“I never watched horror movies as a little kid. Once my wife and I started dating, I found out that she had LOVED horror movies from pretty much the moment she saw her first one. After we moved moved in together, we often did all-day movie marathons. There was a cheap, crummy non-chain video store nearby, and you could get old movies for about a dollar. So we’d go through the horror section, her excitedly picking out classics that I’d been too chickenshit to watch growing up. In this way I went through The Omen (I and II), The Exorcist (I and II) and Hellraiser in a day.
Anyhow, after a while, I started to want to pick out movies, especially ones whose covers had traumatized me as a kid when I’d accidentally walk into the wrong section at the video store. But, for some reason, the cover for “Flowers in the Attic” had always struck me as confusingly un-scary and just odd. So one day I picked it up and told my wife, “We should rent this! It looks terrible! I like the surly lady!”
“No,” my wife said. “It’s soooo bad. The whole plot is basically incest.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Well, it’s not really in the movie. The movie just sucks.”
“The books are better.”
I have still never read any V.C. Andrews books or seen the movie, but it was such a delicious thing to discover that my wife, who’d grown up in a very Christian household, had evidently spent her early teen years sneakily reading titillating, trashy books about brothers and sisters trapped in attics together. Which struck me as fine, really—-the literary and femininely verbal obverse of guys’ very visual need to stare at the Maidenform section of the Sears catalogue. It seemed like healthy curiosity, and my wife seemed unruffled about it. Very adult, even.”
“I was ten years old and my mom forbid me to read it, so I stole it off the library bookshelves and read it anyway.”
“At summer camp, our counselor would gather us all around her bunk bed after lights out and read it to us, like a bedtime story.”
“Every year in June, the entire town would hold Garage Sale Weekend. Garage Sale Weekend was Christmas and homecoming and a shopping trip all rolled into one gloriously sweaty weekend. My mom would let me leave the house alone and rollerblade through the neighborhood with my friends, buying whatever I could carry, which was fairly exciting since I was a very poor rollerblader. One year I got a practically-new Super Nintendo for me and a green foot bath for my mom. It was green on purpose, not green from old feet. It was the best. She never used it, which hurt my feelings slightly at the time but in retrospect was a very sound decision.
Anyhow, this year–I think it was between seventh and eighth grade–I was rummaging through the cartons of books out front of one house when I came across Flowers. It was the old one with the classic keyhole cover, and something about those pale kids’ terrified faces struck me. I’d barely even been able to finish Christopher Pike books, but something told me I was ready for something really scary.
It should be said at this point that I grew up in a fairly wholesome household and my working understanding of sex was vague at best. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the book, finding myself alternately fascinated and absolutely horrified, before I knocked on my parents’ door, thrust the book into my mother’s hands and said, ‘I don’t think I’m supposed to be reading this yet,’ and went back to being twelve for a while.
Ten years later, I was in my first real girlfriend’s bedroom and found an identical copy on her shelf. I was ready then.”
“I saw it on the shelf of a rental cabin on vacation with my family when I was nine. About five minutes into it, my mom saw what I was reading, grabbed it away, and said ‘That’s not for you.'”
“Okay, so, a friend tried to show me the movie at a sleepover in probably 1988, on VHS, and I got too scared and turned it off. I suspect I finally read the book in seventh grade because my English teacher was one of those Reading-is-Reading types who thought that reading Adult Books in seventh grade was enriching but had a library full of mass market paperbacks that had probably been hers. And then I know I read every single one of the Flowers in the Attic books in quick succession.
I’m not exactly sure where I got them–my parents let me buy pretty much whatever I wanted when it came to books. I suspect we’re closing in on 20 years since I read them? I remember arsenic donuts and tetanus from a rusty nail…I remember their getting whipped and the brother-fucking, and I don’t have siblings so it sort of didn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
“Walking home from school with another girl, who pulled a copy out of her backpack and whispered to me, ‘The brother and sister do it.'”
[Image via Flickr]
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.