Sorry, Mom and Dad

Being a latch-key kid likely led to a fear of clowns, and a host of other things

Hate is a strong word, so I’ll just say I dislike clowns. My friends and husband know this and get a real kick out of sending me text messages and emails with disturbing images of these face-painted, big-shoe-wearing freaks. They are especially fond of posting stories and photos on my Facebook page. That’s how I learned I’m in good company. Turns out a lot of people find clowns repulsive.

There is, in fact, a word for the irrational fear of clowns: coulrophobia. I wouldn’t say I’m at that level. They don’t make me run away in fear. But the sight of them—especially when they wear red makeup around the mouth—really creeps me out. I know this is a strange aversion. I’ve never had an odd run-in with a clown; just your run-of-the-mill interaction at the circus back in the day.

My best guess is that my upbringing, which included a lot of unsupervised television-watching, is what led me to the place where I avert my eyes when I see a clown. I was a latch-key kid in the ’burbs and did a lot of stuff I wasn’t supposed to do, like watching scary movies with clowns or clown-like antagonists. (See: It, Poltergeist, Killer Clowns From Outer Space and Cat’s Eye, which is based on Stephen King’s Night Shift series and features a little jester-like troll.)

Speaking of disobeying my parents, I was talking to one of my friends the other day about how regularly I broke the rules while growing up. For example, my brother and I weren’t supposed to swim without an adult around, just in case, but we did it all the time during the summer. Our backyard in the Bay Area was almost entirely taken up by our giant pool, and, well, it got hot some days. I cringe now thinking of how we’d swim with the pool cover partially on and how we’d be showered and dry long before my mom got home from work.

We also would ride our bikes farther than was allowed. I almost got busted for that, because a car hit me and my ride—a trusty blue and gold Eagle II—in a crosswalk during one of our out-of-bounds excursions. But I was only bruised, so I got away with it. I did wipe out one time pretty badly, an accident that required stitches on my chin (and several nurses to hold me down for them). But I was just around the corner from my house when that happened.

When I think about it now, I did a lot of stuff I probably shouldn’t have: riding my horse while sitting backward, hanging out late at night at the public park across the street from my house, going to parties at strangers’ houses in unfamiliar cities when I was a teenager. My husband tells me he did his share of stupid stuff, too, and never got caught.

We both turned out all right. But we certainly learned how kids behave. We’ll be watching ours like a hawk.