“You need to watch Love Island” has got to be the most controversial sentence I’ve ever said. At least that’s what the reactions I get moments after I utter the 6 words have led me to believe.
Just the mention of the show’s notorious name has made a good 85% of my friends’ and family’s faces crumble with judgement and disgust.
Yes, the unattainable and, more often than not, surgically achieved lips, tits, and curvy bits we’ve watched saunter around in underboob-bearing bikinis have caused major controversy over the falsely “perfect” body expectations the media is drilling into the minds of boys and girls.
And yes, I definitely could have unearthed my abs at the gym or learned to do the splits in the 50+ hours I’ve spent watching the show. However, there’s a tiny, hidden positive side to the show- almost as hidden as the 30 cameras in the villa- that I really only discovered after I’d gotten “mugged off” by a boy myself.
I hadn’t even realised the show’s integral role in getting me over my heartache until the day I took my friend out to lunch to get her mind off her breakup.
When she tearfully asked me, “how do you stop your mind from going over every memory you shared with him?” it suddenly dawned on me: You replace the emptiness of his sudden lack of texts with the show’s reliance on them, getting buzzed with excitement over every time Kem or Montana- and now Dani or Josh- had shouted: “I’VE GOT A TEXT!”
I remembered how, in my frantic pursuit of closure and moving on, I had gone as far as taking up both French and Spanish on Duolingo, joined as many sketching and writing workshops as I could find on Meetup.com, and thrown myself into my new job. “This is it, I’m nurturing my mind,” I’d told myself as I got home from yet another after-work activity.
Exhausted? Yes. Filling the emptiness with too many things? Absolutely. But at least I wasn’t sitting idle and wallowing over what once was.
That was until Ramadan came around. As a practising Muslim, I am all too familiar with the practices of the holy month, where you are to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn till dusk (yes, even water!) for 30 days straight. With the lack of food and the abundance of July’s heat, came a trimming of energy.
But my overactive mind and borderline-problematic inability to sit still would not let me embrace the free time I had, now that I had put my workshops and Meetups to sleep for a month- and that was when I stumbled upon Love Island.
It was almost refreshing to see other people, real people, going through the same things I had gone through- albeit with a whole lot of fire and a whole lot of fillers.
It may sound awful, feeling relief in others’ pain, but I just was not getting the same kind of closure from watching fictional dramas. No matter how many times I clicked Netflix’s low-key judgemental ‘watch again’ button on Lovesick or Like Crazy, I could not feel connected to the characters. Because they were that- characters. And while the narratives of reality shows like Love Island are 100% fabricated and amplified for ITV2’s ratings and success, the contestants’ emotions are 100% genuine.
Well, except for people like Georgia, who was 100% not “loyal babes”.
Watching the show taught me to forgive myself
I’m definitely not advocating the somewhat toxic habit of switching off your mind and tuning into every staged reality trash on your nan’s TV. But sometimes, you don’t need to be doing everything you could (and sometimes, could not) fit in the span of 24 hours. Sometimes, you need to sit in bed and watch 4 hours of people freaking out about texts they knew were coming and whose biggest care is to not get sunburnt.
Sometimes, letting your mind slow down lets your heart pick up pace so that, once you’re out of your slump, you have the energy- and the passion- to get as excited about life as Josh got about Kaz’s bum.