“Oh, I don’t like this bit at all. We can’t progress to next week with all of you, sadly, so I’m really, really sorry to say that the person who won’t be coming with us next week is…”
-Mel Giedroyc on The Great British Baking Show (Collection 3, Episode 7)
Earlier today I thought, “I wish I could go outside.” Last month I told myself, “I wish I could be seeing my friends more.” Last October, I told a friend, “I’d like to find someplace around here to volunteer.”
“No you don’t,” he said. “If you wanted to you could just do that. Like that would literally take a minute.”
Plenty of things are outside my control. All the same, it’s funny how I take my experience of the world and write down these rules, and then assume those rules are just there. Sometimes it’s funny in a good way: I don’t think I would be keeping up with Uproar except I “decided” it happens every Wednesday. Sometimes it’s funny in a sad way. Last October, when we talked about volunteering, my friend was right. I could just do that. He was also, I think, a little wrong: the fact that I didn’t wasn’t quite an indication that I didn’t want to. It was an indication that I believed in a world where I didn’t have time, that I’d moved recently and was feeling overwhelmed, that I didn’t know where to start. The rules I was seeing were between me and volunteering. It took some extra effort (and maybe my friend’s shove) to push through them.
Baking follows the same template as most of the reality competition shows I’ve watched. It starts with a big group, and picks off people one by one to find a winner. “We can’t progress to next week with all of you, sadly…” Saying that, Giedroyc really did seem sad. I wonder how often I enshrine the rules I don’t like, the social habits I wish were otherwise, as though they’re some kind of unbreakable physical laws. As though I’m not one of those supporting them. We can’t. But can’t we? I find myself imagining a different kind of “reality” show, in which two skilled bakers taught something cool to an amateur. In week two the first amateur could share what they learned with a second, and the hosts could teach both something new. In week three there’d be three, or four. The group would expand instead of contract. You’d play off each other. You’d mess around, building on what went wrong. I’d like to watch that show unfold into next week, inviting more and more people to come along.