The Boogeyman, Revealed

I listened to my daughter and her friend talk about the boogeyman yesterday, in the car ride home from picking up pizza.

You’re safe as long as you stay under the covers. He won’t come and get you if you’re asleep. Yeah, only if you’re awake. And he knows the difference between sleep walking and real walking. Totally! And when you’re in bed you have to be still. Well, you can move a little. Like how you move when you’re asleep. Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely allowed.

They were laughing as they said these things so I thought it okay to ask some questions.

Can you have your head above the covers? Yes.

Why does the boogeyman get mad if you’re awake? I don’t know he just does.

When do you have to be asleep by, according to the Boogeyman? Within 15 minutes.

What happens when he actually comes? How should we know!?

Still laughing…

They know how ludicrous this all sounded. I think that’s what the laughter was about.

I didn’t realize my daughter was still thinking about the boogeyman, the monster in the closet. It makes me sad to think of her laying in her bed scared every night after I kiss her on the forehead. (If the boogeyman ever shows his face, there’s going to be a mob of parents that want to kick his ass, that’s for sure.)

Anyway, I marvel at how these somewhat grown kids can talk about their fears in laughter. They deconstruct the boogeyman in such a detached, matter-of-fact way, as if describing the opposing team’s strategy, standing there at the chalkboard pointing at the X’s and O’s.

Freud suggested that naming the boogeyman makes the boogeyman disappear. (I believe this is how you kill Freddie Kruger as well, as we learn in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” the first one.)

But this didn’t work for my daughter and her friend. They’ve named the boogeyman, described what he looks like, what his preferences are, what he cares about. They know their boogeyman backward and forwards, yet he keeps coming back.

Sometimes the brain and the heart aren’t connected. You know this is happening when the tone of your voice and the topic at hand don’t line up, like laughing when you’re talking about a mythical dude who comes in your room to kill you.

This is survival, just to get through. Sometimes we don’t want the heart around because of what it holds, so we stay in the brain. But when we get stuck in this pattern, where the brain speaks for the heart, the boogeyman keeps coming back.

We try to talk our way out, which only really works in high school debates and courtrooms. When it comes to the boogeyman, Freddie Kruger, and the monsters in our closets, our secret weapon is usually locked up in our heart, a tornado of fury and pain and the darker things that, once released, swarm Evil like locusts until nothing remains.

And as our brain tries to comprehend the math and science of it all, our heart rejoices in its emptiness, open to everything and ready to fill up once more.