I can handle Boogeymen. Pitched black darkness? Yeah, it doesn’t send a shiver down my spine. And spiders don’t scare me in the least. My childhood was never plagued with the ordinary fears that come with wiggly teeth and staying up past nine and times tables. I was never frightened of phantoms or wailing ghosts or being kidnapped at the grocery store. In fact, murderers, tornadoes or even that creep under the bed didn’t faze me.
I’m afraid of wedding dresses. And it’s not because I have some weird disease that prohibits me from wearing an insane amount of lace, or a fear of the spectrum of colors surrounding the chalky hues brides choose to wear on their big day. Believe it or not, I’m not petrified of getting hitched (for God’s sake, I’m only seventeen!) and I’m certainly not frightened of stumbling on my train while strutting down the altar towards the Elvis impersonator (or priest, if my plans for a Las Vegas wedding go awry). I’m afraid of these hellish garments because of one very scary, very dead German guy.
All throughout my childhood, my father has been addicted to the most pointless and puerile pieces of trash that Hollywood could possibly churn out. He had a loveaffair with American Graffiti, a thing for Dirty Dancing. For a while, he got hooked on a line of horror flicks that involved a lawnmower and a couple of rabbits. And one day, not long after I turned two years old, he brought home a video that would change my outlook on marital affairs forever. The movie was Beetlejuice.
I don’t need to say his name three times to get my point across. The film was bad news- Michael Keaton peppered his vocabulary with scuzzy analogies and atrocious one liners that referred to the number of puspacked deposits he had scattered throughout his body or subtle hints that reminded the audience just what he thought of the female sex. And then there’s always the classic, “It’s show time!”
I wore that tape out. I watched with glossy eyes as Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis pranced around the screen as the undead version of Adam and Eve. Enamored, I listened to Beetlejuice and became deeply affiliated with the saying “It’s a wonderful afterlife.” Against my good will, I had a torrid love affair with Michael Keaton, black encrusted eyes and all.
When I didn’t get my way, I’d scream his name at the top of my lungs- three times the charm, of course- or more if I felt I needed to press the issue. I was Regan MacNeil after Father Karras picked up his suitcase and left the building. I was a banshee on crack.
But there was one scene that really got to me. It was towards the end, when Geena Davis steps into her old wedding dress and becomes, well, her undead self. Her skin begins to bubble and turns a putrid shade of green and I vaguely remember her hand falling off and breaking into a million pieces. Wedding dresses were surely a sign of death and destruction.
Because my parents are sick, twisted individuals, they saw this as an opportunity to scare the daylights out of their only child. My mother would be in her closet picking out something to wear (which is ironic in itself because everything she owns was identical and presumably purchased at The Mom Shop) and I’d wander in, wanting a cookie, some juice or a baby brother.
After dishing out some halfbaked answer about ruining my dinner or how much I hated boys, I’d always turn to leave; ready to move onto a greater adventure, like digging under the couch cushions for rusty pennies or stale Cheetos. She would then call my name in that signature singsong Mom voice, you know the one where they want you to go take out the garbage or finish your asparagus. I’ll admit, being the simple-minded toddler I was, I’d always turn around. But the crinkling of cellophane struck terror in my heart and made my eyes sting with saltwater when I realized what trick she was getting ready to pull. She was thrusting her wedding dress out at me, holding it in plain view! Didn’t she know dresses like that could make your hands fall off and eyes go crossed and skin turn flaky like that one man’s scalp in the Head and Shoulders commercials? Why in God’s name was she even keeping that thing? What a horrible wench of a mother! If I would’ve known the meaning of disown, I would have enacted the procedure then and there.
My Beetlejuice days didn’t last too much longer after that. While my parents were out of town one weekend not long after my third birthday, I threw a temper tantrum that could have rocked the Kasbah. It was Beetlejuice-induced and my grandmother simply would not stand for it. She yanked my beloved video from her television and, being the schemer that she is, promptly hid it. I never saw my favorite grim reaper again.
So in ten years or so when my prince comes to whisk me away, you can bet a million dollars I won’t be in a wedding dress- literally.