Several years ago, I had a minor health issue while my doctor was on vacation, so I went to see the MD who was covering for him.
Months later, I went back to my regular GP, and I happened to see the note that the fill-in doctor wrote on my file:
“Patient is an anxious, middle-aged woman.”
I am middle-aged (but I don’t look it).
No way, Jose.
Maybe I USED to be.
It’s actually rather amazing that I am as relaxed as I am, considering the stuff I worried about as a kid.
Thanks to Mom and Grandma, mostly, I had all kinds of phobias.
I knew that if I stuck my toe in the lake twenty-nine minutes after I ate, I would surely get a cramp and die.
I knew that if I played with a stick I would poke my eye out.
If I took a bath in a thunderstorm, I would be electrocuted.
If I sat on the ground in winter, I would get a cold in my kidneys.
If I crossed my eyes, they would freeze that way.
If I rode a boy’s bike, I would never have a baby. (That one actually came true. But I don’t think they were necessarily correlated.)
And thanks to my sisters and the other older kids in the neighborhood:
If I stepped on a nail, I would get lockjaw, and the doctors would have to knock my teeth out to feed me.
If I got bit by a darning needle dragonfly, it would sew my mouth shut.
If I ate a watermelon seed, it would grow in my stomach until my body exploded.
Ghosts are everywhere.
Thanks to the nuns at my elementary school:
If I forgot my hat on confession day, I would burn in purgatory.
If I forgot my homework, I would burn in purgatory.
If I skipped Mass on Sunday, I would burn in hell.
And it would all happen really soon, because any day now the communists were coming to kill all the Catholics.
And thanks to the movies, I knew:
That birds could pluck your eyes out.
Most dogs were rabid.
King Kong could reach through your bedroom window and grab you.
Any mud puddle might be quicksand.
If I climbed a tree, I would fall out and be paralyzed.
My parents were likely to die at any moment, and I would be sent to live with someone really mean.
Ghosts and vampires and monsters were everywhere.
It is a miracle I can even leave the house.
And now I have recently learned that one oft-repeated warning is a REAL and IMMEDIATE danger:
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T EVER SWALLOW YOUR GUM!!!!!