Friday, September 25, 2009
you drive me ape, you big gorilla
As I may have disclosed before, I work in a pretty straight-laced, corporate office, and yesterday, my department made a presentation. It involved a full body, giant-headed Monkey costume. Needless to say, I decided to bring the Monkey home with me. Thought the kids would get a chuckle out of it.
As I was getting off the subway near our apartment, I thought, 'It'd be really funny if I put on the Monkey suit now, and just walk into our house, a giant Monkey with a satchel, and sit down to dinner with my family, without a word of explanation.'
Then I had another thought.'No, that would be really stupid, because you'll scare the hell out of them, especially V. "My father--psycho Monkey." '
So as I got closer to our street, I called Anette and just asked her, “Do you think me walking in as a Monkey would scare V.?” I heard her put down the phone and ask V., heard V.’s responding squeak, then Anette back on the line, telling me, ’No, she says she wants to see the Monkey.”
I also decided to test how Viennese bystanders would react to a man-sized Monkey in their midst. The Monkey is super hot to wear, and it’s real stinky inside from the sweat of all the people who have been there before me. So I stopped at a bench just around the corner from our place, and stripped down to my underwear and socks before I put the damned thing on. Then I threw my satchel on and walked around the corner.
Nothing. Not a blink (nor a smile) from anyone. I think I got a vague nod from someone sitting in a parked car, but it’s pretty hard to see (and breathe) out of the Monkey head eyeholes, so I can’t be sure. None of the passing cars even bothered honking. There’s Vienna for you.
But as I padded down the sidewalk, I knew I would be in full view of the girls if they were up at the bay window of our apartment. I waved at a few cars, then looked up. There they were, looking down at me. I thought I could see Deanie waving and Anette holding V. up to the window. I couldn’t discern the look on V.’s face. Actually, she was terrified. But I didn’t know that, so I waved and blew kisses.
Once I fumbled my way into our building, though, Anette called down from the top of the stairs and said, ‘Pat, she’s scared—you have to take it off.”
For the first hour I was home, V. could only ask me, ‘Will the Oooh-Ah (Monkey) come back later?’ then answer herself with ‘No, the Ooh-Ah is gone,’ or ‘You don’t have to be afraid of the Ooh-Ah.’ Even then, I asked her, ‘V., do you want to see the Ooh-Ah again?’
‘Yes,’ she said.
Then she said, ‘No.’
I should have known better. Big Monkeys and Santa Claus outfits scare kids. But V. has this same profoundly intense reaction to all sorts of things, particularly animals, like cows, horses, and monkeys: she is always torn between terror and fascination. Maybe that should be telling us something about the way she sees the world. She doesn’t act the same way with people, at least not overtly. But she does alternate between playing with strangers on the U-Bahn, and being extremely shy when first meeting someone new. And in her dealings with us, she can swing very quickly from spitting, hitting or scratching, to coming over to ask for a hug.
When she was smaller, we would have called it the Ay-Yay/Oww-wa! Dialectic. When she met another person, she oftentimes didn't know whether to pet them or to clobber them. She didn't know how to touch other people.
These days, she seems to have a clearer grasp of the difference between pleasure and pain. But maybe V. still can't decide whether she should love other humans, or fear them.