My dad LOVES scary movies. LOVES them. Ya know how most parents try to avoid giving their kids nightmares?
Not my dad. He thought it was hysterical to freak me out. Bonus points if I physically reacted by jumping or screaming.
I remember being about 7 and watch Hitchcock's "The Birds" with him. Maybe I was 6. Suffice it to say I was way too young to be watching anything Hitchcock. I only remember a few tidbits from the movie (and an underlying fear of flocks of birds) but I recall clearly a scene where a character had been pecked to death by the birds. I turned my head away at the gore. My dad said "okay, it's over." I looked back up to find that he'd paused it on that scene. Thanks Dad.
He just loves to be scared and to scare people. He's the guy running his fingers up your spine if you're watching something about spiders, or grabbing your leg during a scene looking for a monster in a closet. I learned at a very early age to never outwardly show fear. If he knew he could get you, it only made it worse. You better internalize that shit or he'll torture you for the rest of your life.
This has come in handy a time or two in my adult life. Once, I managed to hit a yellow jacket's nest with my weed eater and got swarmed. Scared the shit out of me, but my reaction was to freeze and then back away slowly. The exterminator who came to take care of the problem was amazed that I escaped being stung. Not freaking out and running away had probably saved me.
The building in which I work is very old. It's like something out of a horror film. Lots of winding, blind hallways, low lights and unmarked doors. There are 5 floors but 2 are completely uninhabited; another nearly so. Plus it's in the heart of the ghetto. Everyone swears it's haunted. It is definitely creepy.
A few years ago I was working 2nd shift and had lingered chatting with a coworker who was on 3rds. She had to walk out to get something from her car, so I walked her out. Then I remembered something at my desk, so I ended up walking her back in. As we came around one of the blind corners, another coworker who might be my father's long-lost (other) daughter jumped out and growled at us. The girl I had been walking with screamed bloody murder. I froze. The coworker with the sick sense of humor howled in laughter. Later, she retold the story to the rest of the office, in part, "...but Trish, she didn't react at all. She must have nerves of steel!" Little does she know she took 5 years off my life that night.
I say of all this to say that I used to be tough. I was a single girl living alone for 10 years. I could watch or read anything all while laying alone in the dark at home. There were exceptions, of course. But they were few and far between. King, Koontz, John Carpenter were staples in my home.
Shortly before Robbie was born, I was on a Dean Koontz kick and had a few books already stocked up to read. When Robbie was a few weeks old, I took one of them up to the NICU to read while I pumped. I got about 7 pages into it before I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack. Okay, maybe that wasn't the time. My stress levels were already unusually high. That makes sense.
But it hasn't changed. I still haven't read that Koontz novel. I still like a good suspense novel. The latest vampire craze is right up my alley. But those are all far enough removed from reality that I can remove myself from them. Vampires never attack fat girls. But anything that theoretically could happen? I'm out.
Tonight I watched an older movie, "The Gift." The movie was actually pretty decent. I was surprised at the cast. Keanu plays a surprisingly convincing asshole. A few minutes into it I felt tense. By the climax of the movie, I was ready to throw up. Thankfully David was home and had come to lay with me by then. Otherwise I don't think I'd have been able to finish it.
I'm working a day shift tomorrow so that I can make my surgeon's appointment where I hope we can schedule removing my gallbladder. Robbie hasn't slept well all weekend. But instead of sleeping, (now at 1 a.m.) I'm up watching something lighthearted on TV so that I don't go to bed dreaming about decomposing bodies or Katie Holmes's bare breasts.*
I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing, really. Robbie's birth and subsequent life has changed me in many ways, most of them for the better. I'm more empathetic and patient. I'm a better friend. I never travel anywhere without a snack and hand wipes. My left bicep has doubled in size.
But there are some ways that I don't know how to rate; they could go either way. I can tune out the sound of shrieking in a restaurant. I don't think I've left the house without either food, snot or vomit somewhere on my person in more than 2 years. I cry over any story that involves any child anywhere, ever. And apparently I can no longer enjoy a good, bloody horror flick.
Tuning out shrieks is handy when they are coming from a table other than my own, but not appreciated by the tables around us if they're coming from ours. Sometimes I'd like to look put together, but it's also a relief to release some of my OCD tendencies. Empathy is great except when I'm trying to hold it together while driving or working. And exposure to less violence is probably desirable but it's hard to eliminate the main genre of entertainment I enjoyed before Robbie.
All I really know for sure is that I'm really glad I don't live with my dad anymore. It makes it a lot easier to hide the fact that I've gone soft.
*My apologies to anyone googling for Katie Holmes's boobs who landed here instead.