“I feel like such a wimp,” Mary Claire said, crawling into my king-sized bed. “I’m sorry I did it. I thought I’d be okay.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” I assured her. “This is a lesson — the first of many — about making good choices and standing up for yourself. I’m really sorry those images are stuck in your head now. It’s tough to get them out.”
She’s just like me, my girl. Scary movies do her in. And it seems there’s nothing young teenage girls love more than scary movies… except, perhaps, One Direction (which is an entirely different level of scary).
Mary Claire went to a birthday sleepover Saturday night. Well, although it was technically called a “sleepover,” there wasn’t a whole lot of sleeping that took place. There was giggling and talking and boy discussions and make-up experimentation and more giggling… and the late-night decision to watch a horror movie together.
“Most of them had already seen it,” Mary Claire explained. “They said I’d be okay. They said they’d tell me when to close my eyes.”
I get her frustration and her desire to try and conquer her fears. I spent my entire childhood — and a decent chunk of my adulthood — trying to figure out why I was ill-equipped to watch scary movies. My mom loved them, couldn’t get enough of them. So I’d watch them. And watch them. And watch more of them. And I wouldn’t sleep for months, wouldn’t go anywhere alone.
“Oh, Honey, they’re just pretend,” my fearless Mama would say. “You have to separate the fact from the fiction.”
And so, I’d watch them with her — convinced that if I just tried hard enough, I’d figure out how that separation worked.
But alas, the demonic clown from Poltergeist is still seared into my memory, and it was many, many years before I could canoe on a lake after watching Jason wreak his camping havoc. And Damien? Was there ever a creepier kid? Oh, wait… there was. I almost — almost — forgot about Malachi. But now that I’ve remembered him, it’s going to be tough to eat corn for awhile.
The last scary movie I ever saw was “Se7en.” Chris and I went to the theatre with two other couples, and the only six seats left were in the second row. So, not only did I get to watch reenactments of the Seven Deadly Sins up close and personal, but the exploding-stomach-dude and the girl-with-the-noseless-model-face were all but sitting in my lap. Even beautiful Brad Pitt couldn’t erase the memory of what was in The Box.
Chris had to walk me to the bathroom for the next six months.
“That’s it, Katrina,” he said. “No more scary movies for you.”
And finally, finally, I got it.
I was not cut out for that kind of torture.
And giving up scary movies, I’ve found, is not nearly as difficult as giving up Oreos.
“Here’s the thing,” I said to my girl last night, “People are afraid of different things. Sam and I are afraid of heights. Some people are afraid of the ocean, of dogs, of rodents, of roller coasters. You’re not afraid of any of those things. But you’re a writer and you have a big imagination, so scary movies are probably a little more intense for you.”
“Intense like a double rainbow?” she giggled. Then she thought for a minute. “Some people are afraid of the ocean?” she asked. “That’s crazy. The ocean is so much fun.”
“Yes, for you it is fun. For some people, scary movies are fun. They love the adrenaline rush. Your cousin, Amber, thinks they’re the best thing since sliced bread. But not us, Honey. We were just not made for scary movies. And that’s okay. Really, it is. It’s okay for you to tell your friends you don’t want to watch them. It’s okay for you to opt out. They’ll still love you.”
“I feel like such a baby,” she said.
“Which movie did you see?” I asked, wanting to know what was in her head so I could help her meander through it.
She told me.
I watched the trailer.
And now I’m scarred for life.
“You can sleep with me if you want to,” I said. At that point, I was willing to have the whole family sleep with me. I wanted them tucked around me at every angle… kids at my feet, husband by my side, dogs wrapped around my head in a protective cloak of warm bodies.
“I’m really afraid of George,” Mary Claire admitted as she snuggled in next to me. “In the movie, the youngest kid in the family was possessed by the bad guy and then that kid killed everyone else.”
These are details I really didn’t want to know.
“The only dangerous thing about George,” I assured her, “is that he might annoy you to death. But just to be safe, we’ll have Dad sleep on the couch. That way George will get to him first and we’ll have a chance to escape.”
“Do you want me to leave the closet light on?”
So I did.
And just for the record, I left the bathroom light on, too.