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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Which Popular Culture Makes Me Neurotic

I drafted this post eons ago. Well, *months* ago. And then I forgot about it. I was reminded of it as I walked down the stairs this morning without a death-grip on the handrail, and dusted it off. It's still relevant, I think. ;) Here's a little peek into the inner workings of my overthinking...a few of the ways in which media has shaped me into the mildly crazy person I am today. Such as...

I don't think I've watched this movie in its entirety since I was about 9 years old. I know everyone's (or at least us womenfolk) expected to luuuuuuurve it, but it's just never really grabbed me the way it's apparently supposed to have. At any rate, one image has stuck with me throughout my life, and as a result...every time I am pregnant, I become hypervigilant about using the handrail on staircases. Yes, I have this breath-quickening phobia of falling down the stairs and losing the baby. All because of Scarlett Freaking O'Hara.

I've done a lot of pondering on parental guilt and it's a complicated beast...born of our own pasts (both personal and cultural) and fears and more. Every time my kids want me to play with them and I refuse because I have grown-up obligations to take care of and sometimes it really is more important for me to spend my time preparing a meal than pushing around Thomas characters...well, I feel guilty. Whether I cave and play, or stand firm and do grown-up chores, this little voice in the back of my mind whispers things like, "They'll only be this young for a short time" and "what will you regret more in the future: time lost with them, or a dirty house?".

Maybe mothers have always fought this battle, but it seems that modern mothers are far more likely to cave to the playmate role more frequently than our predecessors in previous generations. I think a big part of this is the song that was drilled into my psyche in my formative years (and then reinforced with a cover version right around my advent into adulthood, just in case the message hadn't gotten through). Thanks, Harry Chapin. And Ugly Kid Joe. My battle for emotional balance is SO much harder because of this song.

This little gem screwed me up twice. It's a touching story of the power of love and loyalty. It's also creepy as hell. Seriously, re-read it as an adult...its harsh "way of the world" sensibilities are a bit horrifying. Devote your entire self to another and get rewarded with casual derision and a firey death!

Ahem. Anyway. The story of the sensitive little toy did two things to me. First, as a child, I was neurotically conscious of my stuffed toys and their presumed feelings. Although I secretly felt drawn to favorites, I carefully cycled which toy I slept with every night, lest the others feel jealous or unloved. The fact that I remember this speaks to just how long this process continued.

Now I am all growed up, I suspect that part of my difficulty in purging clutter comes from the lessons taught in this book. No, I don't think that the ratty old teddy bear has feelings. But when I look at items that have outlived their usefulness in our lives, I often have trouble parting with them because of the memory of a time when they were useful, and loved. I get nostalgic for the memory and cannot easily draw a distinction between the memory and the thing. As a result, I have a great number of things in our living and storage areas that really should have been jettisoned long ago.

So there you have it. Apparently I take in just a little bit more than I need to from entertainment.

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