Monday, February 7, 2011


As a child growing up in the 80s, I was exposed to a huge amount of really cheesy educational programming, the purpose of which was to encourage children to "use their imaginations". As the children of ex hippies and potheads, the children of the 80s were encouraged to express ourselves and think outside the box. Fine. But the problem was, the makers of the educational programming obviously had NO imaginations WHATSOEVER. These programs were so boring it made my head hurt. They always (I do mean always) featured excessively precious drawings of rocket ships, friendly looking monsters and children staring up at the stars, wide-eyed, dreaming of space travel. As a result, I believed that "kids with imaginations" were simply kids who were obsessed with rockets and outer space. Those things didn't appeal to me at all; and if you had asked me "Do you have a good imagination?" I would have responded, almost angrily "No. I really don't".

The truth was, I had an insanely overactive imagination. But it wasn't the kind of wholesome, teacher-approved imagination which the educational materials attempted to cultivate. My imagination was probably the worst thing about my childhood, and at the time the very best thing for me would have been for someone to stamp it out immediately. Of course, as an adult I've learned to manage and control it a lot better, thanks to increased awareness and high doses of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder medication. Now, I've learned to make it work for me; for instance I can focus it on happy things like re-writing sad movie endings and making elaborate revenge plots. But as a child it was oppressive and horrible.

For instance.

When I was 8, I began reading VC Andrews novels. For those of you unacquainted with VC Andrews books, each book is essentially 400 pages of teenaged girls being raped by every family member they have. Graphically, graphically raped. Why my mom let me read those books still puzzles me, but suffice it to say, they made an impression on me. As did a show I watched every weekend at my Grandma's called "Unsolved Mysteries". "Unsolved Mysteries often featured mundane things such as black widows and serial bank robbers, but it often had specials about ghosts. Well when I stayed at my Grandma's house, I slept in my dead uncle's room. It was a perfectly nice room, but in my little 8 year old mind, there were obviously ghosts living in it at night. Where? The closet. But then why would a ghost be hiding in the closet? Well, to rape me obviously. And so I developed a number of "protections" against ghost rape. Mostly I would repeat a little chant-prayer over and over again, asking God to please not let the ghosts rape me. And I slept with my legs tightly zipped together, the blankets tight, tight around me, so only my head poked out the top. I sat awake many a night, just knowing that the ghosts were going to come violate me while I slept, and I would, of course, wake up pregnant, at which point my parents would kick me out of the house for being a whore. Because no one would believe it was ghosts. Obviously.

But my pregnancy fears didn't end there. Being raised Catholic, of course I learned the story of the Virgin Birth. And while I absorbed the fact that the Immaculate Conception was a mark of God's FAVOR, I took that story in a whole different direction. Because if God could knock up a virgin once, he could do it again. Could God knock me up? But why? To punish me of course. Please understand that I was most definitely a virgin. I was 9, and I had never been molested. But whenever I did something "wrong" I felt certain that to punish me, God would give me a shameful, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and my life would be ruined. It was a short leap from worrying that I COULD be pregnant to worrying that I WAS pregnant. I remember one particular day when I realized that "OH NO! I'VE NEVER GOT MY PERIOD!" and then "MY STOMACH IS STICKNG OUT". I was postive, so very positive that I was a pregnant nine year old. So panicked was I that I made myself throw up, only convincing myself further that I was, in fact, pregnant. I had this same panicked thought intermittently for FOUR YEARS.

Oh but it doesn't end. I don't know how other kids played with Barbies, but the way I did it was messed up. Barbie was constantly getting beat up by Ken. Barbie got arrested for drunk driving all the time too. Sometimes Barbie would become crippled in a car accident and Ken would keep her locked up in a room, and she couldn't get out because she was crippled. Also Barbie often had babies who died.

There was a lot of death in my head as a child. Whenever a parent was late coming to pick me up, it was because they were dead. When they went out at night, I assumed they would, of course, die, and I would frequently call the bar where they were to make sure they were alive. If they weren't there I would go into full blown panic mode, shaking and nauseated, completely unable to sleep or focus on anything but my imminent orphan-dom. When I left the house, I assumed that when I came back to it, it would be burned to the ground, everyone inside dead. In addition, I was obsessively worried about CAUSING the death of others. If I dropped ice on the ground, someone would surely come and slip on it and snap her neck and die. I had heard of a girl who died because she used a knife that had traces of peanut butter on it. I becaame really paranoid about peanut butter and for several years insisted that "I don't like peanut butter".

Sometimes I thought there were secret passageways in houses. I would spend an inordinate amount of time searching for these secret passageways, pulling books out of shelves and putting them back, pulling an anything that might be a lever, and pushing anything that looked like a button, then stepping back quickly, waiting for the passageway to open, revealing skeletons of people who got trapped in there and starved to death. Possibly treasure as well, but mostly I was really worried about anything living that might be trapped in there, or anything sinister that was hiding in there waiting to rape me.

These are just a few examples of my childhood imagination in action. It makes me wonder though, what the creators of the imagination-encouraging-programs would have thought of me. They probably would have sent me to therapy and given me some very heavy anti-psychotic meds. Though perhaps if the ghost raping took place in spaceship, they would have been more comfortable with it.

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