April 1, 2009

Psyching Yourself Out

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Therapy. There are oh so many reasons why I’m heading your way.
When I was six, my father came into my new bedroom to tuck me in. I had just moved from sharing a room with my brother to my own room after my sister vacated it to take over the playroom. After he put me under the covers, he went over to the drapes and let them down. “What do you do that for?” I asked.
“Well, darling daughter number two,” he responded. “We pull down the shades so the robber outside can’t see your daddy standing here with a gun.”
“Do you have a gun?”
“Nope. Night night.” He turned off the lights and I stared at the dark ceiling in a cold sweat for the next 10 years.
Speaking of tucking in, my mother’s favorite Weiss pastime was to play a game called, “Shaken baby syndrome.” She would pull the covers real tight, then say “Shaken baby syndrome! Shaken baby syndrome!” and shake me by the shoulders as I whooped with glee. Only recently did I put together that the shaken baby syndrome the activity is named for is the one where exasperated parents / nannies shake crying infants until their brains dislodge from spinal cords or whatever.
When I was eight years old, we went on a family outing to see Toy Story. My sister told me that my toys were alive too. I proceeded to talk to them until I was 15, praying they wouldn’t smother me in my sleep.
On my eighth birthday, I was riding around the front yard on my hand-me-down Garfield bike with training wheels. It suddenly occurred to my dad, “Today is a great day for totalitarianism.” He said that I would learn to ride a real bike by sundown, or I would not be receiving my gift, the Barbie fashion designer CD-ROM I had been salivating over for months. I cried, received no present, and to this day can’t ride a bike.
I should have known by then, though, because when I was six, I realized that everyone in my class knew how to tie their shoes. I asked my Daddy to help me learn. He sat me down and said “You tie this over this, then this one you make into a loop. Then you do the secret move and it’s all tied, like so.”
“What’s the secret move?”
“I just showed you.” He would never tell me what the secret move was and I only stopped tying my shoes with bunny ears when I was 16.
Sundays in the Weiss house were also for torture. The mechanism? The McLaughlin Group. My dad would have me sit and watch This Week, Face the Nation and Meet the Press every Sunday morning, which is why I always considered Sundays the most boring and awful day of the week. But the worst part was when he’d make me sit there and watch The McLaughlin Group. Every time the short loud man who resembled my grandmother would yell, my heart would palpitate and I’d burst into tears. If you’ve never seen the show, you will live 18 years longer than my life expectancy.
My parents completely forgot my ninth birthday, and clearly I haven’t forgotten that they did.
When I was five years old and my mom fed me a Kraft singles cheese slice and my aunt told me I’d die obese of a heart attack and not be able to call 911 because my arms would get caught in my fat rolls unless I stopped eating cheese.
Thanksgiving of sophomore year of college my aunts drove me to the airport after I spent the weekend with them. Except, instead of the airport they drove me to my grandmother’s grave, literally driving on top of other headstones to get there. They waited in the car for me to have a very emotional moment with a rock that had her name on it before they would take me to my plane.
My grandfather often babysat us when we were young. He is a dedicated viewer of a few television shows, most notably Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and America’s Most Wanted. Luckily for me, Saturday nights were when my parents went on dates and asked good ol’ Harold to come over and watch me. Some people might say seven is too young to learn what “rape” means. These people probably have fewer years in therapy ahead of them than I do. At this age, I could already reenact any number of horrific murders, just like they do on AMW. My favorite was the one where the mom bought a giant insurance policy for her daughter, poured gasoline over her in her sleep, arsoned their house and made off with millions. This woman, they said, has two thumbs on her left hand — one grows out of the original thumb. Three thumbs and they couldn’t catch her. I still make sure to close the blinds every night so the three-thumbed fire-mom can’t arson me.
On this note, my sister once crept into my bedroom wielding a butcher knife from our kitchen, just for kicks, to scare the shit out of me. Mission accomplished.
So now when you look at me and think, “What a maladjusted freak!”, maybe, just maybe you’ll think twice.
And then you’ll think, “Yep, I called it. One way ticket to crazytown.”