I don’t think it’s completely unusual that I slept with a night light as a child. It was comforting. It soothed me. It kept me from having panic attacks. It was black, and small, and it was plugged into the wall about three feet from my bed.
I slept with that night light until I was about seventeen years old. I’m estimating here, because I don’t know the exact day I graduated to sleeping in the dark, but I know that it was at an age that most people would find embarrassing (the actual age was around twelve, but still… that’s pretty old for night lights).
Sure, some people might be cringing at this admission. They might feel like it will tarnish my reputation of being ALL MAN. A reputation which I have cultivated. But I don’t think that my night light detracts from my masculinity. I think my adolescent terror at the thought of a dark room increases my machismo.
I had really hoped by the time I reached this paragraph I would have come up with a way to justify that claim. Some clever argument to suggest that being scared of the dark all the way to middle school was a manly pursuit. But frankly, I never came up with anything. I’m just spinning my wheels here. Maybe now would be a good time to talk about how often I wet the bed… no? Okay. Sufficient paragraph. Moving on.
I worried about death. Like, more than is normal for a child. Not about being killed. Not about natural disasters like bears or earthquakes (well, maybe a little)… no, I worried about dying in my sleep and never knowing why. I needed to feel protected, and surely the 10 watts being provided by my tiny bulb in the socket was granting me that protection.
But that’s really what fear of the dark is. It’s fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable with that. I was scared of something happening to me and not being able to see what it was. That seems rational to me even now.
What DOESN’T seem rational to me is what I required of my mother. I could see under the crack in my door (when I eventually started closing my door, which was also at an absurdly late age) whether or not the other lights in the house were out. If they were out, then I knew Mom had gone to bed. If I wasn’t asleep by the time Mom went to bed, then I flipped out. Like, vomiting and stuff. Not cool. (I never realized how weird/sad/creepy that was until i just typed it)
So I made a deal with Mom. If she thought I was still awake, she would leave the lights on in the family room. And if she tried turning them out while I was still awake, I would come out and ask her to leave them on.
Initially, I’m sure this was an effort to convince me that my parent was still awake, and therefore I was still being looked out for. But seriously, if I come out and ASK you to leave the light on, then clearly I know that there is no longer any one awake.
So, I’d imagine that I am substantially responsible for the current global energy crisis. For, I don’t know, six years(?) I left on my night light AND required that a full 100 watt lamp be kept on all night. That’s just wasteful.
I like to pretend that I’ve killed my fear of the dark. But honestly, I think I’ve just found better ways to hide it. Instead of a night light, now I have a cell phone being charged. I have a laptop power button. I have a giant digital clock. My room is still as bright as noon day, and now I notice that I’m still being energy inefficient… but I sleep like a baby.