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Scared Medicine
By Maxine Lapiduss

As far back as I can remember I've been afraid of the dark. Once the sun sets, I'm filled with a gnawing anxiety, which turns to doom as the hours tick by and the TV airwaves fill with back-to-back infomercials. I'm 43, but I still can't sleep alone in my own house. Anything could happen. Some sicko ax murderer could break in and hack me to bits, or worse, a demon could enter my soul and who'd be there to save me?

Consequently, I've had sex and forged intimate relationships with men and women I would NEVER have looked at twice, and worse, often STAYED in those "What were you thinking?" horrific couplings WAY longer than I should have. But, hey, what I was thinking was, "You fuck inappropriate people and do what you have to do to avoid spiritual possession!"

The sad truth is I wouldn't be in this emotional boat if it weren't for The Blob.

When I was three and a half, my dad, Saul, took me to see it. What possessed my very rational dad to think that The Blob was somehow an appropriate film for an impressionable pre-schooler -- let alone a delicate flower like myself -- to see, I couldn't tell 'ya. I mean, Chitty Chitty Bang BangThe BlobWinnie The PoohThe Blob

For those of you not familiar with the plot, a short synopsis: Upon finding a meteorite in the woods in the middle of the night, an old guy (Olin Howlin for you students of the cinema,) does what any of us would do if we stumbled upon a steaming meteorite from outer space. He pokes it with a stick. It pops open, revealing a Cherry Jell-O-like ooze, which attaches itself to the octogenarian's stick, then climbs up his hand and devours it as he screams in pain.

Meanwhile Steve McQueen, who plays this Rebel-Without-a-Causey-high-school-thug-in-a-windbreaker (even though he had to have been on the wrong side of 30 at the time), is smooching his well-endowed girlfriend in a parked car. Steve and his boob-alicious girl engage in some backwards drag racing with some other juvies and get pestered by the cops to, "Cool it." The cops split, then Steve hears the old guy's cries. He sees what's left of the octogenarian's blob-damaged arm and rushes him to the town Doc. Steve then tries endlessly to warn the town folk that a monster is lurking in their midst, but they don't believe him. So it's up to Steve-a-rino, and his drag racing buds, to stop The Blob.

Meantime, that mean mo' fo' Blob is on the loose swallowing up everything in sight. It oozes under walls and through cracks and, as it rolls up the street toward the town movie theatre, I -- a three-and-a-half year-old child sitting on Saul's lap inside the Manor Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pa. -- begin to get panicky. The audience members in the onscreen movie theatre begin to shriek and flee as the Blob swallows them whole. I see this and, not being able to differentiate pretend from reality at that point, become completely hysterical, knowing that any minute that damn Blob is gonna burst through the double doors, ooze under our seats and devour me, Saul, and half the Jewish teens in Squirrel Hill. It was exactly 3:12 PM. The end of my previously trouble-free childhood.

By 3:13, I was screaming bloody murder. By 3:14 Saul could not get me to stop wailing and realized he'd made a fatal mistake. By 3:25 I was at home on the couch in hysterics and needed to be seriously sedated. My mother forced a baby aspirin down me. Baby aspirin? Ha! Barely a blip on my nervous system. When that didn't work, Esther crowed, "Mackie, drink this up, " and handed me a tumbler of scotch and milk.

Nothin. I was sure the Blob was heading up Shady Avenue at this point and would be rounding our corner any second.

The big guns were called in. Within minutes Dr. Schwartz, my pediatrician who smelled like a combination of Vicks VapoRub and Sucrets, appeared at the door. He looked like Dick Tracy. This terrified me more, and my screams reached a new decibel level as he entered my bedroom. After that, I was so hoarse and exhausted I had no voice left and could only make the Edvar Munch "The Scream" puss, followed by a sputtering cough or choke.

By the time Schwartz wrote out the prescription, I was on suicide watch. I was seeing the Blob bubble up under the carpet, coming through the closet doors, seeping through the cracks in the windowpane and levitating my twin bed. I wouldn't sit on the toilet because I knew the second I did the Blob would get my cheeks. My mother had to sit on the seat first, then while I'd go, keep watch with a flashlight pointed in the bowl. Saul was dispatched to the Pharmacy.

Perhaps my terror of being alone stems from this incident. Makes sense, right? But now that I think of it, it could also have to do with the fact that I was unwanted and my mother had meant to abort me. And if it hadn't been for her best friend, my Aunt Mae, she would have.

Esther, my shop-a-holic, passive-aggressive, overly grandiose mother, loves to recount this story at least four or five times a year and always with great relish on my day of birth! Preferably in front of 40 of my closest friends. Odd, this tradition of celebrating your loving child's birthday by reinforcing the fact that they were an unwanted and a horrible mistake that kept you from becoming a star…thereby implying that they were the root of all that was evil and all that had fucked up your entire life.
Did I mention "grandiose?"

But God bless Es -- this is how my mother operates. The mixed message, passive-aggressive thing is her specialty, woven seamlessly throughout our everyday lives. Take Yom Kipper. We were the only Yids who'd go to services on the holiest of fast days then IMMEDIATELY head to Weinstein's for lox and bagels.

"Sin-shmin!" my mother would say. "It's the one day a year we don't have to wait for a table!"

Es was 42 when she found out she was pregnant. This was back in the day -- way before it was trendy or status-y to give birth as you're heading into menopause.

The story goes that when Esther found out she was knocked up, she franticly called Mae who ran over to console her. Esther wailed, "I'm too old to have another baby."

But Mae pooh-poohed. "What kind of talk is that? You have one already -- so now you'll have two. Big deal!"

And with that, Esther swallowed her dream of leaving Pittsburgh for New York and stardom, resigned herself to her fate, and me to mine.

By the way, the line, "You already have one, so now you'll have two. Big deal!" is the same line I used 30 years later to coerce my lover into getting another dog.

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