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It’s a sad fact that the words “soap opera” garner as much respect in our culture as the words “processed cheese.” So up until now, I have been reluctant to admit that the trashy travails of daytime dramas, primetime soaps, and some spectacular, sudsy novels—have in fact taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons.

It took me hours of viewing and decades of reading to glean the following nuggets of wisdom, but they have served me well. Below, the ten tartiest and true things I have learned from soap operas and their literary counterpart, trashy novels.

1. The more miserable the childhood, the more spectacular the adult success

Case in point: In Jackie Collins’s Chances, young Lucky Santangelo discovers her murdered mother’s body floating in the family swimming pool. She is later shipped off to boarding schools and ignored by her gangster father before being married off at age sixteen. She grows up to be gorgeous, fabulously wealthy, and the head of her father’s empire. In Judith Krantz’s Scruples, Billy Ikehorn Orsini suffered a childhood of obesity and isolation, only to become rich, beautiful, and the wildly successful owner of Beverly Hills’ hottest boutique. The list goes on and on. The point is, misery is life’s great motivator. I try to remember this when my children complain.

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