My romantic worldview has taken some big hits lately. The first was the shocker that my fave-rave miniseries mega-hunk, Father Ralph de Bricassart himself, Richard Chamberlain, prefers the company of men. In all fairness, it's not like he could help it. But the second thing can be helped: the stinko storylines on my once-favorite soap, Brink Of Destiny!

The last straw came for me on Friday, when it was revealed that Krista was Helena's daughter. Never mind that Krista is a teenager and Helena's character graduated from high school only seven years ago! (I even remember the graduation-day episode—Helena finally lost her virginity to leather-jacketed bad boy Cutter, even though her father, Dr. Ted, despised him because he suspected him of making whoopee with his much-younger second wife Trish!)

Are we also to believe that Eve, the plucky girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is really an evil, spell-casting sorceress? And that Shannen of "Ash and Shannen"—the golden couple who kept their love intact through everything from paralysis to demonic possession—isn't really Shannen at all, but Arden, Shannen's laboratory-bred clone that kidnapped and hid Shannen shortly after she began seeing Ash years ago?

I suppose next we'll learn that saintly Sandy really did murder Annabelle, and that Luka's baby is actually a live bomb!

I'm telling you, Jeanketeers, I remember when this soap was great. Is this really the same show that pulled out all the stops for Nikki and Cash's long-awaited, mega-romantic Caribbean wedding? The show that touchingly wrote out Tarleton (the black lawyer guy) by making him terminally ill with cancer and floating him away in a hot-air balloon bound for parts unknown? (True, Daisy's rape was a bummer, but it was treated with great taste and sensitivity.)

If viewers have any sense, they'll join me in switching off their sets! (Well, I don't really switch off my set. I just flip to HSN, or Lifetime if there's a good Valerie Bertinelli movie on.)

The romance in BOD has been replaced with shock tactics, catfights, and a whole lot of weirdness. Don't BOD's makers know stuff like that is soooo disrespectful to longtime fans? Soaps are supposed to be an escape, not a cause for more worry!

Maybe I'm coming off as a big complainer, but I think I'm qualified: I've watched Brink Of Destiny religiously for nearly 25 years! Despite the rigors of marriage and holding down more than my share of part-time jobs, I've always deftly manipulated my schedule to accommodate my BOD viewing. Even in pre-VCR days, I watched nearly every episode.

My love affair with BOD started back in the 10th grade. This popular girl Wendi picked on me a lot in school, so much so that it made my stomach hurt, and I started cutting class and hiding in the girls' bathroom. One day, she cornered me and threatened to cut off all my hair with her boyfriend's butterfly knife, so I started skipping school altogether. In the morning, I'd pretend to leave for the bus, then when Mom went to her day job at Woolworth's, I'd sneak back into the house and watch my tiny black-and-white TV. That's how I discovered Brink Of Destiny. At first, I was confused by the complex storylines, but something told me I should stick with it.

This went on for almost two weeks, when the school finally phoned my mom and asked why I was absent. Boy, I really thought I was in the soup! Anticipating a grounding that would last into my 30s, I went to bed early. Then, a miracle: When I awoke the next morning, I felt so exhausted that I could barely move! Even my mom, with her sharply honed powers of suspicion, could tell I was actually ill. Dr. Kesselman's diagnosis revealed mono, which meant a month-long sabbatical from school. What's more, it happened to be May, the last month of the school year! I still look back on that time with fondness. I had 30 sweet, dreamy, languid days of sleep and daytime TV—something that, with my adult responsibilities, I'll probably never relive. Ah, youth! (Only drawback was, because my grades were already bad anyway, I had to take 10th grade over.)

But another close call soon threatened to jeopardize my new BOD habit. When summer vacation arrived, Mom wanted to put me in St. Benedict Summer Day Camp. (Yecch!) But then she learned that Dad was sleeping with his secretary at his roofing business, so between throwing out Dad's stuff and going to Mass, she practically forgot about me. My older brother Kevin had a summer job detasseling corn, and when he wasn't in the fields, he was tinkering with his dirt bike at his buddy (and my future hubby) Rick's place. I was all alone with no money and no driver's license, so I had nothing to do but watch BOD and sleep! By summer's end, I considered Francie, Dr. Ted, Gloria, and Stefan old friends. (By the way, when I say "Stefan," I mean the first Stefan—that's how long I've been a fan!)

The one thing that has me scratching my head is that, in spite of its drop in quality, BOD is more popular than ever! Unless the article in the Sunday TV insert is lying, BOD has been riding high in the ratings ever since the network insisted the producers improve their "boring" plots. Apparently, they brought in a new head writer and she set to work changing everything that made BOD so great! The result: Brink Of Destiny was rescued from the brink of cancellation, and the bold and beautiful soap-opera characters of my youth were reduced to shrieking nincompoops!

Sometimes I think I was meant to be born a couple hundred years ago in the Age of Chivalry, or some other era when men courted women in beautiful parlors, or lived on the frontier and made passionate love in cabins they built themselves, like pioneer Adams and Eves. (Instead, I have a hubby whose idea of intimacy is lifting the covers after passing gas. Har-dee-har-har, Rick!)

I invite anyone who agrees to please contact me. We could start a letter-writing campaign calling for a return to the old BOD we know and love. And we could include a list of demands. I vote to bring back Ash and Shannen, and have Nikki divorce Gunther and remarry Cash. Maybe we could even raise Harte from the dead. I hope so. The actor who played him was soooo hunky!