Allan Ripp: My herculean struggle? Staying awake long enough to watch TV with my wife.

It’s true: My wife has been hitting me. And throwing things. And shaming me. I feebly apologize and promise to do better, but then quickly relapse, and the cycle starts over. Can this marriage be saved?

Such is our nightly routine when we meet up on the couch around 10:15 to watch TV. Within minutes, my head droops onto my chin and I fall asleep. If I don’t react when Sarah calls my name, she tosses a pillow; if that fails, she’ll lightly slap or flick my cheek or shake my arm.


I come alive. “I was watching and lost my place for a second,” I say. But then she quizzes me on what just happened, and it’s clear I have missed an entire chunk of action. On rare occasions, she’s willing to rewind, and I’ll fix my eyes on the screen as if I’m in a staring contest, but before long I’m out again. I might wake up when my leaden foot slips off the sofa and hits the floor with a thud.

There’s a video circulating in our family of my drowsy bobblehead flopping around with the TV blaring, and I whip back to consciousness and glare at my wife for catching me in the act.


For years, my wife and I ignored the giant entertainment box in our living room, as our kids needed tending and there was a dearth of compelling network fare. But once we became empty-nesters and discovered streaming, we moved from one great show (“Homeland”) to another (“Prisoners of War”) and found a cozy ritual to pull me from work emails and Sarah away from chores.

Lately, TV has been a refuge from horrid world events. If only I could keep my eyes open.

Allan Ripp: My herculean struggle? Staying awake long enough to watch TV with my wife.

We’ve been especially absorbed by a British reality series called “24 Hours in A&E,” which captures the events in a London hospital emergency room. Stabbings, burn victims, a man run over by a bus, drunken nose-bite injuries — how could anyone doze off viewing such traumas?

And yet, heavy are the lids of someone who rises before dawn for exercise and whose battery is drained from a long day of responding to client demands and walking the dog. Sarah says my average pre-slumber viewing time is 17 minutes, though she’s clocked me at less.

As a kid, I could never sleep if I knew a TV was on in our house. I spent many an evening perched on our second-floor steps straining to hear bits of “Bonanza” and “The Twilight Zone” from our downstairs RCA TV. My father was a narcoleptic multitasker. He would nod off watching the news with a radio earplug tuned to the baseball game while perusing the mail and nursing a martini. But dare you jostled him, and he popped up indignantly — and damn if he didn’t know the last batter was out on a called third strike.

Sarah and I have tried earlier showtimes and even a weekend matinee, though constant interruptions force us to hit the pause button as one of us runs off to another room. Sometimes I’ll start watching standing up but invariably end up horizontal, hugging the pillows, and it’s lights out. It’s well past midnight when I come to and slink off to bed.

And then — a breakthrough. I found out that a sugar rush from spooning a tub of chocolate sorbet for dessert might have been hastening my nightly crash.

Now, holding off my dessert fix until we start watching has given me just enough stamina to last most of a 50-minute episode of “24 Hours.” So the young girl who fell off her horse wasn’t paralyzed after all! And the woman whose brain swelled from being punched to the curb lives to express thanks to the stranger who saved her by calling emergency services. If I’m really feeling it, we’ll catch an old episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Still, the other night, Sarah reached over and snapped a dish towel at me. “Hey, I’m awake!” I protested. “Yeah,” she replied, pointing to a stain on the couch. “But you dripped sorbet all over the cushion.”

Alan Ripp runs a press relations firm in New York.

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