Even though the candy will last for months, Halloween is officially behind us. I love the season for its fun and energy. My kids embrace any excuse to dress up, and I welcome any chance to hoard more Reese’s. But if I’m going to be honest, I’m glad to see it go. And it’s not just because I’m ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas (“the MOST wonderful time of the year!”); it’s also because I’m done with all things scary.
I’m a ninny. I’ll say it loud and proud and shout it from the mountain-tops. I. Don’t. Do. Scary.
Of course, there was a time when I flocked to all things spooky and creepy! My best friend and I hit every Wes Craven movie we could prematurely sneak into (and there were a LOT in the 90s!). Every Saturday we could be found at Tinseltown hitting the ticket jackpot at the arcade before choosing to get the crap scared out of us on the big screen from some new thriller promising to outdo the last. There were masks and cryptic notes about what we did last summer and hooks and knives and blood and guts. And this was before the thrilling torture-porn of the “Saw” series.
And we ran to it! We couldn’t get enough. We were there when The 13th Gate, now nationally-renowned, started humbly at LSU as “The Dungeon” and “Carnevil.” I knew a lot of the extras, and we flocked to those giant searchlights like Batman responding to the call.
But just as a child puts away childish things, I’ve put away all things scary as I’ve aged.
I don’t do scary. But at this point in my life it feels less like a choice and more like a capability. It’s not just that I don’t do scary: I can’t do scary any more. I can’t emotionally fit fictional scary into my life.
I can’t pinpoint just when the shift occurred. I can vividly remember points before and after, though. My high school boyfriend and I would try to get his mom to watch movies with us, to which she would naively ask, “Does anything bad happen in it? If so, I’m not watching.” And we would mock her relentlessly. How can you shut off so many awesome films simply because something bad happens?! That’s life! “Yes,” she would respond, “that’s why I don’t want to watch it. Life is already hard enough.” It sounded so willingly-sheltered.
In college and after I would see commercials for the next slasher film featuring grainy, black-and-white footage of audience’s reactions in the theaters, assuring that nothing could prepare me. Instead of excitedly looking up showtimes, though, I started to ask, “Who would willingly do that to himself?” I likened it to eating Ghost Pepper wings: sure, there’s a thrill, but then you’re miserable.
I think what really put the nail in the coffin (pun intended) was when I had kids, though. My previously-dry well of emotional capacity was teeming with each child, and we had four. I would cry at a hearing Katy Perry song and holding old sippy cups and watching Coco (who doesn’t?!). And one of our four had a brush with death that made me very shut off to unnecessary darkness. Life was indeed hard enough. I appreciated the value of sheltering myself.
My evolution and eventual pride in avoiding Scary came to full fruition in a recent conversation with my son. He asked me if I would go with my husband to The 13th Gate, and I asserted him that I wouldn’t. I explained that it has nothing to do with this establishment, but rather an observation that media in general will never decide where a line is that they won’t cross with scary and creepy. They leave that to the individual. In other words, movies and shows and haunted houses will never decide, “Ok, last year was super scary. Let’s dial it back.” It’s up to me to decide my own line and establish that boundary for myself. I could go on and on about desensitization but suffice it to say that their “job” is to push the envelope, to provide that next level of high. My job is to decide when enough is enough.
And I have.
Call me sheltered. Call me a ninny. I can’t fit scary into my life. Not anymore. I’m done with scary.