Shit, there’s a pandemic going on out there! But we GenXers, we’ve been preparing for this for our whole lives.
Our parents used a healthy fear of shit, well, for everything.
Then, they left us alone every day after school with just the damn key around our necks or hidden under the welcome mat on the porch, to fight off intruders or clowns or slasher movie villains or whatever other evil lurked outside.
I’m still in therapy, maybe you are too. Granted, it’s teletherapy, and my therapist isn’t optimistic.
She did tell me it would be worth making a list of my fears. So, here goes…
1. The Russians and spies and old people who might be posing as Russian spies.
2. Being kidnapped by a clown, driving a white van in broad daylight while I played with my friends at recess. Because this happened to a kid I knew.
3. Razors blades in my Halloween candy or apples, because some elderly people who believed sugar would rot teeth gave those out. Yes, they got egged. And if that didn’t kill me on the one night of the year when the dead could walk amongst the living, the noxious fumes inside that plastic Wonder Woman mask would.
4. Pregnancy, even before it was possible…because I’m Catholic. Or at least I was.
5. AIDS because I could catch it from a monkey or a toilet seat or having sex.
Then, I feared sex because you were not just having sex with the person you actually had sex with, but with every person, they ever had sex with. Confused? So was I. Still am.
6. The Red Phone, which was obviously connected by a very long cord between the U.S. and Russia. You know the phone. The one that would start World War III.
7. World War III, though the likelihood of it happening in 2020, seems more probable than it was back in the 80s. I am not scared. Are you?
8. Radiation poisoning, because I watched the Sunday Night Movie of the Week. Remember ‘The Day After’ circa 1983?
If you do, then you can’t forget Jason Robards. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I still see his one white hair blowing in the breeze of post-apocalyptic, small-town Kansas. Lord, help me.
9. Nuclear power plants. Once, in eighth grade, my class visited a nuclear power plant. I’m still not sure who approved that fun-for-all-fucking-ages field trip. Surely, my parents had to sign a permission slip. Thanks, Mom and Dad for the mushroom cloud nightmares that live on into my forties.
10. Drugs and the war on drugs and those lickable stickers laced with angel dust.
Lest I forget to mention the leading lady of 1980’s drug campaigns, Nancy Reagan. This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?
Why the fuck are you trying to scare us? That’s my motherfucking question, and after 30-plus years, I’m still waiting for an answer.
11. Afterschool specials and teen pregnancy and smoking too much weed or getting in trouble for hanging out with kids who smoked too much weed or my father living in a downtown hotel because that was actually the title of an afterschool special with one of the Bridges’ brothers. Of course, I can’t remember which one, Beau or Jeff.
I’m getting old.
12. Ouija boards because they were not meant to be used alone or in the dark or with a friend who thought it was funny to push that fucking planchette across the board.
And it wasn’t my friend, rather it was the misguided and lost spirit of some homicidal maniac who had just been released from the insane asylum down the road.
And remember, spirits can’t spell. I.C.U.
13. Cults, because if I joined one my parents would have a group of men with beards and masks kidnap me in a big black van (not to be confused with the white van from the playground with the kidnapping clowns) so that I could be deprogrammed.
And that shit hurt. My mother’s friend’s son’s uncle said it happened to his ex-wife’s niece’s brother twice removed. Seriously.
14. Missing kids and milk cartons because nothing said, “Good morning, Sunshine!” like a missing kid on the back of a milk carton while I munched on a bowl of Trix before watching Saturday morning cartoons.
15. Swimming without waiting for an hour after I ate, because of stomach cramps that would lead to death by drowning.
16. Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary?—?-do not say it a third time. Admit it, even now while you look at your aging face in the mirror as you attempt to process all your midlife regret before hitting the sack, you try to summon the nerve to say it. Just. Fucking. Don’t.
She exists, and she’s waiting for you. You’ll see her soon enough.
17. I have three letters for you, GenXer—PSA. Yes, that’s right, Public Service Announcements. You remember them, don’t you? Here’s a refresher. If you had sex, you would get pregnant and ruin your life. If you did drugs, you would die.
If your father lived in a downtown hotel, you’d have to learn to ride the bus where you would sit next to a clown who ran out of gas in his white van and attempted to kidnap kids from the bus. You would be that kid, and you’d die.
18. Playing records backward, because apparently, even Judy Garland worshipped Satan when the record reversed.
19. Aliens abducting or impregnating me. There weren’t enough Hail Mary’s to fix (or forgive) that.
20. Microwaves because I just knew standing in front of them would shoot enough electricity into my body to force the one hanger-on hair on Jason Robards head in post-apocalyptic Kansas to fall the fuck out.
So that’s the list, and it is by no means exhaustive.
I reserve the right to add to it at any time based on the suggestions of my therapist or my pandemic nightmares, which have become graphic and disturbing and more real than my waking life in quarantine.
Now, I’m going to take a Xanex and go helicopter the shit out of my own kids.
I’ll walk them to school until they’re married or until school starts again, whichever comes first.
No way are any clowns giving my kids stickers laced with angel dust if that’s even still a drug. Nothing gets past me. I’m a fearful motherfucking GenExer.