Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Facing the Fear: Part One

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!


Crafty C said...

When I was a wee lass there was a cup in the bathroom that was made of dark blue and white frosted plastic and was large enough to cover both my eyes when I drank out of it. I was afraid to drink out of that cup after seeing Jaws, also to take a bath, swim in a swimming pool (or god forbid a lake) or go wading in the ocean. I still have a hard time jumping into murky water and I can't close my eyes no matter where I'm swimming. It's just too dangerous.

By the way - I may be asking the question of a slack-jawed-yokel - but what is the movie with the needle tape under the eye?

Andre Dumas said...

Carol- I was ALWAYS afraid that when I was in the shower, a shark would come crashing through the side and eat me. Hah the good old days.

The movie with the needles is called Opera by Dario Argento. The killer tapes those needles under her eyes and forces her to watch as he kills her friends. Very willy inducing, especially for those needle haters!

Matt-suzaka said...

That's form Dario Argento's Opera, Carol!

My fear is so similar to yours, Andre, so I feel your pain. It seems like you can't do anything with out a shark ruining your day at least a few times a week. I've thought about posting the time line of how my fear started, and the turning point for it being full blown was going on the JAWS ride at Universal. Not good.

I commend you on moving forth with such a challenge. Alcohol will help, it helped me get through theatrical viewings of Deep Blue Sea (I was HAMMERED!) and Open Water. But still, I could never dispel the fear I have, especially if it involves a shark being in the same room as me.

Matt-suzaka said...

Oh yeah, thanks for putting that picture at the top of your post. Jerk.

Andre Dumas said...

Hahah I know right Matt? I had to take 4 shots of vodka just to find that picture in the first place. But after adjusting my head 20 times to fit in Stevie's it somehow lessened the blow! Embrace the fear. FACE IT.

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WENT ON THE JAWS RIDE. That is my full blown nightmare. I tried to watch youtube videos of the Jaws ride and I couldn't even do it. Nor could I ever willingly go see a movie about sharks on the big screen. Fuuuuuuck that. You already have way bigger balls than me. Way to go!

Krystal / The Zombified said...

My weird, irrational fear is moths. Hey, at least sharks can do some damage (I am, by the way, afraid of most things that live in the ocean. But I consider it mostly rational. Plus, I have the benefit of not really having to physically encounter any of 'em in their natural environment)... moths pretty much just fly around erratically looking absolutely hideous. If they CAN actually do any real damage, er... PLEASE don't tell me. Ignorance and bliss and all that. But yeah, I get the gut-punch feeling upon just looking at photos, and have been damn near reduced to crying whilst trapped in a corner (there was enough room to escape, but I'd have to step just a bit closer to the damn thing) while my husband tried to get me to touch a moth of above-average size. He didn't realize they affected me THAT badly.

Anyhow, good luck on the desensitization. I haven't the balls to attempt it myself yet.

B-Sol said...

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

*WHEW* Sorry.... I was having a DUNE moment...

Mikey Sarago said...

I feel bad for you, considering how close you live to the Jaws filming locations. Me and my friends visited Jaws Bridge last summer and they actually had the balls to go in the water, but I didn't, lol. And then only a few days later, we heard a news report that sharks were seen swimming by that bridge.

Pax Romano said...

So brave of you! Fuck fear.

Andre Dumas said...

Krystal- that IS intense. You are actually someone that psych experiments would kill for in order to pull off a sucessful desensitization experiment...because you know moths are easier to wrangle than sharks.

Wow B-sol...Wow!

Mikey I feel bad for myself too. Where is the Jaws bridge? The thing with growing up on Cape Cod was that secretly sharks were always there, they just never came close enough. Big great whites were sighted in Chatham this summer but they are really there every summer.

The last actual shark attack in Massachusetts was sometime in the early 1900s. And plus they only want seals. Of course this does little to stop my fear.

Thanks Pax! Fear sucks I can't wait to stomp on it.

Chris H said...

Can I please get an Andre in the Shark mouth poster for every room in my apartment?

How did you feel about the sharks in Finding Nemo?

Izzy said...

i LOVE that picture of you in the shark's mouth!!

also, the professor lupin shout out is genius, i am just finishing rereading azkaban for the 6983893th time. and it remains... the best twist ending ever.

Mikey Sarago said...

Yeah, sharks are probably always there, you just don't see them. And that's pretty effing scary.

The Jaws Bridge is on Martha's Vineyard. It was used in that scene where Chief Brody's son gets attacked in the pond, which was unfortunately the part that freaked me out the most!

Emily said...

Good luck with facing your fear!!

You are much braver than my boyfriend who fears all things oceanic and tells me that he will never even think about trying to get over his fear. Anytime he sees anything on the news that deals with something terrible that happened in the water, it just adds fuel to his fire. He's not just scared of sharks though, but any sea creature that might possibly lurk in the water- even something harmless like minnows!

I tried to face my fear of heights once on a school trip to the Statue of Liberty, but I failed miserably! I hope you have better luck :)

Will Errickson said...

"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."

Wow, me too! Perfectly described.

Anonymous said...

I got a film for you to find to face your fear, Mako: Jaws of Death.
btw, I have a unhealthy aversion to marrionettes.
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

d said...

Maybe you can work your way up to Open Water after the Jaws series.

Andre said...

Heh I'm actually not really afraid of Open Water. I find those sharks to be much less menacing. It's really only enormous great white sharks that get me!

Kapprika said...

I think it's pretty brave to try to watch the Jaws movies with such a strong phobia of sharks.
Personally, I'm not unusually afraid of sharks, but when I see pictures or watch videos featuring them, I definitely feel some sort of respect, a calm knowledge that one might very well die when encountering a shark.