(Strange Days Indeed)
I saved the most embarrassing story (the other stories weren’t embarrassing?) for last. My siblings still tease me about this one. I might as well spit it out, I choked myself. No, really! Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me explain. One night, while lying on the floor watching TV, with my chin cupped in my hands, my wrists became tired, and in an effort to relieve them, I slid my hands down to the sides of my neck. Apparently, with the pressure applied to both sides of my neck, the blood flowing through the carotid artery to my brain was restricted, causing a light-headedness, euphoria, and a temporary brownout. The feeling was one of intoxication as if I had consumed one too many alcoholic drinks and was in the process of going from tipsy to drunk. Unfortunately, I liked the feeling and began repeating it often. Add to that my addictive personality and it was not a good combination. I would lie on the floor, back to parents, and repeat the maneuver until the euphoria came again. Mom and Dad finally discovered what I was doing and, as usual, didn’t have any answers as to what to do.
Mom said, “Ronald, your son is choking himself again.”
Dad, trying to laugh it off said, “Which one? No, let me guess, Ronnie?”
“Yes, Ronnie,” Mom replied.
Dad, again trying humor as a defense mechanism replied, “I’ve been tempted to choke that kid hundreds of times.”
Childhood behaviors have a tendency to stump parents, and my behaviors were a little more daunting than the usual. Mom saw me choking myself again and in a frustrated tone asked me, “Ronnie, what are you doing there on the floor?”
I lied and said, “Nothing.”
Vicki, always the observant one said, “He’s choking himself again.”
Mom was nonplussed and asked me, “Son, why would you want to choke yourself?”
In a voice altered by the restricted flow of blood to the brain, I responded, “Because it feels good.”
Mom and Dad were beside themselves. They chastised me, spanked me, pleaded with me, threatened me, nothing seemed to work. Whenever the chance presented itself, I was back to choking myself. I even tried to get by with it at the dinner table. My siblings made sure to point this out when they caught me in the act.
“Mommy, Ronnie’s choking himself,” Vicki offered, trying to save me from myself.
Timmy too wanted to help and said, “His face is tuhning puhpuwh.”
“He’s huhting himself.” Kathy added, almost in tears at the thought of her big brother dying.
This went on for months and not always at home. I would do it at school, on the way to school, wherever I could. It was really easy to disguise the act from people who weren’t looking for it (although I couldn’t disguise the red marks on my neck or the disorientation that came immediately after). While at my desk, I would hold my head in my hands, and from there, it was a slight change in position to get to the desired effect. Once, I nearly passed out at my desk (one of the desks that are chair and table all in one), and I must have “browned out” and fallen over in my desk. This startled everyone around me, including the teacher, so I had to act fast with a plausible excuse. I told the teacher that I was reaching for a pencil that I had dropped, and the desk tipped over.
Little did I know it at the time, but what I was doing could have caused death or brain damage (I know what you’re thinking). One day, I stopped. I don’t know why, but I did. I found out years later that not only do many others choke themselves, but there is actually a name for it. It is called the fainting game or the choking game, and in a 2006 behavioral survey in Ohio, it was determined that 11 percent of youths aged twelve to eighteen years reported having practiced it.
Even today, my siblings still tease me, and I totally understand why. The behavior is so absurd that it can only lead to a couple of responses: tears or laughter.
Little Heathens and the sequel Always a Little Heathen can be found on Amazon here.