian believer. The group arrives, and they largely look like middle class suburban women who drive SUVs to their kids’ soccer games, with the exception of Joyce. She’s the oldest one of the bunch and no one challenges her and they all defer to her. Every woman is equipped with one of those women’s study bibles, where you read a passage about a woman bible figure and then talk about the passage. At first, everyone (except Joyce) is chatty with Barb, curious about her roller derby life and seem really friendly. Then Joyce snaps them into shape, demanding that they get started like some kind of school marm. The entire meeting devolves into Joyce telling Barb she is going to burn in hell for not believing and even if she is a good person, she will have to pay a price for her lack of faith. I doubt this spiritual extortion is going to work on Barb. She rightly feels she was under attack, but gets through the day without breaking down.
Her guys back in the ‘Burgh aren’t so lucky. Alyce, like her mother, feels she, as a Christian, is obligated to share her religion. But Alyce has a bit better grasp on the concept of “sharing” versus the tactic of “shoving it down someone’s throat with threats of eternal damnation.” Alyce gets out a kid’s devotional book and wants to pick a reading and go through the questions that are related to the reading. She asks TatTim if she can do it, and he, being open minded and wanting to teach his son to be open minded, looks over the book and decides that it wouldn’t hurt to do the devotional. Vincenzo absolutely won’t participate, says he hates this whole process, and goes to his room to have a cry. TatTim follows, trailed a bit later by Alyce, and asks him what is wrong and encourages him to “cry it out.” Alyce says in a commentary she’d never be that solicitous of her children. Vincenzo is adamant that he wants nothing to do with Alyce and TatTim becomes overwhelmed. He practically pleads with the boy not to behave that way, because he and Barb have taught Vincenzo to be open minded and not rude. TatTim verges on shrill with his now-teary pleads for Vincenzo behave, and Alyce also tears up at the entreaties. TatTim wonders softly, at the close of the episode, why he ever agreed to do this in the first place. I can think of fifty thousand reasons.
Tune in next week when Alyce goes to far and realizes it, and the money is divided up in unacceptable ways.