At first glance this friend-suggested topic seems like a metaphorical kick of sand to the face — “You asked for it, now you’re going to get it, with your stupid everything and your stupid blog. Eat beach, nerd!” *rides off on boogie board*
How could I possibly write a handful of paragraphs about decades-old, moral teaching, children’s books…have you met me? I have the morals of half-starved hyena. I’d hijack your plate of taquitos if I thought I’d get away with it. But, believe it or not, I actually have a history with The Berenstain Bears. Not in a “we used to go out, now things are weird” way; it’s more positive than that. We did date, but our parting was amicable and we “like” each other’s posts on Facebook regularly. I owned several books in the 80’s, most of which came apart due to repeated use. I even wrote a sketch last year about the Bears turning into hoarders — their tree was overrun with the bodies of mangled hikers. It was not well received.
I have a handful of vivid memories about wanting to be a bear growing up inside a tree. This still seems like an ideal situation; is it too late to change career plans? How’s the Tree market these days? Bullish? But with any childhood memory, things usually appear glossier, sunnier, than they probably were. I loved those books, yes, but should I have? Were they affecting me in a positive way? Their purpose was to instill good living habits into children, like how to accept others, save money, eat healthier, and how to sing the praises of a Socialist regime. So at the surface they appeared to be doing a genuinely decent service to society. Children are essentially sponges — whatever you give them, they absorb. If my parents had given me Pride and Prejudice, odds are I’d be wearing an ascot right now. Call that an opportunity missed.
To find out if Stan and Jan Berenstain had successfully swayed my personality, I decided to reacquaint myself with my favorite of the bunch: The Spooky Old Tree. I read the life out of that book. Can’t tell you why, other than it was placed in my field of vision, and 5-year olds love things they’re allowed to touch with their Skittles-stained fingers.
Of course, I don’t have a copy laying about my apartment (pinky swear), and I’m certainly not going to buy one, so this will have to do:
If your reaction was anything like mine, then, well, you’re fucking terrified/perplexed.
That was not how I remembered it. What was the point? From what I can gather, it was to keep kids from ever going outside, “Stay at home at all times, and don’t have the courage to do things, or an alligator will EAT YOUR FACE.”
Why did I, specifically, like this book (other than because it had my name magic marker’d on the front)? My guess is that I agreed with the simple math: Stay in your room + Don’t face your fears = Don’t get mauled by a giant bear. This. Explains. Everything. Do you want to know how many times I went exploring in the woods? Zero. How often did I leave the comfort of my own house? Rarely. This book, to put it bluntly, turned me into a pussy.
Before I received this as a gift, I was probably a brave young boy. I could have grown up to be a jet pilot, a UFC fighter, or a crocodile wrestler. But now look at me: blogging in the dark, petrified of the squirrel staring at me through the window. What does it want? Money? Retribution for some perceived slight? I’m pretty sure it’s going to choke me to death after I go to sleep. I didn’t know that was your half-eaten Watchamacallit! Put your name on it next time.
I don’t blame the Berenstains for pansifying a generation — they probably saved hundreds from dying of exposure in the forest. Things could have been worse. If they had written The Berenstain Bears Dispose a Despot, we’d have a bunch of government assassins running around. Well, that might not have been that bad. You hear me, Gaddafi? You’re lucky this went the other way. Next time.
If anything, this was a bizarre trip down memory lane. A childhood favorite, something that brought me hours of joy, has now been reduced to something I blame for my shortcomings. Thanks, guys. I didn’t need that positivity anyway.