Dear Freud, Mommy Made Me a Wimp


E. Jason Wambsgans

This woman jumped off a bridge because her friends told her to. And it was the most anti-climactic experience of her life. (Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/MCT)


This woman jumped off a bridge because her friends told her to. And it was the most anti-climactic experience of her life. (Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Every time life presents me with some adventurous opportunity to “grab life by the balls” and all of those other clichés, everything in my being tells me to go for it.  I think to myself, “When will you get the chance to do this again?  YOLO!” and all that.  But it’s rare that I actually do.  One thing always stops me.  It’s the lingering thought that’s always in the back of my mind—if I die this way, my mom would KILL me!

I know, I know. That doesn’t make any sense. How could my mother kill me if I’m already dead? What I really mean is, if the unlikely occurs and I get hurt from doing something in the least bit reckless, I know my mother would give me hell. And my utmost desire to avoid that trumps the desire to obtain whatever instant gratification I would get from being a daredevil for a brief, glorious moment.

You see, a very concerned, very protective, very Italian mother raised me. I’m talking about a woman who made me and all my siblings and cousins watch “Jaws” the first night of every summer spent down at the Jersey shore, just so we’d be too afraid to go too far out in the ocean.  A woman who would tell us the story of the legendary Jersey Devil that was said to live in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey and ate small animals and (according to her version) small children while she drove us through the woods to karate tournaments. This was just so we wouldn’t go outside to play at night.  And when we would give her a scare by doing any of these things, we would hear it—loudly, and for a long time.

So here I am in my twenties, and the only thing that stops me from being a risk-taking, adrenaline-junkie is the fear of upsetting my mom. Let’s talk about it, Freud.

Let me give an example.  Last summer, my friends and I went camping in Wharton State Forest in the Pines. I was having a blast; floating in the river, dodging forest rangers that were after our beer, making silly shadow puppets on the tents by the fire at night. Then one morning, my friends wanted to drive down the road to jump off a bridge into the river.

Now, I know it sounds intense, but in reality the bridge was maybe seven feet above the river that was a little deeper than ten feet; not a big deal at all, but I froze. You know the old saying, “If your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” I can answer that for certain: No. I wouldn’t even this sad excuse for a “jump.”

As I looked over the edge, I quickly assessed the situation. I watched half a dozen—and I’m not exaggerating—seven year-old girls jump before me, climb back up and then do it over and over again. Once all of my friends had made the jump and survived it unharmed, I was left standing there.

As I thought of all the ways I could break my neck or a leg or SOMETHING, two little girls in matching pink tutu bathing suits gave me pep talks of encouragement as they waited impatiently for me to take my turn. “Yeah, I know,” I thought to tell the excited first-graders as I gripped the metal side of the bridge, “It’s just my mom. You don’t know her.”

When I finally made the jump, it was anti-climactic. I plopped into the water and floated there for a moment feeling ashamed as my friends, the little kids and their moms all applauded and cheered. That was the moment I realized the extent of my problem.

When I recently told my brother about these fun-stifling fears, Brother Bear told me that it’s a good thing—I shouldn’t be out there in the world living fearlessly. When I told my mother, she hysterically laughed at me. “Then I did my job,” she maliciously smirked.

The truth is, I’m sure one day I’ll be ballsy enough to skydive or bungee jump or even just to get a tattoo. I’ll live up to my free bird spirit at some point in my life. First, I just have to get past my fear of pissing off my Mom.