Shockingly, the first time I saw Freddy Krueger, it was not love at first sight.
It was 1986 and I was 11 years old. I'd never seen a horror movie, unless you count the last half of The Shining, which I'd witnessed while hiding behind the couch one night when my parents thought I was in bed. In 1986, Jack Nicholson was the scariest thing I could think of.
Over the next couple of hours, I sat frozen as Freddy Krueger killed the kids in their dreams one by one. I hid behind a frilly mauve toss pillow and willed myself to look away from the crazed janitor but I couldn't! I was in. I was terrified.
That night, as my pal slept peacefully, I lay awake in her standard issue 80's water bed staring out the sliding glass door into her backyard. Something moved on the far side of the pool. I knew that it was Freddy Krueger as sure as I knew I went to Rusk Elementary and that Texas was the best state in the nation. Something scraped against the glass. To anyone else, it would've been a pine tree, but to me it was an evil burned janitor running his knife fingers up and down the window just to toy with me. I was absolutely positive that I'd somehow called him to me just by watching the movie. I felt bad that my parents and my sister and my two Cocker Spaniels would never know what happened to me. I steeled myself and waited to die. One, two, three, Freddy was coming for me!
The next morning I had the feeling I had fought and won a war. Surely I was the bravest kid in Midland, Texas. Because of my new found toughness, I let versions of this night happen again and again for the rest of my childhood and adolescence. At slumber parties, at boy's houses and in dark theaters, I watched horror flick after horror flick, each time feeling like I'd probably die of a heart attack but coming out the other side thinking I was a badass. When someone suggested we watch a scary movie, I'd silently say Oh, Gawd Please No! while nonchalantly nodding my head. "Sounds good to me. Whatever you want to watch."
At some point in my twenties, I realized I'd turned a corner; a dark corner where something was likely to jump out and scare the shit out of me. But, here's the thing: I welcomed it. I had a revelation. I actually liked horror movies! I don't know how it happened but I suspect it's like coffee or wine or any acquired taste. I'd developed a craving for fear. Horror movies had become as necessary as my morning latte.
I've finally fallen for Freddy. But, at least I don't drink wine coolers anymore.
*photo by Compulsive Collector.