For many people out in there in the world, summer is one of the greatest times of the year. For me however it may very well be one of the worst. The reasoning behind it all is the fact that Jaws and Shark Week are played and advertised repeatedly on what feels like every channel. What’s wrong with Jaws you ask? Well nothing. In fact it’s an incredible movie—or at least I think it is from what I can tell when I’m hiding behind my hands. The sad fact of the matter is that I’m horribly afraid of sharks (for details on the extent and severity of this fear click here). So much so that I can’t even see a shark on TV without letting out the smallest of yelps and punching whomever is sitting closest to me. As much of a horror fan as I am the sad fact still remains: I have never seen the movie Jaws without hiding behind a pillow. Please spare me the comments of “the shark looks fake!” and Jaws is a great movie!”, because I know all of this. I know it’s incredibly fake looking and that Jaws may in fact be one of the greatest movies of all time. It doesn’t matter. To me the idea of watching Jaw is closely related to the idea of killing a baby-- it totally sucks!
So how did my completely insane fear of sharks begin? Unfortunately I cannot point to a specific incident (I did not return from a shark attack armless yet brawny) rather, I can point to a series of memories. One of my earliest was when I was in some kind of permit office with my Dad. On the wall was a vast collection of shark jaw bones, the largest one being bigger than I was. I can’t really determine if this was a dream or something that actually happened, but its memory continues to persist. In the next memory I was making a sandwich when I peered into the living room to see what all the screaming was about. On the screen, a girl had jumped into the water to rescue a little boy and as she climbed back in the boat the shark came and swallowed her whole. I would later come to realize that this moment was in fact from Jaws 2 which meant nothing except that NO Jaws movies were safe.
After that I remember hiding underneath a scratchy and hot wool blanket while my sister watched Jaws on TV. It was balls to the wall hot under there and yet I watched /listened to the entire thing, which says something about my curiosity. Next, I remember sitting on the library floor with Peter Benchley’s Jaws opened in front of me. I read the first chapter and cried a little on the inside. My readers should be familiar with my next memory, a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Art and a look at one of the most terrifying paintings I have ever seen. After this it was a compilation of nightmares, terrible ones where I’d relive the same dream about 5 times in one REM cycle. Always the same, with a shark popping up somewhere and trying to eat me. Yes, these memories are I think, the foundation for my irrational fear.
Lately however, I’m come to realize that this fear is a little too irrational. I even staged an intervention with myself after yelping out loud during the preview for Despicable Me. How am I ever going to be taken seriously in this life if I can’t even face a cartoon shark? Yes, it was time to take some drastic action. My mind instantly wandered to my college Psychology class in which we talked about phobias. This whole process of desensitization seemed to work out for these people so I thought, why not try it out? For those that do not know, desensitization goes something like this; a person is afraid of snakes. You start small by showing that person pictures of snakes, then videos. Soon you bring a snake in the room but keep it far away from the person. Little by little you bring the snake closer and before you know it, the person is holding the snake! Now before we go any further let’s make something very clear. I do not intend to swim with great white sharks when this is over. Please, I’d sooner die and plus we just don’t have the resources…. So my little experiment will be a minor one. Thank GOD.
I began slowly by Googling the word “shark” and unwillingly opened one eye to peer at the results. A minute later I awoke to find myself on the floor and Professor Lupin was handing me a piece of chocolate. I had failed miserably. Alright that’s an exaggeration. But when I do get a glimpse of those gaping shark mouths my heart skips a beat and I feel like someone punched me in the gut. This challenge was going to be a lot harder than I thought. After more Googles, YouTube videos and terror spilling out of my face, was I ready? Well, no, not really, but time was of the essence and August was on my heels. I had to make big moves and fast. So brace yourself because I’m about to take things to the next level pretty quickly in order to get rid of this fear once and for all, and what better place to showcase this experiment than right here? Over the course of the rest of the summer, I will be watching all 4 (!) Jaws movies, while I remain strapped to a Clockwork Orange chair,
and get needle tape stuck under my eyes,
also there will probably be a glass of vodka involved. Yes, I very well may die in the process, but I’d do anything to get rid of this fear, even…dying. So stay tuned for my experiences as I dun dun dun--- FACE THE FEAR!