Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hand Me Downs

My parents beat me as a child.

Not really.

Well, actually, now that you mention it, they did beat me, but only when I really deserved it. Besides, they were equal opportunity beaters - wooden spoons, bare hands, Dad's belts, that extra piece of baseboard found lying around - everything was fair game. After all, discrimination was not tolerated in our household. Discrimination is wrong. Beating children is just fun.

I'm not hung up on it. However, it's come to my attention recently that my parents did successfully cultivate within me some rather serious neuroses, which are, only now that I am a big girl and running a house of my own that has other people in it, coming to the fore.

The first one is fairly harmless: I store all my pots in the cabinet with the lids on upside down. Why is this? I have no idea.

My mom does it. But she does it because her pots have to fit in a taller, narrower cabinet and so they need to stack. Apparently balancing them on top of each others' little doorknobby handles didn't seem like a good idea. So, she turns the lids upside down creating flat-ish surface upon which to stack another pot. Smart, no?

Well not so fast. My pot cabinet is roomy. There is no stacking involved, but it doesn't matter. If I put the dishes away all the lids are carefully placed atop their big-bellied spouses, upside down. If HC or P happen to put the dishes away and neglects this little touch, I will stop everything in the kitchen to right the wrong. It's a sickness.

The other tic that I can't seem to shake is my fear of television.

It's not so much an actual fear of television itself, but a fear of being caught watching television. You've heard of guilty pleasures? Well, I like tv okay, but the emphasis is really on the guilt with this one.

Growing up, television was strictly off-limits. I was allowed to watch a few videos that my parents purchased (restricted mostly to edu-tainment or classic Disney) but only with express permission. If I were really, REALLY good, there was a very, very minuscule possibility that I might possibly be allowed to watch "Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego," but I only remember that happening like maybe 5 times. Ever. Other than the occasional Masterpiece Theater that I was able to sneak into while my parents were indulging, turning on the boob tube was a great way to get some quick and concentrated parental attention (see above).

My parents' ultimate position was that tv was a waste of time. If I was really finished with all my homework and chores (which, let's face it, was never even remotely the case) then I could go read a book. Or play outside. Or pick my toes for all they care - but watching tv would just turn my brain to mush.

That is not to say that I didn't watch tv growing up. Ohhh no. I snuck all kinds of tv. Being homeschooled with my Mom working part-time, I had plenty of time alone. Well, I wasn't technically alone since my siblings were home with me, but I have to admit I was the most hardened television criminal in the family. While my brother and sister would wander in and out of the room depending on whether there was actually anything interesting on, I watched everything. Trashy talk shows. Reruns of Coach and Full House. Local news. Every Monday night when my parents were off at ballroom dance class, my glazed over eyes were fixated on Ally McBeal and Seventh Heaven. I was so bad, I would sneak over to my neighbor's house where I was supposed to be practicing piano (before my parents bought one) and watch daytime movies. They had cable! How could I possibly resist?!

Ultimately, I suppose the thrill wore off. By the time high school rolled around I had pretty much shaken the habit and by college I was at the other extreme. I looked down on my fellow dormers who wasted precious Chipotle money on television sets and monthly cable bills. I got to the point that even the sound of a television turning on (you know, that really high-pitched whine?) could make my skin crawl. I once kept a television in my apartment for a couple months for a friend who was moving and I never once turned it on.

Now, I've chilled out a little bit. My pre-established household came fully equipped with several televisions, one of them enormous, and with full-on cable bill to boot.

But even now I find it hard to enjoy.

Here I am, as pregnant as a seahorse and unable to reach my knees; I can't do laundry. I'm a grown woman; I don't have any homework. My parents are half a continent away; I get to make the rules, dangit!

And yet I still get a panicky feeling in my chest when I hear footsteps coming toward me as I recline on the couch, remote control in hand. Without thinking I mute the volume, or sometimes I turn off the whole television, thinking for a moment that whoever is approaching won't catch on. Even when I'm completely home alone with the television on, a little voice comes into my head and says truly horrible things like, "is this really what you do with your time? are you really this lazy? I mean free time is one thing...but television? how could you sink so low?"

It is these times that I have to take a deep breath and just remind myself -- if I get at least three things marked off my chore list before Mom gets home from work, she'll never know!


  1. I was one of those children who rotted their brains on at least six hours of television a day, now I rarely watch it. But "pregnant as a seahorse" seems an odd phase as I recall female seahorses give their eggs to the males who then get pregnant and give birth.

  2. Yeah, I considered "as pregnant as a Daddy seahorse," but since it was really just the seahorse shape I was alluding to, I figured it didn't matter.