A Finely Tuned Dark Side
“You know, life is so terrifying, I guess the only way to survive is to be as scary as it is.” John R. Dilworth
I would be a soprano if I lived in a constant sense of pure terror. This was a joke once, but I got to thinking about it, and I think I was right. I was right. I usually think I am right, but I really think I am right about this. As a child, I was a soprano and a scaredy cat. The cowardice ran thick and was a major
setback in the first halfdecade in my life. I avoided watching Halloweentown until I was nine. I had my eyes closed the whole time my mother and sister took me to see a matinee of The Little Vampire. In the case of the first Harry Potter film and Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, my sister convinced me to watch them by telling me how there were babies in the beginning. Over time, I’ve grown to enjoy watching frightening things, and I am terrified of the idea of having children. It’s too much responsibility, I watched Steel Magnolias the same year I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and I’ve seen the body horror of pregnancy, so childbearing frightens me as much as the Grinch’s evil grin did way back when.
I was supposed to be born on Halloween. Since I am late to everything, I was born sometime after 8 AM on November 1st, 1994. For years it seemed I had to go through hell to reach my birthday, which until I was 19 was something I looked forward to. Halloween would be a day of nightmarish visitors coming for candy. The most memorable being a neighbor boy dressed as the Grim Reaper with blood pouring down his skull mask.
I’ve always been afraid of growing older, but now I meet my birthday with as much dread as I had when the trick-or-treaters would knock on the door. I consider it irony.
My father saw humor in my fear. He once led a preschool age me into the Halloween aisle in Sears, calling for me, and then jumping out wearing a mask. I immediately took off and hid in a dressing room. I could hear my name being called from the store’s speakers, but I did not move. I can’t remember what motivated me to stay in the dressing room. I have my suspicions that I stayed as an act of revenge, to spite my father. Eventually, two female employees with big 80’s hair found me.
I was not a complete coward. I always enjoyed clowns, having two motleydressed clown dolls. One had a voice box that gave off evil laughter. I distinctly remember being five years old and watching Courage the Cowardly Dog, followed by Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Some of my favorite movies at the time were Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and James and the Giant Peach, and a few times my sister and I watched Ripley’s Believe it or Not. So while I ran from the room the minute the Goosebumps title sequence started, I was fine with the strange things that happen in the middle of nowhere. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve always liked weird shit and that the line between weird and scary is a fine line, but one that I could distinguish as kid. Kind of like how urban legends say kids are more likely to see ghosts.
As I got older, I began to seek out scary things. There was a time I had an inflatable skeleton that I treated like a stuffed animal. Exposure therapy, maybe, although, besides the bloody skull of the Grim Reaper, skulls and skeletons never really scared me.
By the time I was 13 lots of my fears of monsters had gone away, and after transitioning to horror through horror comedies, it seemed I was making up for lost time, if there was that much time to make up for.
In eighth grade, at 14, I worked with the music teacher to prepare me for the talent show. He told me I was an alto. It seemed strange, because when I joined the middle school choir in sixth grade, I was on the soprano side, but it explained why I felt uncomfortable singing soprano notes. I assumed it was stage fright. The notes would catch in my throat or screech out.
I like to think that the years of fear that defined my early childhood worked like how an immunity develops. That’s not to say I am fearless. I can still be startled, astonished, and spooked. Whenever I am, I tend to make a highpitched yelp. My first college roommate and I described it as sounding like an old British aristocrat seeing male genitalia for the first time. I call it Beatrice. A distinguished name for a distinguished scream. Beatrice is a soprano. As a current member of the choir, I sing alto 1, a postion with a balance of high notes and low notes. Another irony.