© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Essay: The 'Outlander' Effect

Some are watching the daily news with bated breathe - waiting for new information about international relations, investigations, and other salacious details packed with political intrigue. But Lake Effect essayist Mel Miskimen is not among these throngs of political junkies. Instead, Miskimen has her sights set on 18th century Scotland.

I approached the information kiosk in the middle of the bookstore with a combination of apprehension and embarrassment, as if I was going to ask for the sexually explicit section, which in a way I was. Kind of. “Do you have, those, Outlander books?”

The girl cursed the slowness of her internet connection. Admitted, yes, she had them, and told me to follow her. She lead me past the young adult section. Past pets. Past gardening.

“You know there’s a TV show,” she said.

“Yes. I know. I started watching . . . and, uh . . . I had to stop.”

“Why?” she said. “I’ve heard it’s pretty good.”

“Yeah, it’s good. A little too good. Let’s just say I had a little break with reality.”

I told her that my husband had been out of town on business and I was in a mood for a good binge worthy series. My tastes usually default to quirky comedies but the thumbnail of a man in a kilt, his hair windswept, I thought, hmm I’ll give it a go um . . . yeah. I haven’t been the same since. Twinges, tingles and flutters that had been dormant, that I thought had left the building along with my collagen, had been awakened from a deep slumber, thanks to the kilted hunk of burning Scot with a broad sword and a broad smile. I binged. It wasn’t pretty. I went to bed thinking about the possibility of time travel.

The books were on the lower shelf. She sat on the floor to find the right copy. I knelt. Perhaps that’s why I felt like I could confess to her. “I used to make fun of people who read romance novels . . .” I said. “ . . . or who were into Game of Thrones, but now? I have to reevaluate my whole world view!”

“And that’s a bad thing?” she said.

She slipped the receipt inside the book. Wished me happy reading.

I distinctly remember . . . back in high school, my English teacher, Miss Jellen, gave the class an assignment to read a 500 page book. In a week! I thought she had lost her mind. Different story now.

I don't eat. I don't sleep. It's all I can do to remember to let the dog out.

I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. It’s all I can do to remember to let the dog out. My husband comes home and I’m knee deep in heather, craving whisky because in the book, they’re always drinking whisky. I read while wrapped in a plaid blanket because the characters are frequently cold and damp and it’s the closest thing I have to a kilt. I want to learn Gaelic. Find out if I carry the gene for red hair.

I haven’t been on Facebook in weeks. I haven’t checked the news headlines on my phone. I can’t find the time to text people. I had been looking forward to the final season of Veep, but haven’t seen an episode. Yet.

Despite the lack of indoor plumbing and antibiotics or the threats of uprisings or the possibility of being burned at the stack for witchcraft, 18th century Scotland is more appealing than 21st Century America.

Mel is a contributing writer for More Magazine, guest blogger on The Huffington Post and the author of Cop's Kid. She lives in Milwaukee.