Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is Why You're Anxious

Yes, it's four a.m. The boys woke me.

I was talking to my husband a few, well, hours ago. We were discussing what it was like to grow up and go to school in the late eighties and early nineties.

I began compiling a list of all of the things that I was reasonably sure would kill me.

I was so sure that the world would end, I thought it was just a matter of what got me first. In retrospect, this contributed a great deal to my skepticism of global warming. I'm still sure that the world is going to end. I'm much less sure that we'll know about it in advance. And if we do, my money's on Iran and not carbon emissions.

Anyway, I present to you the following list: THINGS I WAS TOLD TO BE SCARED OF IN PRIMARY SCHOOL

- Nuclear annihilation. At any moment we would be annihilated as a side event to the war between Russia and the United States. I owned a picture book called DISARMAMENT with the requisite cover photograph of a mushroom cloud.

- Environmental disaster. Because we were bad and littered, acid rain was going to rot the skin off of our bones, and whales were going extinct, nay, were probably extinct already. Literally no science-themed activity was free from the closing refrain that the coral reefs may be nice now, but we sinful, reckless human beings were destroying them.

- Fire. Every year, we all took turns going in the fire safety trailer. You lay on the bunkbed in a mock up of a children's room, and when the alarm went off, you practiced rolling out of bed and crawling on the floor to safety. You touched the doorknob to see if it was hot before proceeding out of that door. Since my bedroom was on an upper floor, I spent a lot of time worrying about this.

- Quebec leaving. As a child, I somehow got the idea that Quebec was an island, and if she voted to leave the union, we'd cut the moorings and set her adrift towards France. Quebec has never seemed all that important to me, but I gathered that this was something to worry about because the adults I knew talked about it a great deal. The reason that Quebec was going to leave was because schoolchildren in British Columbia were insufficiently diligent in learning French.

- Divorce. At school I was given a paperback called Dinosaurs Divorce, full of cartoon dinosaurs abandoning their children, living in post-divorce poverty, and so on. I was terrified that my parents would divorce. I probably beat the odds in that they did not. As a six-year-old, I would have preferred that our house be set on fire by acid rain caused by the atom bomb to my parents divorcing.

- People who touched me in my bathing suit area. This one was always a little vague, but I learned that there are people who wanted to touch you in your bathing suit area and one wasn't to let them. We sang a little song about it: "My body's no-body's body but mine! You have your own body; let me have mine!"

- Saddam Hussain. He invaded Kuwait. British Columbia could be next.

- Litter. Amazingly for someone living in Canada, I had been convinced that we were running out of space to put trash. It was crucial that I recycled and used reusable sandwich containers. Failure to do so would speed our burial in piles of trash.

- AIDS. Again, I was vague on the details of this one, but it had something to do with being an adult and sudden death.

- Earthquake. We had earthquake drills by hiding under our desks in preparation for "the big one." We did this a lot.

Actually, now that I've compiled the list, it's surprising I only have as much anxiety as I have. It's also amazing I had time to learn about anything other than certain destruction.


  1. This list made me laugh because as an (American) child of that era, I can relate to every one of these, other than the separation of Quebec. Ironically, seeing as I grew up in southeastern Michigan, if Quebec had cut its moorings and drifted away, we probably would have felt more of the geographical impact than BC.

  2. Hahaha. Very funny, that divorcing dinosaurs book sounds slightly evil. My current list of fears (as a teenager):

    -I can't cut my toenails properly, and this will somehow cause me to die/have a leg amputated (if it gets like infected...from being to long?)

    -The world will become a post-apocalyptic wasteland and I will starve to death because I'm not assertive enough to get food

    -That I will lock myself out of the house while it's raining and maybe catch pneumonia, but my keys were my bag the whole time, so everyone thinks I'm stupid and I can't explain that I'm not

  3. My husband is a child of the 50's and as such he was among the children who would have bomb drills where they would sit under their desks with their hands over their heads.

  4. ACID RAIN! I remember freaking out about acid rain. Oh, and the hole in the ozone was going to make us all catch on fire. I'm shocked my entire elementary school didn't end up in therapy.

  5. I grew up in Northern California, right along a major fault line. Earthquakes were practically considered part of the weather patterns. My biggest concern was that the house we lived in was right next to a major water viaduct.

    My mom used to tell me helpful things like "Don't worry, if a bomb goes off it will probably burst the dam, and we'll all drown before the radiation will get to us." I am a really crappy swimmer, and I'm terrified of having my head under the water when I can't touch the bottom of the pool. This contributed to years and years of nighmares where I wake up screaming and unable to catch my breath.

    Good times. Thanks mom!