I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, wishing I could go back to the days of my childhood when there were much fewer things to fear.
I used to fear mad dogs, creepy old men who might offer me candy, and sea nettles. I avoided mad dogs and creepy old men, but I had frequent encounters with sea nettles. I also feared Satan, especially since he could read my mind and I knew that he could tell what I was thinking just by the way my eyes blinked.
Then we had our boogiemen and we feared our own stupidity. But now there are so many more dangerous things out there:
- Plastic. In the 1950s plastic was the hot new thing. Now plastic wrap in contact with food can give you cancer, plastic water bottles are deadly, plastic residue in our oceans and rivers is killing sea life. I used to covet Mary Jane Zielinski’s multicolored plastic pop bead necklace. Poor Mary Jane—she’s probably dead from wearing the pop beads.
- Cellphones. Back then there weren’t cellphones. We had one clunky black dial phone and we were happy when we got rid of party lines. Now cellphones give you brain cancer and dementia and you can walk into the path of a bus because you’re preoccupied with talking on the phone. Or you can burst into flames if you use a cellphone while pumping gas.
- Priests and nuns. Lord, have mercy. They might have been scary back then because they could whack your hand with a ruler with nary a warning, but at least I wasn’t afraid they would want to get into my undies. Such sadness to know that some of the kids didn’t escape that horror.
- Paint. Babies snacking on the lead paint peeling off of walls, fumes from painting your interior walls, getting addicted to huffing spray paint, trauma from horrible outdated colors. Okay, I’m stretching it to say that outdated paint colors can be traumatic, but it’s entirely possible that I spent 10 years in psychotherapy and the root cause of my emotional malaise was the chartreuse color of the living room in my childhood home. The wall-to-wall carpet in the room was a rose colored and sculptured. It was a hideous combination and I’m sure it kept me from getting admitted to a better college.
- Power lines. You can’t live within 20 miles of power lines because they emit silent rays that specifically attack genes related to learning calculus and they make sperm cells that create babies that look like Teenage Mutant Turtles. That means that we should all be living in the middle of Montana, off the grid. I don’t think we can all fit there. Back in the day, the power lines were considered a playground. My brother Mark was up there all the time. I’m still not sure how much damage he did. He did once come home from the power lines with his eyebrows singed off but I think it was because he dropped a cherry bomb in a natural gas well
- Radon. It’s colorless and odorless and it seeps out of the earth if you’re living in the wrong place and exposure will turn your lungs into solidified globs of clay. That doesn’t seem useful.
- Toilet seats. Now I’ve had a long-standing respect/fear of toilet seats, justifiably so. About two weeks ago I had to use the restroom in a grubby store. There was no worry about the seat being clean—there simply was no seat at all. Just a bare toilet. I would have taken the risk of inhaling the fumes from a couple of cans of aerosol high-intensity bathroom cleaner just to sanitize the place. I’m imagining the exotic variety of bacteria available. I’m expecting a worm the size of a snake to soon crawl out of my right ear, just because I was in that bathroom.
- Red dye #2. We dyed Easter eggs with it. It also made a lovely semi-permanent lipstick, although it wasn’t always applied too gracefully. And all red M&Ms had to be pulled from stores. I just imagined someone going through each bag, pulling out the red ones and eating them.
- Animals. We can now get swine flu, and bird flu, and mad cow disease. Pregnant women are warned not to change a cat’s litter box. Don’t let your animals go outside because they can transmit pin worms and hookworms, and ticks and fleas, and eventually Lyme Disease.
Sad, isn’t it? The world gets more complicated, seemingly more sophisticated, but more dangerous on a whole new level.