By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
My dad walked into my room the week before I left for college at Boston University holding a small package in his hands.
“Estelle, are you busy? I’d like to talk to you about something,” he began tentatively, yet authoritatively. Knowing that I was leaving home, which was both a safe haven and a place of chaos had made me even more moody and excitable than usual.
“What is it?,” I mumbled, my nose buried in the pages of yet another fantasy fiction book. I favored Star Trek fan fiction as well as anything involving magical circumstances, like Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time.
“I bought something for you,” my father said handing me the package. “I got you Mace. When you go out at night, or find yourself in unfamiliar places, you can hold it in your hand, and always be prepared.”
I was so touched. My daddy wanted to protect me; and keep me safe once I was out of his domain. I eagerly unwrapped the package.
“Thanks so much daddy,” I said, cupping my hand gently around the blue velvet covering of the cylinder bottle. It looked innocuous; more like a large tube-shaped perfume than a weapon that could maim or paralyze someone in their tracks.
That Mace took me through my four years of college. It was my ever-present companion when I went to frat parties, went out dancing to clubs with names like Celebration or the Rat Skeller, walked back from classes along Commonwealth Avenue, or said a firm goodnight to an annoying date.
The Mace was my connection to home; and I felt fearless with it in my hand or stowed away through classes in my purse.
After college I moved back home and eventually to New York City. One day I came upon the long forgotten bottle of Mace and impulsively decided to do the unthinkable–see how it would work.
I picked the bottle up; carefully turned the nozzle so the spray would face away from me and practically vibrating with excitement pressed the nozzle.
A few drops of liquid dribbled out on to the ground. The Mace had lost its power; if it had ever had any at all.
But I retained mine…and…switched to carrying a small bottle of Aussie hair spray.
What “placebo” did you buy into and how did it affect you?