Something parents are expected to teach kids these days is emotional self regulation. Apparently the method of clobbering your kid if he or she loses their s—t is now frowned upon. Instead you are supposed to teach them controlled breathing, visualization, even meditation to help them deal with the roller coaster of emotions that cause them to act like assholes.
This past week I was helping my son come up with a “safe space,” an imaginary place he can retreat to in his mind hen he is feeling overwhelmed. Logically, he chose the 72nd floor of a hotel in Atlantic City. I have no idea how he even knows what Atlantic City is, or why he settled for the 72nd floor when he could have easily made it the 110th, but there you have it. I’m guessing penthouse-level views of tainted sea water and drug addicts sleeping off a binge in the sand make him feel all warm and cozy. Aaaawww.
My son then asked if I had my own “safe space.” Tempted to tell him the truth — a slab of chocolate and season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — instead I said, “Mine is a spot in a beautiful forest next to a gurgling spring.”
This isn’t exactly a lie, as this was the “safe space” I came up with when I was preparing to give birth to him.
At the time I lived in what was apparently an extremely fertile suburb of London, as every childbirth class in the immediate vicinity was full. The only option available would have required two bus rides and a train journey (at night), so instead I turned to books and relaxation CDs.
Because every single guru on the market trumpeted the same approach to relaxation during childbirth: picture yourself on a tropical beach.
Look, I am a redhead with reeaaalllly pale skin. Being on a tropical beach is an invitation to sunstroke and/or certain death. It would be like telling an agoraphobic to make their safe space the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl.
But then one relaxation coach made it infinitely worse. In dulcet tones she suggested that, while slowly frying on the sand, I picture two dolphins swimming nearby in the surf to encourage me on my journey.
Aw hell no.
Because as anyone who knows me understands, I f—king hate dolphins. Can’t stand the little assholes. Perhaps the only thing on the planet that could make slowly desiccating in a tropical sun worse in my opinion is to have two of those snarky little SOBs swimming by.
To be fair, it’s not all their fault. About half of my ire comes from the veritable saint status we humans have assigned these creatures, mischaracterizing them as submissive and mild sweethearts who just live for the chance to perform at marine parks and rescue Sandy and Bud from sharks.
But like all animals (yes, humans included), they can be vicious and cruel.
Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you take the highly scientific step of Googling “dolphin attacks.” I’ll wait.
Now, whether they have the right to attack humans seeing as how we pollute the oceans and force them to do stupid tricks such as jump through hoops and search for mines is one thing, but dolphins can also be pricks to each other. They beat up on porpoises, although I’ll bet they’re also jerks. Their sexual practices can be violent and coercive. Males sometimes engage in infanticide. I mean, all behaviors you expect of animals in the wild but hardly the sort of thing you want commemorated on a keychain.
I only became aware of my contempt for them after I went on one of those stupid dolphin encounters years ago. Like most people, I was a sucker for the creatures, having watched “Flipper” growing up. It didn’t occur to me until I showed up at the venue that if you love animals, you probably shouldn’t put them in cages and force them to interact with you but hell, I had a lot to learn. I was only 30.
The place I went to was a penned-in lagoon, the water a dingy brown color. My husband and I were instructed to stand on a platform in the water facing each other while a dolphin swam in between us. Damn, but they are big creatures up close. Once next to one, you also become acutely aware that they are strong and powerful and if they don’t like you, they could make your life pretty miserable.
We listened to the trainer’s spiel and pet the dolphin and posed for pictures and it was all amaze balls. But the dolphin kept pushing up against me, a few times so hard I almost fell off the platform.
“Didn’t it hurt?” I asked my husband after we climbed out of the lagoon.
“When he stuck his side fin between your legs? He kept doing that and it was starting to piss me off.”
He looked at me incredulously.
“He didn’t do it to me.”
Oh great. I had just experienced “bad touch” at the pectorals of a dolphin. I’d never be able to watch The Little Mermaid again without a trigger warning.
Look, I’m not saying the dolphin was purposefully engaging in unprivileged physical contact (so to speak), but since that encounter I have heard all sorts of stories about people getting nipped, bit, pushed and even “mounted” by the creatures.
So no, they are no longer on my list of preferred animals, which is why I was forced to pull up sticks on the tropical “safe space” promoted by all the relaxation gurus and move to a climate more suitable to my needs.
My imagined safe space was in a forest glen. A very well-shaded forest glen. The only animals allowed were butterflies because for all I know deer are assholes too.
Unfortunately, as the delivery date approached, I found it harder to concentrate during my relaxation sessions. Without warning my mind would whisk me from the cool, dark floor of the forest to a broiling white hot beach, where dolphins bobbed in the waves making obscene gestures or dragging one fin slowly across their throats in a slashing gesture.
By the time I found myself in the unimaginable agony of pitocin-fueled labor, the forest glen had been leveled in a wildfire and the dolphins were sitting in the delivery room like they owned the place, making long distance calls on my cell phone while detailing their unsavory plans for my young once he was birthed.
Of course, not much could have eased the pain and stress of that delivery, but it might have been easier if those f—king dolphins hadn’t showed up.