While other father-son relationships are formed through sports, fishing or working on cars, my dad and I bonded thanks to TV and movie screens.
Not surprisingly, he took me to the movies a lot when I was 7 years old. What may shock, however, is that my feast of flicks included the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Fatal Attraction.
Some of you familiar with these R-rated masterpieces might have a minor freak-out at this revelation. After all, the villainous dream master Freddy Krueger kills six napping victims in the former, while Dan and Alex engaged in their fair share of adulterous situations before that unfortunate bunny incident in the latter.
Yes, I probably shouldn't have been seeing these films in theaters — even then, it was much cheaper to rent. But, beyond raising my cachet of cool in elementary school, research suggests there could be a correlation between graphic violence seen on the screen and committing it later in real life.
And yet, seeing scary movies is one of those things from my childhood that I brag about the most.
I think my dad "got me" when I was younger. Obviously, I've grown up to become an arts and entertainment editor, so his actions in many ways helped shaped my love for pop culture and nurtured what I imagine was then a budding interest. And this isn't to say that my home was a free-for-all where grown-up art forms were wantonly on display for my amusement. These "lessons" were often accompanied with strong reminders of what was fake (the surreal dream world of A Nightmare on Elm Street) and what was very real (the Challenger space shuttle explosion shown repeatedly on TV).
TV and movies have continuously allowed the two of us to "meet halfway." Though charismatic to strangers, my father is not the type you'd mistake for an expressive person and we don't have a ton in common. Sometimes it's a struggle for the two of us to stay on the phone for more than five minutes without having to search for topics to meet the minimum time threshold.
But when he asks me if I've seen any new movies lately, we're able to prolong our discussion for a few minutes more.
It's just a fact that my family spent a great deal of time in front of the tube — I don't think I consistently ate dinner at a table until I was in my late 20s. Sure, it may have played a role in our development as a family, but, funnily enough, we can differentiate, say, watching TV for entertainment versus watching TV for family bonding. And, in all honesty, I don't recollect the TV or movies serving as a babysitter when I was younger. Instead, I think my dad was indirectly training me to develop opinions and exposure to a wider range of art in lieu of the museums we rarely went to.
I think — because I'm too afraid to ask — that it was his way of showing love, as are the seconds-long conversations we have today, and for both, I'm appreciative.
So I'll continue to brag about seeing scary movies when I was far too young to buy my own ticket. And I'll keep thanking my dad in the process for helping me develop my love for pop culture and how to process the myriad images thrown at me via various screens. I'll also remember those earlier-mentioned moments as ours and cherish them and their meaning.
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A Plus' Project Dad content is inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Project Dad, a television series about the joy of fatherhood and family.