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I’d always hated dresses. One simply can not conduct explorations of insects nor properly study sand particles when wearing a dress and white stockings, unless one finds the occasional beating and screaming at from one’s very southern grandmother desirable. Stockings felt scratchy, like a thousand itching flea bites. Make that a million. They made me constantly aware of where my awkward, skinny legs were at any given time, made me constantly worry about whether or not my underpants were showing, and made me feel extra sensitive and irritated if the wind were blowing. And those warm, Southern California Santa Ana winds were the worst, as I’d simultaneously have to hold my dress down at my knees and pull my static electric hair down toward my face in an attempt to keep others from noticing me and laughing. I’d imagine creating contraptions to hold the dress down—a giant rubber band or possibly custom-made Bungee Cords that would connect the bottom of the dress to my shoes.
Oh, those horrid shoes. I dreaded the toe-pinching black patent leather shoes that were merely good for slipping and sliding along the blacktop and falling on one’s face to the grand amusement of those lucky enough to be donning more appropriate attire, such as sneakers or the slightly acceptable Buster Browns. Nana would shine them up, straighten my dress at the shoulders, and exclaim, “Isn’t that adorable?!” I had no idea as to what “that” she was referring to. I surely had no desire to be considered “adorable” nor a “that.” Perhaps gluing rubber erasers to the bottom of the shoes would solve the issue, making me taller in the process.
Looking back, I see I was a pretty intelligent kid with innovative ideas (at least for that age), but the concept of reading, writing, and arithmetic on these particular types of days was far from the reaches of my ability, as unbeknownst to me and surrounding adults, the sensory receptors in my brain were malfunctioning. I’d find out many years later my amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response, was defectively over-active. Selective mutism turned out to be the more appropriate term for why I was never able to get out the words “I want a carrot” to the barking Doberman across the schoolyard when Mr. Hoyt, so well intentioned, heroically attempted to cure me of what he saw as an extreme case of the quiet.
Excerpt from chapter five | Dear Mr. Fantasy | Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir