Things I Worried about as a Child: AIDS

I was blessed/cursed with a rather precarious combination of traits. Among them: fearfulness, innocence and a wild imagination. The result was an array of ridiculous beliefs I developed early in life, frequently followed by the harsh and/or hilarious process of learning just how misinformed I was.

To say that I’m a worrier would be an understatement. If speaking at birth were possible, I would have come out asking the doctor if he washed his hands before delivering me. Then I would have ordered the nurses to bring me a blanket and cover their eyes. I guess that last part is less about fear and more about my deep appreciation for warmth and modesty. Blankets are my everything!


Oops, wrong blanket.

Anyway, I was also very impressionable as a child. I placed great trust in adults, assuming everything I heard or saw was both true and critically important. As far as I was concerned, adults could do no wrong. Well, except for Tanya Harding and Cinderella’s evil stepmother- they wronged my heroes and were dead to me from the get-go.


My idol from ages 3-5.  What an angel!


My idol from ages 6-10. I even wanted to name my first child Nancy. We’ll see how that goes…

And, ah yes…the imagination part. Inadvertently eavesdropping on adults was one of my favorite childhood activities. I didn’t discriminate as to whom I listened to, either. Whether it was my parents, my teachers or strangers in line at the grocery store, I soaked up conversation like a sponge. As soon as I could gain enough viable intel, I would scurry off like a little mouse and let my imagination go to town. Unfortunately, I kept my thoughts to myself so my parents never had a chance to intervene in my misinformed daydreaming.

So, why do I tell you all of this? Well, it’s important background information for a series of posts I’ll be writing titled “Things I worried about as a child,” the first of which follows.


Mrs. Schierling’s 6th grade class. We were studying one of my favorite subjects: Health. Guess what propels a subject to “favorite” status? Being allowed to eat a healthy snack during class. Mine was usually a very unhealthy-sized bag of goldfish crackers, which were both delicious and suitably distracting.

One day, while arranging the fish on my paper towel, my teacher introduced the topic for the day: AIDS.

She explained that it was an unprecedented disease that was quickly spreading all over the world, including our very own country.

How could you get it, I wondered? As it turns out, 6th grade health books don’t go into great detail on the ways in which AIDS can be contracted. But, we learned the basics, which was just enough information to scare me.

The worrying began and, for a moment, was relatively mild. But then the statistics started: “Kids, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 people will have AIDS within the next twenty years.” All I heard was “Kids, 1 in 4 people currently have AIDS and 12 year-olds are just as likely to have it as adults. And your little dog, too!”

I started scanning the room, convinced that 25% of my classmates were HIV positive. Unfortunately, I had no way of knowing who was infected. The plan was to continue playing with my friends in safe, non-disease passing ways.

Fast-forward to later that year. I decided to invite some friends over for a sleepover. For some reason, toward the end of the sleepover, one of the girls suggested we shave our legs together.



AIDS can be transmitted through shaving! Didn’t these girls know?! They were in the same class as I was, so I knew they knew! Were they willing to risk their lives for a shaven leg (or two)?! I quietly protested and declined to partake in the suicide shaving.


Death Tool

After they went home, I went all HAZMAT and carefully cleaned up the aftermath of their risky little brush with death. And then I sat on the edge of the tub dramatically pondering what the future held for these girls. Full House style.


Dramatic acting at its very best.

It turns out none of us had AIDS.* The statistics provided were pretty inaccurate. Or, I was paying more attention to my goldfish crackers than to the teacher and misheard her.

So, the moral of this story is:  don’t you dare touch my razor.

*This is an educated guess.  I don’t even remember who was there.

It’s Just One of Those Days

The past few weeks have been stressful for multiple reasons. By the time today rolled around, I was over it.   I was tired and every little thing seemed to be going wrong. Kind of like when a toddler misses a nap and the world implodes.

The dog woke me up early. Too early. I looked outside, saw it was pouring rain and instantly regretted throwing away my half-broken umbrella in dramatic fashion a couple days prior.

After walking the dog and sleeping a little longer, I sauntered into the kitchen, threw a bagel into the oven and promised myself I wouldn’t burn it this time. Not this time!

Unable to stay focused on not burning food for a whole 60 seconds, I started writing an email with such fervor that the only thing that could snap me out of it was the smell of burnt bagel. Blast!

Normally when I burn my food, I just make more. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to buy more bagels. * Undeterred, I opened the fridge and grabbed some yogurt. About three seconds into my first bite, I realized it had gone bad. The good news is that I didn’t hurl.

Forget breakfast, I thought. I needed to go to the mall and would grab something there.

I headed out, unusually optimistic that I would find exactly what I needed, despite my lifelong frustration with shopping.

When I got to my car, I remembered I might have another umbrella under the passenger seat. Score! I reached down, felt something slimy and exclaimed “Eww!!”

So that's where that went!

So that’s where that went!

About 25 minutes into my drive, I realized this new mall was not where I thought it was. In fact, it was a good 15 minutes in a very different direction. By now, my stomach was hanging on by a thread so I made a beeline for Wendy’s.

When I pulled up to the window, the guy asked me if I would like any condiments. I asked for some honey. He handed me my bag o’ food and said “I gave you honey-mustard, not honey. Have a good day!”  Huh? Why?! Not caring enough to protest, I drove away, scarfed down my food, and fantasized about how much better it would have tasted with honey.

Several hours later, having failed at possessing a normally proportioned body once again, I wanted so badly to give up. Alas, I came for a specific outfit and had to forge ahead. I decided to stop at one more store.

By the time I got into the dressing room, I was exhausted. I tried on a couple things and as I was tidying up, a sales person knocked on the door.  She asked if anyone was there, to which I responded “Yes, someone’s in here.”  She asked again.  I answered again.  She opened the door and I successfully abstained from speaking my feelings.  See below.

Me too, Frank.  Me too.

Me too, Frank. Me too.

When I got home, the dog was being especially whiny. I didn’t hesitate to use my go-to threat. “Bella,” I warned, “do you need to get in your kennel?!” She stared at me from inside her kennel looking as confused as a dog can look. And that’s when I knew I needed a nap.

*It was me.

They call me Curly Oprah

I’ve always thought I would enjoy being a journalist. Not the type that has to weather the elements every morning while trying to look happy, but the type that gets to sit in a comfy chair and ask people shockingly personal questions without seeming nosey. Picture Barbara Walters or Oprah. They both have an amazing ability to pry without offending their interviewees.  It’s magical!  And when’s the last time you saw either of them standing up during an interview?  Talk about a dream job!

Arch enemies or best friends? We may never know.

I recently decided to hold my very first interview.  My main goals for this interview were to help my subject tell his or her story and to practice my looking concerned skills.

My mother was kind enough to be my test subject. Unfortunately for her, she was not aware of this.  The following conversation may or may not have actually taken place.  But probably not.


CC:  Good evening, Patti. Thank you for sitting down with me tonight.

Mom:  You’re welcome, I guess.  I don’t really understand the point of this.  And why are you calling me by my first name?

CC:  Patti, this is a professional interview.  I have to call you that.

Mom:  Professional?! Carly, you’re wearing pajamas and eating a bag of candy. You have half a gummy worm hanging out of your mouth.

CC:  Mother!

Mom:  And why are you wearing glasses?  They don’t even have lenses in them.

CC:  These are my journalist glasses.  Do you even watch TV?!  You know what, fineLet’s just move on.  I’d like to journey back in time for a bit.  30 long years ago, you gave birth to your third child. Can you tell me more about that?

Mom:  As we both know, you are my third child.

CC:  Interesting.  Patti, give me your hands.

Mom:  Why?!

CC:  I can see you’re feeling vulnerable.  It will make you feel more comfortable.

Mom:  I’m not holding your hands.  They’re sweaty.  What is wrong with you?

CC:  I’m now going to stare at you for a moment so that we can have a shared bonding experience.  Then you’ll trust me and be more open to spilling your guts.

Mom:  Ok, like I was saying…your father and I were very happy when you were born.

CC:  I see.  And at what moment did you realize I was your favorite child?

Mom:  We didn’t have favorites. We loved you all equally.

CC:  Patti. You can be honest here. This is a safe place. Perhaps you can tell us about all those times you would rock me, smile and say “third time’s a charm?”

Mom:  I never did anything of the sort! Where do you get this stuff?

CC:  So, how does it feel to have three kids in their 30’s? Do you miss hearing the pitter patter of little feet?

Mom:  I’m ok with it. I have grandchildren now, so I’m happy.

CC:  Um, that’s not really the answer I was looking for.

Mom:  What? You were all great kids, but I’m in a different phase of life now.

CC:  Mom!  I brought a box of tissues!  You’re supposed to cry!

Mom:  Carly, I can’t cry on command. Why do you want me to cry, anyway?

CC:  Because. That’s what makes for a great interview. Now, please tell me how I can get you to cry. What if I let you hold me like a baby, just like old times?

Mom:  No.

CC:  What if I broke your nose again? Ha!

Mom:  Is this over yet? I need to do laundry.

CC:  But I have so many more questions!  And I haven’t even practiced my sympathetic head tilt yet!

(Mom walks out of room)

CC:  Hey, Dad!  On a scale of 1-10, how emotionally fragile are you feeling right now?

(Dad walks out of room)