I love movies.

Bee charmers. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. But I bet you never thought you were one, did you? I did, and I have the kitschy trimmings to prove it. Bumblebee Hummel figurine? Yep. James Avery bumblebee charm (attached to bracelet with other, er, symbolic knickknacks)? Uh-huh. Bee toe-ring, beaded-bee old-lady sweater: Check and check.

I even told my friends about my special talent. Cough — throughout high school. No wonder I was so popular. (And it’s no shock that today my favorite clothing store `hint: an improperly spelled college subject` caters to what jezebel.com’s Dodai Stewart designated the “crafty, forest-nymph” crowd. And she’s right, we really can’t afford the clothes.) Of course there was no evidence of my professed nature-dominating, Disney-princess-like powers; that I wasn’t afraid of bees didn’t prove anything, but one or two friends played along. Yeah, and my mom.

When did this silly little fantasy — punctured by a sting to the palm at camp in ’01 or thereabouts — enter my precious, impressionable young mind?

Ladies and gentleman I give you 1991’s Fried Green Tomatoes, one of the approximately eight or nine non-animated films I had seen by the age of 10. Sigh — what child would model herself after a fictional person called “Idgie” but a gawky, spongelike, lover-of-things-mystical mini-me? Well, the choices were few: It was Idg or the pre-MILF-weed proffering Mary-Louise Parker, and Billy Crudup’s babymama was getting the shit beaten out of her in this one. Plus her kid’s arm got cut off by a train. And then the cancer came and finished her off. No, it was Chris O’Donnell’s faux-kid-sister, the tomboy Mary Stuart Masterson for me. (I mean, just look at that jaw! Ay, me; I burn with chin-envy.)

But yes — later — in that camp cabin of shattered dreams, there I was, throbbing with stinger-stigmata, screaming “Towanda!” when I realized that maybe these moving pictures weren’t all they’re cracked up to be. OK, they sort of are — just look at what I do for a living — but for those who find the reality-fantasy line fuzzy, they can be a real pain in the ass. Aside from shaping the personal mythologies of the weak-minded (ahem), movies create unfair expectations for prosaic existence — ergo stage-fright when life actually does resemble art.

For example, in college I actually went on some dates. Not wearing the bee sweater. One in particular was with the rare individual who was actually familiar with me during my buzz-fantastic days. No, I don’t know why he bothered talking to me, either.

OK, it wasn’t a date, per se, but a dinner between friends, one of whom (me) just happened to find the other, about two years her senior, so attractive it bordered on repulsion. I can’t remember how it happened exactly, but afterward we ended up in his dorm room. I poked around before we plopped into a pair of vintage chairs with a ploof.

If you imagine the shot in slow motion
(ploooooouuuuuufffffffff), and pause at the moment our behinds meet the chair cushions, you’ll notice an ejaculation of tiny feathers spraying into the air (unpockets laser pointer): there and there. I know it doesn’t sound sexy now, but return to real time and observe how the down hovers in the surely mildewy campus-housing atmosphere. As it makes its inevitable, albeit slow, journey downward, the down lands on eyelashes, on noses, in hair; he sets a feather on my knee. Motherfuck, he just set a feather my knee. He touched my naked knee. Oh, fuck fuck fuck, this moment is, like, perfect. Too perfect. I should kiss him. It’ll be just like a movie. Ick — it’ll be just like a movie. But no, we’ll bump heads. Son of a bitch, is he thinking the exact same thing? Because I for one cannot tolerate this insufferable internal monologue; I have to go. I have to go. I have to go.

And, smooth-operating bee charmer that I was, I did. Now I wonder, and it pisses me off. Damn you, cinema.

Them swears haven’t always reeled off so freely, friends. I took my Southern-Baptist upbringing a bit more seriously than most of my parochial classmates and Sunday-schoolin’ pals. Call it Piety 2.0 (without the rape!). If I was angry, I was “ticked,” “PO-ed.” It took me until the age of 17 — at least — to pump out a “screw you” (and I’ve never looked back, thanks very much).

But earlier on, the movies — which I esteem just below God and family, natch — tortured me with their curses: Brad Pitt’s blasphemy in
Legends of the Fall (uh, Ma, Pa, I’ve been meaning to ask, what were you thinking when you let me watch this?) had me in therapy for months because my mind could not stop repeating what the global-baby collector had said, like a broken record in my brain. Didn’t Anthony Hopkins say Brad was going to hell for that? Because I really trust Anthony. Heeee. Heeee. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

And that’s how we learned that I’m obsessive-compulsive, which, admittedly, is not the worst mental malady for a future editor to have, but it was a lot more fun when it was just me waking up time after time, night after night, donning my robe and bunny slippers to wander into the backyard to quadruple-check that our rabbits’ cages were securely locked.

Now the cinema taunts me, ridiculing my sensitivity, forcing my head into my lap in friend-filled theaters during, say, Silent Hill, for fear that some icky beastie or mangled body will be branded on my brain for a week of sleepless nights. (Needless to say, The Passion of the Christ was not a good experience for me. Sorry, Mel.) (I take that back, I’m not sorry, Mel. Where was the blood-free, peace-and-love companion piece for folks like me, eh? Stop hating Jews, and start making good movies.)

Everytime I go out on a limb — “Oh, I can go see this classic, must-see horror film” — the movies grab me by the collar, glare, and seethe, “That’s where you’re wrong, Lindstrom.”

So I stick to rom, com, and drama, occasionally tearing up as the lights go down because the movie-theater experience is just so … damn … beautiful. Embarrassing — sad, even — huh? At least I’ve managed to put the bee-charming fantasy to bed. For now. (The stage-fright conundrum, not so much.) •


Pop Quiz, hotshot:
Are you letting movies ruin your life?

Let’s begin by disqualifying questions about off-putting movie quotes; we all do that … right?

1) Your home-decorating scheme is meant to emulate your favorite movie character’s, right down to the KISS poster. You hate that band.

2) You can’t break it off with your possibly-wrong-for-you lover. What’s the point? You’ll just end up back together á la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

3) Everytime you watch a Scarlett Johannson movie, your voice drops an octave. (This includes you, men.)

4) Seven Years in Tibet + Kundun = unhealthy obsession with the Dalai Lama, “Free Tibet” bumper sticker, possible conversion to Buddhism.

5) Upon learning that Ulrich Mühe of The Lives of Others had succumbed to stomach cancer, you sobbed publicly. That was the only Mühe movie you’d seen.

6) You may have wasted a precious moment (or three) trying to bend a spoon with your mind. Unsuccessfully.

7) Celebrity-hair impostering. So what if you had Amelie bangs that totally didn’t work with your facial bone structure for a year. (Guys: The Hugh-Grant-in-his-prime signature flop-do; the balding-Bruce-Willis buzz, etc.)

8) You attempted superhero-like feats as a child and suffered horrible consequences, hospitalization.

9) You would pay your rent and/or finally get around to proposing to your girlfriend, but you just had to buy that piece of lumber from
Titanic and/or that Darth Vader helmet replica.

10) Inspired to pilfer by a scene in the charming Breakfast at Tiffany’s (minus Mickey Rooney), you were arrested for petty theft. (Natural-Born Killers : killing spree, murder conviction.)

If you answered yes to at least five of the above, you might be letting movies ruin your life. And I’m sorry, I can’t help you — but thanks for playing!

— Ashley Lindstrom

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