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Night Fever

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 12/29/2004

I feel like a big baby even telling you this, but I am afraid of the dark. Iím a college graduate with a responsible job and I know intellectually thereís nothing to be afraid of, because I check all the doors and windows before I go to my bedroom, but when the lights go out I freak: I start to sweat, my heart races, and I panic. I try to calm myself down by deep breathing, but it doesnít work. I feel like a fool, but it doesnít matter how many times I tell myself thereís nothing to be afraid of, every night I get up and turn a light back on. Then I can finally go to sleep. When I was a little girl I went through a period of having really bad dreams, so I got into the habit of sleeping with a night-light, but when I was 12 or so, the nightmares stopped and I was fine without a light on. Itís only been in the last few months that this intense terror has come back, although the nightmares, thank God, havenít started up again, at least not yet. Itís getting so bad I dread going to bed at night. Can you help?

Fraidy Cat

You never hear anyone talking about things that go bump in the day, FC, so, as things to be afraid of go, the dark is perfectly reasonable, certainly more so than an illogical dread of walking (ambulophobia), say, or sitting (cathisophobia), or bathing (ablutophobia), any of which could put a serious damper on a successful social life. If it makes you feel more grown-up, you can even call it by any of its three legitimate medical names: achluophobia, nyctophobia, or, my favorite, scotophobia. Fear by any other name is still fear, but you neednít let it ruin your life.

You could try hypnosis or therapy or meditation, but before you go to all that trouble and expense, you might just try leaving some lights on. Thereís no rule that says you have to sleep in a total blackout. Try putting your bedroom lights on a timer, so that they go out after you fall asleep, or a dimmer, so you can gradually, over the course of time, turn them lower and lower until you can turn them off completely. Or you can plug in a night-light in every room of your house. The cost in electricity and bulbs is negligible, and any guests you may have will thank you for the ability to navigate their way to the bathroom or kitchen without the need to turn on the overheads.


I am a fan and regular reader of your column. I think you are usually on the mark, but I strongly disagree with the advice you gave to Honest Abe (Think Mink, Dec. 15). I think what Abe needs is to sit down and do some serious thinking about how he would feel if his girlfriend had slept with someone else. Then he should do some serious talking. He should explain to his girlfriend exactly why she should trust him; that is what she really needs to hear. If he has given serious consideration to her feelings, it should make the discussion much easier. Then he has to be worthy of that trust, which will take a long time to rebuild. Giving her something sparkly seems like the easy way out. What she really needs is a reasonable explanation about what happened and assurance that she isnít replaceable and wonít be hurt again.

A Fan

I hate to chastise a loyal fan, but, honey, you need to sit down and seriously read that column again, because you were decidedly distracted by something the first time, like maybe a bad memory of your own. Abeís big mistake was not his coitus almostus with another gal, it was spilling his guts to his girlfriend. They were not a couple when it happened; they had broken up. They were finito, kaput. Each of them was single, independent, and available, a free agent with every right to do whatever with any willing other. Just because she didnít exercise her option doesnít mean Abe was unfaithful. Even if he had gone through with it with this other gal, the contract of exclusivity had been dissolved. Also, Abe is a lousy talker. It was doing exactly what you want him to do that backfired and got him into all this trouble in the first place. If he had kept his big mouth shut about what he did when what he did was none of her business, his girlfriend wouldnít be feeling all this doubt and they could now be happily reconciled.

A trinket, no matter how pricey, should never be used as a substitute for fidelity, but, although you and Abeís girlfriend seem to think it is, fidelity is not the issue here. The bauble I suggested is to make up for hurting by telling her how this experience proved to him how much he loved her. When a guy who is trying to tell a woman how precious she is to him ends up kicking her in the heart with the same foot heís shoving down his own throat, sometimes a nice piece of jewelry makes a sweet and effective bandage.

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Pick and Choose (4/12/2006)
First of all, homosexuality isnít like snake handling or Catholicism; it isnít a cult or a religion you can be recruited for or converted to.

Territorial Rites (4/5/2006)

Family Guy (3/15/2006)

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