Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life Lessons from my Dad

I'm kind of a basketcase.

I get freaked out easily when it comes to really minor things.

If you know me in real life, it's not hard to figure out why I'm crazy. One of the reasons is because of my dad's stories.

My dad believes kids should learn life lessons through other people's mistakes.

So, growing up, I was subjected to hearing stories about why I shouldn't do certain things, based on the lives of his former friends and coworkers.

For example, I recently told my dad that I want a cat. (I'm allergic, this will never happen, but I still want one).

Here is my dad's reason for why I should never get a cat:

"You remember my friend Heidi from Detroit?" he asked. "Well, in 2001 she got a cat. A few years ago, she called me at 6:30 in the morning from a mental institution. She had gotten so depressed that she checked herself into an asylum."

...and that's it. That's the story for why I should never get a cat. He never elaborates on these stories. He just tells them and lets them hover in the air, for me to absorb.

Here are a few more stories from my childhood:

When I was in high school this is why I wasn't allowed to get a dog:

"In 1978 I was living in Chicago and I had a friend named Nick who really wanted a dog," he said. "Well, Nick got a dog and kept it in his apartment. One day, Nick came home from work and found out that his dog had destroyed the entire apartment. He chewed the sofa, he shredded his boots, and ate all his food. To this day, Nick never did get married."

Why girls shouldn't be allowed to date in high school:

"In 1995 I worked with a doctor in Tampa who let his teenage daughter date," he said. "She started dating this boy and became obsessed with him. She called him all the time, even when their family was on vacation. She would talk to him for hours a day. Two years later she got arrested for shoplifting and put in jail."

Why I shouldn't get lasik eye surgery:

"I had a friend in Springfield who got lasik eye surgery done," he said. "Ten years later, her car skidded off the road during a blizzard and she died."

Why I shouldn't travel outside the United States:

"You remember my friend Reema?" he asked. "In 1985, Reema went to Canada for vacation. When she got to Toronto, everyone threw tomatoes at her because Canadians don't like Indian women."

Why I shouldn't become Hindu:

"You remember my friend Harmony from Portland State?" he asked. "Well in 1972, she was into Indian stuff, you know Hinduism. Her husband let her go on a spiritual retreat to India. At the ashram, she met a German man and she had an affair with him. It destroyed her entire family and she got divorced."

Growing up, not only did I "learn my lesson" about these things, but I was also extremely concerned that the lives of so many of my dad's friends resulted in such a tragic demise.

So, I never got a dog. I never got a cat. I never travelled out of the country. I still wear contact lenses.

And even though I'm an adult now and know these "lessons" are absurd, I still can't help but think, in the back of my mind, that maybe this stuff will happen to me if I'm not careful.

What if I do decide to get a cat and then a few years later find myself being committed to a mental institution? What if?! And then I spend the rest of my life in a tiny padded cell thinking, "man, I should have listened to my father."

Shit. I can't handle this right now.

I need a drink.

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