Sometimes love means watching “Paranormal Activity”

ninjas seeking candyMy younger son turns thirteen today.  Up until me made me stop saying it, I would frequently call him “The Buddha” because of the beaming smile of serenity with which he entered the world.  I had been around a good number of newborns, but had never seen such a great and wise smile.

While he loves to laugh, he also loves scary movies.  His “aunt” Tiki sent him three movies for his birthday:  Misery, The Shining, and The Exorcist.  Last year he got me to take him to see a horror film by telling me that it was about a doctor trying to cure a disease (failing to mention that the doctor was the only surviving human in a Manhattan over-crowded with zombies).  I spent most of the movie holding onto my kid, ostensibly to comfort him, but of course it was I who needed the comfort.  Ok, I admit it—scary movies scare me.  It’s not really that they scare me, so much as that they make me nervous about what I might see; they are designed to make us jump out of our skin, and I have enough trouble just being in my skin in the first place.

When I was a kid I saw a lot of scary movies, and I always felt a sense of accomplishment to survive them—like watching “Creature Features” late at night with my brother on WGN in Chicago (the spooky theme music alone was worth staying up for).  As I got older it became easier to conceal my fear of horror movies by just acting as if I was too mature for such lowbrow fare (and then I’d be first in line for Anchorman, Superbad and the like).

In my former life as a would-be filmmaker, my best friend from college tried to warn me off of the movie biz by getting me an unpaid job on his step-mom’s film:  Slumber-Party Massacre.  It was written by a feminist activist, but I could never quite understand how buxom precocious women being run through with a drill would be helpful to women, even if the driller killer got it in the end.  My “work” on the film consisted of night-shoots mopping up fake blood from the floor in readiness for the next take.  You’d think the behind the scenes look at the phoniness (i.e. actors with fake blood on them gathered around the food table) would cure me of my horror-film phobia, but when Andrew and I went to watch the film in Times Square (with a great crowd of screamers), I still ended up feeling a little frightened.

So when my kid was feeling a bit blue recently, I thought a nice father-son afternoon at the movies would be fun.  I was thinking Where The Wild Things Are, but he was not only glum, but clear on his choice:  Paranormal Activity.  I felt conflicted:  I didn’t think it would be in the least bit bad for him to see it, and I didn’t want to model being unwilling to take risks or do things that we don’t personally enjoy (provided it’s not something like robbing a bank), but I did feel scared to actually see it.

After all, I had heard that it was possibly one of the scariest movies of all time.  I heard that Steven Spielberg walked out because it was just too much for him.  Could that be true?  I mean if it was too much for Steven, how could I be expected to hold up?  Still, it seemed time to swallow hard and man up.

There will be no need for a spoiler alert here:  if you want to know what happens, you’ll have to see it yourself.  It’s not that I’m recommending it or bashing it, I just wouldn’t know what to say.  We sat there in total stillness, slightly shivering (although it might have been the air conditioning in the theater).  As far as how scary it was, the woman in front of us was crying, and when it ended no one moved or said a word for a good long time until we all stood and staggered out.

Parenting often asks us to confront our fears, leave our comfort zones and learn new things about ourselves all the time.  In the end, seeing Paranormal Activity with my kid was a bonding experience.  He felt that it was the most frightening and intense movie he’d ever seen, and I suspect that we’ll remember seeing it together long after we remember what happened in it.

So, my vote is to dedicate today to leaving our comfort zones this Halloween week, whether that means seeing a scary movie or seeing a love story, whether it means shooting baskets or dancing despite two left feet or maybe delving into math homework with your child or daring to cook with them when you think you’re no good in the kitchen.  You know your fears, so mix it up, have some fun and do it in honor of all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

p.s.  Happy Birthday Will—I love you!

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3 Responses to “Sometimes love means watching “Paranormal Activity””

  1. Mwa Says:

    Good idea – leaving the comfort zone.

    I loved “they are designed to make us jump out of our skin, and I have enough trouble just being in my skin in the first place.” I hate scary movies, and never saw it like that.

  2. Laurie Says:

    Bruce you are a braver person than I. I’ve always said I hate scary movies as I find life scary enough. Although the other night my son and I watched a movie together that turned out to be scarier than either of us thought. He wanted to turn the movie off right when it became too uncomfortable. I paused the movie and we talked about seeing it to the end and finding out the resolution. I’m glad we did. He’s still talking about how much he liked the movie. BTW Happy Birthday to your son.

  3. Katrina Says:

    First of all, Happy Birthday to Will!

    Secondly, a timely message for me. As my 2 and a half year old has recently outgrown her need for a daily nap, I very much enjoy getting out of the house with her, especially on a beautiful Midwestern fall day such as today. However, this day, by inspiration of your blog, I consciously chose to get out of my comfort zone of “rushing out to a fun toddler activity or event” and do what my daughter wanted: stay home all day, mostly indoors, and just “be”, just the two of us. It is not my nature to “sit still” for too long, but something tells me this act of “just being with my daughter” and letting her “take the lead” is a very good thing for both of us and for our relationship.

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