The Problem with Extra-Terrestrials (and Other Childhood Traumas)

by Faith Amenn

It’s freaky, we know.

Along with Justin Bieber, Elizabeth Taylor, and Czar Alexander III, I’m a Pisces. According to Google, that makes me an ethereal, creative pushover known for sending out “good vibes,” which anyone who knows me would find laughable. I calculate the risk of iceberg interference every time I board a boat, so I don’t identify as an optimist. Consequently, I’m somewhat skeptical of whatever Astrology.com has to offer. I may have emerged from the darkness of the womb between February 19 and March 20, but I can absolutely hold a grudge. Case in point: I’ve resented Steven Spielberg, director of E.T. and my subsequent late-nineties nightmares, since the Clinton administration.

That sentiment could apply to most of my childhood fears, sadly enough. To some extent, they’re all irrational: I can handle heights, roller-coasters, and Linda Blair’s rotating head, yet I’ve avoided eye contact with Furbies for years.

But I’m now eighteen, and by some tragic mistake, the United States government considers me an adult — so I think the time for progress has come.

He is creepy, but an ugly-adorable-creepy.

Flying Bikes Are Dangerous
No, I haven’t seen E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in its entirety. Yes, I had a childhood. Ideally, people would find these answers satisfactory, but for whatever reason, no one seems to get it. Relatives and friends continually berate me for my hatred of the diabolical creature; then, they follow the rebuke with some feeble argument in favor of my suffering. (“You liked Drew Barrymore in Grey Gardens! You’ll love this movie!” That’s not how it works, buddy. No one says, “You liked The Great Gatsby! You’ll love this pamphlet on optometry!”) I’ve heard reports that my heart is either nonexistent or made of stone, but until I hear it from a cardiologist, I’ll remain doubtful. I wish I could offer them an acceptable explanation, but I haven’t thought of anything beyond “HE’S JUST SO CREEPY. LOOK AT HIS DUMB, GLOWING FINGER.” I’ve never been able to rationalize my thoughts on the matter. When I was younger, I hated post-shower fingertips because they reminded me of weird alien phalanges. Around that time, I also toyed with the hypothetical possibility that my encounters with the Reese’s Pieces-lovin’ E.T. caused my peanut butter allergy. From my brief viewing experience in 1998, I can’t recall much other than my strident demands for Blue’s Clues — but I’m perfectly content in my unenlightened state. My mother often asks if I plan on watching the rest of the film at some point, and my response is consistently a resounding no. Now and then, my family and I will come across E.T. as we’re scrolling through channels;* and as I bolt from the living room couch, they have a nice laugh at my expense. I’d like to say that I’ll get over it eventually, but I know myself too well to even bother.

*I’m pretty sure that my parents are in cahoots with HBO.

Molly wouldn’t hurt you…
(or would she?)

Suppress the Doll Rebellion
Reader, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue; but if you’re ever considering it, please fear for your life — and if you’re going with a fan of the brand, fear for your wallet as well. (Did you know that a mere $44 can get your American Girl a new head?) In the mid-2000s, I was one of those shameless devotees. In fact, my dolls — Felicity from the American Revolution, Kit from the Great Depression, and Molly from World War II — had better wardrobes than I did. Around age thirteen, though, I decided that I had outgrown that phase of my life. Since I fall into sentimentality at the oddest times, I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the mountains of merchandise. Instead, I chucked my vinyl friends into the closet, making room for a needlessly high pile of throw pillows on my bed. A few weeks later, Child’s Play aired on AMC. Immediately, I regretted the Great Doll Exile of 2008: my gifts of Christmases past had the capacity for murder, and I had just given them a pretty decent motive. Okay, okay: as I’m mostly sane, I wasn’t sincerely worried, but dolls bewildered me nonetheless. I’ve never understood the need for their unnecessary human traits. Maybe I’ve become jaded with age, but I wouldn’t want to roll over in the middle of the night and hear a fake baby call me Mommy. (I am not your mother, and you are not a real human being. Stop telling me to change your diaper.) And while we’re at it, why do dolls have to blink? Do they need to shield their eyes from irritants? Do they have corneas to cleanse and moisten? No. Strip them of this power immediately.

It must be a guy thing.

The One Where Mike Judge Ruined My Life
In 2011, the MTV animated series Beavis and Butthead was briefly revived, for reasons I still can’t comprehend. I first read about its return to the small screen in Entertainment Weekly, and when I caught sight of the article’s accompanying picture, I screamed internally. And not out of excitement. When I was three or four, Beavis and Butthead truly horrified me — and if I’m being honest, not much has changed. Even imagining their faces makes me cringe a little; whenever I watch my DVD boxset of Daria, its spinoff series, I have to fast-forward through the preview for it. If I don’t, the laughter of the eponymous, spiky-haired idiots rings faintly in my ears for the rest of the night. In 1998 — clearly a terrible year for me, pop-culturally speaking — I once dreamt that sudden horror struck as I played with my Puzzle Place house. (That toy, by the way, was fitting for a nightmare, as it had been historically problematic for me: it helped to land me in my Very First Time-Out, when I refused to put it away before watching The Secret Life of Alex Mack.) My figurines underwent a tragic transformation into Beavis and Butthead; they began to grow in size, underscoring my dread with their husky chuckles. And that’s when I whipped out the knives. (I don’t know why my three-year-old dream-self had knives on her person, but man, I’m glad she did.)

Conclusion
Yeah, I’m a weird person. Blame Steven Spielberg.

Faith Amenn is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Roosterbank, Huffington Post, College Candy, and Reddit.

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