I believed, at one time, that my feckless neurotic behavior was the product of some cracked chromosome or a persona I picked up from a straight-to-video movie, but now that I think about it, those problems would most likely cause mild retardation, instead of mild adult awkwardness. So I made an effort to connect with my past: I flipped through some old photos, chewed my nails, and put socks in my bra, all because I needed an answer- and I think I found it.
I cannot blame biology or the media, oh no, I can only blame myself. I was a victim of my own gullibility. I would believe without question and then I would succumb to either manic excitement or blind panic mostly to keep from being bored or feeling unimportant. Years of overreacting to every lie that was told to me has cankered some of my social skills and I don’t think any of the damage can be reversed.
I was an innocent, obnoxious, lazy kid who was just looking for something to believe in, but I wanted to believe a little too hard…
“If we dig deep enough we can reach Hell and punch the devil in the face. It will work but nobody has tried it yet. Start digging and tell me when you feel the dirt getting warmer; that will mean we’re getting close.”
My Best Friend was absolutely sure of this, and I believed her. When we realized that we weren’t making progress with just me digging, we outsourced the labor to other kids and promised them berries. We ate those berries ourselves, destroyed the preschool playground, and, although there were no repercussions for our theological curiosity, we were punished for creating a little kid chain gang and hundreds of holes.
“Really, that white stuff is ice cream.”
No it wasn’t. I took two bites to be sure, it was definitely butter. Every time after that, it was still butter.
“If you put your clothes on inside out then, you’ll turn inside out too and your guts will get all over your clothes and then fall on the floor.”
I did this by accident once with an itchy sweater and I confused the feeling of wool against my skin for the feeling of my skin splitting open. I threw the garment off and rolled on the floor topless and crying with my arms wrapped around my midsection so that my organs would stay in.
“Your belly button is a knot. If you put scissors inside your belly button you might be able to cut it open and look inside.”
This was just stupid.
“There is a man who used to drive a bread truck that lives in the woods. He went crazy after he ran his truck into a tree and he eats Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts. It’s true. The police found human bones with bite marks on them and then matched the dental records to the bread man. So if you’re in the woods late at night and you hear howling, it’s not wolves, it’s the Bread Man hunting you.”
No joke. I was scared SHITLESS of bread trucks. If I was in the car with my Mom and we passed a bread truck or a semi truck with a bread company’s logo on it, all my Mom would have to say would be: “Bread Man” and would burst into tears, hyperventilate, and try to hide under the seat.
“Here’s a bag and a stick. Now go catch a Snipe. It’s small and covered with hair. If you catch one we’ll go to Dairy Queen.”
I’ve heard that a lot children fall for the “Snipe Hunt” lie, but I don’t know how many of those kids searched for six hours in the dark and then tried several more hours the next day because they were promised a trip to the DQ.
“If you touch a starfish it will get stuck to your hand and then it will become your hand and then you will have a starfish for a hand.”
My cousin Jonathan told me that this would happen if I touched the dried starfish that was in a box of shells that my next door neighbor left to me after she died.
My neighbor was 92 and I would go to her house to hang out with her and eat cookies. She knew I loved the starfish that she had, so to be given such a prize should have filled my tiny heart with glee, but that joy was ruined when I learned that starfish could come back from the dead and attach itself to me. I put it under my bed inside of a box; I didn’t want to risk losing my hand if I had to rummage around under there.
I developed a terrible zombie phobia that I just got over two years ago after hundreds of hours of therapy and a prescription for Seroquel.
“Spiders and fireflies are always watching you; and they know all of your secrets. If you do anything bad they will report you to Aunt Fifi, a magical witch who lives in Iowa, and she will tell your parents and then you will be in soooo much trouble.”
I find this lie to have been particularly cruel because of the accessibility of the creature involved (excluding the witch.) Santa and the Easter Bunny can only be reached by letter and you don’t have to deal directly with any of their minions. However, Aunt Fifi does not have a mailing address and you must plead your case directly to the insects.
I was pulling pieces of wood off of my house when I caught a spider watching me: I immediately dropped to my knees and begged the spider not to rat on me. I shed a few Jim Baker tears too and made a couple of promises that any bad kid would make as penance. Unfortunately, spiders are notoriously mute creatures, so he wouldn’t say whether or not I had persuaded him, but I was pretty sure he bought it.
“The neighbor is a vampire. We must slay him.”
No, the neighbor has a night job.
We didn’t know this, so we drew crosses all over our bodies with eyeliner and sat outside his house with holy water and sharpened sticks until the sun went down. When the lights in the house went on, we crept to the front door, raised our stakes, and rang the door bell. The neighbor was obviously shocked to see three armed eight year olds and we interpreted his surprised reaction as preparation for an attack. We dropped our stakes screaming and ran back to my friend’s house.
“There was a log cabin in my back yard during the civil war and a soldier lived in it. He was killed by a woman with really long fingernails and now she haunts my yard looking for people to kill and leaves fingernails everywhere.”
My friend had a package of fake nails that she threw on her lawn so that we would find them when we played outside. She was in second grade, and I commend her cleverness, but she scared herself with her own story.
She ended up convincing herself that her story somehow came to her instead of it being something that she made up. I imagine that our contagious fear might have had some effect on her too and the environment added to our collective terror; besides what she purchased, there were a lot of things in her yard to find that resembled dead people’s fingernails. I still find her backyard creepy.
“You can fly.”
I could not.
“Petey got a job at Mcdonalds.”
I don’t remember my grandfather on my Dad’s side ever saying to me very much. Or, I might have just been too young to care about partaking in conversations that were on any subject other than me. This is quite possible, since most of what I remember my Grandpa and I talking about revolved around me getting candy or me petting one of his farm animals. Nevertheless, when he would speak to me, he could hold a solid poker face and I mistook his physical placidity as a convincing sign of honesty.
Petey was one of my Grandpa’s cows. She knew her name and she would come to the fence and eat grass from my hand. Once my Grandpa let me ride Petey and this experience in particular made me feel like Petey and I had some sort of connection. Then one day Petey went missing. With a hand full of grass, I went to my Grandpa to enquire about Petey’s absence.
We were standing in the field behind my house and the sun was setting; my Grandpa put his hand on my shoulder and told me about Petey entering into the workforce. I was very happy for Petey and I liked the thought of her putting the toys in my happy meals. I named my first puppy after Petey the burger-flipping cow.
“You can eat that wasp.”
This was my first experience being stung multiple times by a wasp.
“The white stuff on the leaves is cream.”
This was my first experience eating bird poop.
“Touch the fence, it tickles.”
This was my first experience with an electric fence.
“Under the tombstone by the flag pole is the body of the evil principle. She had an accident at the school and died. Now, there is a curse on the school and we can break it if we hammer nails into the dirt around her body… but we have to hurry! If her spirit finds out, she’ll come after us with black magic!”
There wasn’t a tombstone next to the flag pole at my elementary school, it was a memorial for a former principal who died of cancer, and we celebrated her memory by hammering nails into the grass to destroy her black magic cancer powers.
I got a little carried away with the don’t-touch-the-ground-it’s-something games and developed a fear of the ground transforming.
I told people that the reason that I looked down at the ground while I was walking was because I had low self-esteem; this way I invoked pity from others instead of fear.
“I can’t believe that your Dad voted for Bill Clinton! He kills babies with vacuum cleaners!”
I get it now, but at the time, I had no fucking-clue what that crack baby for Christ was talking about.
I nodded my head as if I was well aware of how terrible it was for a the leader of the free world to participate in the socially controversial practice of bashing a children to death with an upright Hoover. The kid told me that he learned this in Sunday School; that was easy for me to believe then, and still is today.
I didn’t want to expose my confusion, so I tried to clarify the subject by casually attempting to extract extra information. I had hoped that I would come off as person who was interested in gaining knowledge and not somebody who was trying to conceal their ignorance.
No dice. There is no way to inquire about the biblical use of vacuum cleaners or why it is necessary to discuss the theology that is connected to them during Sunday School without sounding offensive. He responded to my questions by telling me that I hate babies.
I told him earnestly, “That’s not true, I don’t hate babies. I just don’t like being around them. I think babies are boring but, I don’t hate them. I’ve never tried to drop a baby that I was holding and if I thought that I would, I probably wouldn’t pick it up.”