The Laugh of the Psycho
I saw Psycho at the absolutely wrong time of my life. When I watched it, probably at around 12 years old, I was that combination of immaturity, imagination, and pubescence that is particularly prone to absorbing the wrong aspects of the world around him or her and laying a path for the rest of a life. More on this in the fourth paragraph.
Psycho became famous for, among other aspects, terrifying many a shower-taker for years to come (including Janet Leigh, who legend has it took baths for the rest of her life). The stabbing scene in the shower did indeed get to me. However, as luck would have it, the shower in my house had sliding glass doors, so I was only frightened when in hotel rooms. Now I’m over that, but it did take years to shower without peering outside to make sure I wasn’t about to die.
I still haven’t gotten over the end scene, though. I refuse to acknowledge a spoiler alert for a 50-year-old movie, so I will tell you that I’m referring to the scene when the woman in the basement realizes that Mrs. Bates is a skeleton, and Norman comes down the stairs at her, dressed as his mother, knife up, and with the scariest look on a face I have ever seen. I don’t know why that scene jumped into my consciousness so deeply, but I can tell you that I refuse to even look at a story about Psycho to this day, just in case I’m unlucky enough to see a still-frame of that scene. I might start shrieking on the spot. (And heads up to anyone who seeks to use this information against me: you will no longer be my friend. I am serious.) Anthony Perkins had a look of derangement and anger that I’ve never forgotten, and I can still see him walking down the stairs in my mind. I remain a fan of horror movies, both suspense thrillers and campy monster flicks. It’s just Psycho that got to me.
I write to you about this today to share an unfortunate side-effect to this event: I belive that this scene has affected my perception of gender switching, whether as simple as cross-dressing or as transformative as the transgender community. I consider myself a rational person who is as open to differences in people as anyone else, yet I carry a stupid bias with me. And it is stupid, a stupid and nonsensical association. But it’s there. When I see or talk to men or former men who now either dress as women or have become women, there is a specter of fear within me. Because it’s not based in anything logical, my mind can overcome the association (not that I have that many folks in this camp in my life, but there are some). It bothers me, however, that I feel something negative for no good reason. It’s like having a mean teacher who always wore yellow leading to a dislike of those later in life who wear yellow–a coincidence of detail rather than a legitimate root cause.
Then I start to wonder if there is more to it than this. I don’t know my psychology well enough to self-diagnose if this association is only a coincidence or some representation of a fear for some aspect of men dressed as or becoming women. Helene Cixous’s The Laugh of the Medusa may have some answers. My inner monologue may have more. This is a rare piece of writing where I don’t, with authority, give my version of exact answers to the unknown. I have neither the knowledge nor the confidence to explore this further, at least with you. I always write to you with honesty and openness. Sure, I may exaggerate for effect at times, but I give you the straight truth. So, I can tell you that because I am open with you in most matters, I do not care to be so with this. I write with you to make connections, not to expose my inner workings for entertainment or for shock value. I’m old enough to have some modesty.
There are times for public inquiry of visible people. There are other times where we have to sit alone and uncover who we are. See you next month.