On our first date, B decided the best way to romance me would be to take me out for Mexican food and rent The Ring, which I had never seen. He was correct in thinking that Mexican food was a sure way to my heart. He ordered the special, some peanut paste/ chocolate chicken concoction that he hoped would assure me of his adventurous, grown-up palate. Nice job taking one for the team, Bubs. I had enchiladas and didn’t have to have a follow-up meal later in the evening.
Our screening of The Ring was not such a hit. He based his choice to rent the movie on a Ring movie poster that was inexplicably hanging in the college Writing Center where I did my work-study. I’m not even going to attempt to figure out the scenario in which someone thought a poster for a horror movie would be good decoration for a room in the basement of a college library where students go to get their dangling participles fixed. Anyway, I had mentioned that I had never seen it, so he took that as meaning that I wanted to see it. It’s incidents and misunderstandings such as these that I am so glad the dating war of attrition finally came to an end for me.
So on our first romantic encounter, B and I watched The Ring. Yeah. Clearly I eventually got over his gaff, as I’m sitting here eight years later with his baby happily pummeling my uterus, but I still dwell on it. It was that horrible horse scene that stays with me. Little did B know that horses are to me what clowns, black-eyed dolls, and drowning are to the general population. They scare the bejesus out of me and I would prefer sticking my hand in a terrarium full of spiders than interact with them. So that image of the horse in The Ring jumping off the boat and drowning is beyond horrifying to me.
My base fear of the horse archetype is irrational on its own. But the groundwork was laid early on. First of all, the first movie my mom ever took me to in the theater was “My Little Pony: The Movie.” A quick IMDB search yielded the information that this cinematic classic was released in 1986 and featured the vocal talents of Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Rhea Perlman, and Tony Randall. It chronicled how Ponyland or wherever the Ponies lived was taken over by a witch-brewed tidal wave of Purple Smooze (NO, Google image search, I did not mean Purple Schmooze). If the Smooze touched you, you became grouchy all the time. Basically the g-rated version of Ghostbusters II. It horrified me so much that I ranted and wailed and had to be removed from the theater. So much to look forward to when I become a parent myself.
There was a lull in my horse life for a few years after that. My best friend Kendra had horses at her house, but luckily she also had a Super Nintendo and a video camera that I insisted we utilize in our play in place of the horses. Being a good friend, I think she comprehended my fear of her horses and never insisted on doting on them when I was around.
But with adolescence comes the trying of all fears. At thirteen, I was obliged to participate in all Youth Group activities at my church. Any reluctance I had towards attending the Tuesday night meetings were dashed away with my parents’ promise that if the group of young Presbyterians took weekend trips, I could surely go. And who wouldn’t want that? There was one young studmuffin in the group who was on the swim team, and any opportunity to play Uno into the night with him (and twenty other kids) would be heartily embraced.
So off I went one fine early-December afternoon with the youth group to Chickasaw State Park to pray and – gasp! – ride horses in the woods for the weekend.
I didn’t see it ending well, but I had to do what I had to do.
Saturday morning, our group saddled up and we were lead into a trail in the woods. You know how there are a few things that everyone seems to know about riding horses? Like if you show them you’re nervous they’ll be nervous too? And that you should make clicky sounds to make them go? And you shouldn’t curse at them? So, I didn’t know those things, as my childhood exposure to horses had been mostly focused on avoiding them.
We entered the woods and Horse quickly started lagging behind the rest of the group. Of course it did. OF COURSE. In the two years that had elapsed since the beer-in-lunchbag incident, I had developed an acute awareness of my nerdiliciousness and figured that if I called to the rest of the group for assistance with my horse, I would forevermore be known as the Girl Who Can’t Ride Horses. It’s these kinds of reputations that stay with you, after all.
So Horse and I lagged. And lagged. And lagged. Until the rest of the group was out of sight. I started yelling at Horse.
“Why don’t you just go?! I realize you may have nowhere to be, but I’ve gotta make the most of my time with the senior high kids!”
Horse didn’t have much of a response to this, having no conception of the value I placed on chatting with sixteen-year-olds about Coolio. I hopped off of him and decided to lead him along. He would have none of it, and right then annoyance turned to fear. That same fear I had experienced in the movie theater not so long ago.
I am seriously going to be left here with this dumb horse forever. My Christmas is ruined because Horse doesn’t like me. My parents are going to have to haul their butts out to Chickasaw to spearhead a search committee for me, all because of this stubborn animal.
What felt like hours elapsed. It was probably like fifteen minutes, but similarly to Baby-Time, Being-Stuck-With-an-Immobile-Horse-in-the-Woods-Time is also equally distorted. I teared up with irrational tears and started planning my new life as a neo-Mowgli in the woods with the animal that clearly hated me as much as I hated it.
I dried my tears quickly when an eleventh-grade guy from my group came up behind me with his horse also in tow.
“I think my horse is lame,” he said.
Lame, I thought, is what all horses are.
But then I realized that the few years he had on me had enabled him to use the word correctly, as in his horse had broken its leg. Since eleventh grade boys were pretty much the gold standard of competence in my eyes, I was massively relieved that he had joined my sorry situation. Perhaps we could together eke out a paltry but sufficient existence in the woods forevermore.
Just when I had come close to completing the plan for my new life in the woods with the eleventh grade boy, we turned a corner to the corral. The amount of trees in the woods belied the fact that we had probably only traveled about a mile in a circle. This was good news for me because I dreaded having to fashion clothing out of leaves and bark.
Our group had made it back about twenty minutes before, but they hadn’t stayed behind to wait for us. No. They hadn’t even noticed our absence.
No, they had stayed behind because upon reentering the corral area, one horse had become spooked and its rider had fallen off. This ignited a chain reaction of all the other horses becoming spooked and their riders falling off too. Hospital runs were made (albeit only because kids were involved and they had to take precautions.)
I guess I kind of got off easy on that one.
But I still don’t like horses.