Flying, heights, spiders? I’m pretty complacent when it comes to all of these things. Public speaking, although I’m not at all good at it, doesn’t top my fright list. Of course I fear death, illness, loss of loved ones, and all of these sensibly alarming things that no one wants to endure anytime soon. But as far as baseless phobias are concerned, I have but one. Statues. Specifically, unrealistically large statues of humanoid beings. (Okay, I don’t like fish aquariums either, but that’s a story for another day).
I can trace this back to Christmas, 1984. I was in 5th grade. I received a super-sweet-ass National Geographic book from faux-Santa (yes, I was always a nerd and no, I can’t ever remember believing in Mr. Kringle). I took said book to bed with me and the first page was an up-close and personal shot of the Statue of Liberty’s face. Just staring at me with no pupil, no iris. Judging me with that wisp of curly bangs. Kinda like the shot below. Side note: the innocent Google image search to find this pic may spur several days’ worth of PTSD.
Gotta hand it to me (my current and my 10-year-old self) … creepy, right? Well, I’d had it then and there. Lady Liberty and I would no longer be friends. (And no, I’ve never seen Ghostbusters 2, so it isn’t a factor).
The phobia snowballed from there … the friendly guys of Mount Rushmore? Sorry, founding fathers, I prefer your less-granite-y forms. Crazy Horse, Lincoln Memorial, The Sphinx? No, in triplicate. And no, I do not hate Indigenous Americans, emancipation, or the Bangles. (Or freedom, as some others have asked when hearing about my SoL aversion – it was a gift from the French, people. It’s copper.)
ACK! (Photo Courtesy of sanddollies.com)
This fear, no matter how irrational, hasn’t gotten better as I’ve gotten older, by the way. Around 10-11 years ago, I attempted my own form of immersion therapy by watching that fateful climactic scene in the original Planet of the Apes. (Having giggled through The Simpsons’ musical rendering of the big reveal, I thought I was decently prepared). I was wrong (it was Earth all along).
In that moment as Charlton Heston made his own gruesome discovery, I realized my heart was racing. I was tearing up. I was damn close to asking my friend for a paper bag in which to breathe. I could NOT see it – see her – my arch nemesis – emerging from the sand. Fail. (Anticlimax: I saw the SoL in person, in 2002, from a safe distance, and things were totally copacetic. In fact, I think I could’ve taken her, had she sprung to life).
They finally made a monkey out of me (also, RIP Phil Hartman)
Today, cruising up Michigan Avenue in a taxicab on the way to the doctor (another common phobia to which I do not subscribe), I came face-to-face (err, face-to-lower ankle) with a new larger-than-life terrifying lady. The iconic vision of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch, skirt powerless against the magnetism of the steam grate … but blown up to be 26 feet. I appreciate the random pockets of unexpected art throughout my fine city, but what does this say, really? Conservative critics think the statue is sexist or inappropriate (you can see her three-feet-large underpants!). I just think it is vaguely unsettling. And I’m pretty sure she may rise to eat us all.
“Happy birthday … to that guy-in-the-red-shirt-standing-right-below-me…”
Am I alone in thinking large vacant faces mask an inner terror? Do any of you have irrational phobias you’d like to discuss?