Things I learned watching Saved by the Bell

Growing up in the late 80’s & early 90’s, I spent several Saturday mornings watching various cartoons, along with a show called ‘Saved by the Bell’. This show took place at a fictional high school in Southern California called ‘Bayside’. Zack Morris, the lead character, would often pause to narrate/talk to the audience, allowing us to see his perspectives, thoughts, along with the various schemes he would concoct as the show unfolded.
Every week the show would tackle a new theme, and lessons would be learned, all in the span of the 20-30 minute episode. One of the episode lessons that stuck with me came from the show’s spin off series – Saved by the Bell The College Years. In one episode Zack is enrolled in a Cultural Anthropology Class, and is given a challenge/opportunity from his professor. If successful, it will result in him receiving a B grade without the requirement of any future class attendance. The question posed to Zack is ‘What do Women Want?’
Zack begins his assignment by utilizing his opportunity to hit on various women throughout the college. Not coming any closer to the answer he seeks, he begins to stop hitting on the women he is interviewing, and develops a genuine interest in discovering an answer to the question ‘What do Women Want?’ However, upon reviewing his ‘field-work’ findings with his Prof. Zack admits to being more confused then ever stating ‘I couldn’t find the one thing that all women want… I guess they are just like guys, they want a lot of different things.’
Even though I was presented the answer to this question, personally, it wasn’t until several years, and failed relationships later that I truly understood the meaning it conveyed. In the past, when I would get upset with an aspect of a particular ‘woman’, I would often then proceed to project that attitude/belief onto all women. But what good does that do, other than putting individuals into our nice tidy little predictable self-created boxes.
Fast-forward just over 20 years and we can see that much has changed since the ‘Bayside’ era. For one, far less people are wearing neon, pastels and parachute pants. The modern day lines, between ‘men’ and ‘women’ have become significantly blurred with the rise of recent freedoms in gender identity. It now poses a re-visit or a re-frame to the question – ‘What do Women Want?’
Try this on for size. Instead of asking ‘What do Women Want?’ re-state the question – ‘What does Jennifer Want?’ or ‘What does Amy Want?’ or Mike or Steve, Rachael, or Shaniqua. Notice the change? With this simple re-frame we are no longer objectifying the person… no longer making them, a sex, a gender, a religion, a belief, a race, or a creed. We can now look at the essence of the other in their ‘presence’ and any pre-conceived notions, and assumptions we may have had, soon begin to fade away.
-Wes Paterson

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