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Vicki Iovine Headshot

Girlfriends' Guide To Sleeping: 'Don't Tell Me About Your Dreams Unless They Are Sexy'

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Whenever someone starts a conversation by saying, "I had the most incredible dream last night," I want to stick forks in their eyes. I used to be quasi-polite about it and I would listen with eyes wide, as if to indicate interest, but a film of utter disinterest clouded my gaze with every ridiculously minute detail. Dreams mean NOTHING, people! Or if they mean anything, we still haven't figured out what.

I have four children, as I've told you many times, and many a morning was devoted to the wandering dream recollections of one or more of them. "I was in school and Mr. Miller called on me to answer a question about dinosaurs, and then I wasn't in school anymore and then I realized I forgot my lunch, no wait, somebody stole my lunch and I was crying so hard and then we all lined up and they forgot me on the playground and I wasn't wearing my uniform skirt--only my pajamas-- and then I woke up!"

I used to play a game with them suggesting, "Tell me what it was like to be Mr. Miller?" or, "Who do you think stole your lunch?" Their answers weren't particularly compelling, but, as I recall, I was trying to make it a teaching moment to demonstrate that they were, in fact, all of the characters of their dreams. I think I was inspired to do this initially to calm them down about monster dreams and dreams of being chased. It was a valiant effort at Enlightened Mommy-ing, but not particularly fruitful in terms of relieving them of their terror.

Now, when one of them approaches me with a dream, I beg them to write it down or tell a sibling or save it for the therapist--just don't tell me. First of all, dreams are not a linear narrative. Everybody starts out as one thing and then turns into someone else. They rarely have a beginning or end and the details that seem important to the dreamer upon waking become inconsequential as they search for identities or motives that don't exist in the waking world. I'm not built for that kind of whimsy or imagination and all the starts and stops in the story give me a headache.

My anecdotal experience of dreams is that they fall into four basic categories: Falling, Being Chased, Finding Out You Have a Test That You're Not Prepared For; and Discovering You're Naked in Public. Evidently, however, I have omitted the most common dream reported: Teeth Falling Out. Check out "dream interpretation" on Google and the entire first two pages are about teeth.

Here's what we know for certain about this dental dream: It means that we are overly-concerned about how we appear to others; It means that we've chosen the will of earthly masters over God's will; It means that we fear losing power because teeth are for biting our enemies or eating their flesh; It means that we're menopausal and worried about losing our attractiveness. Women, don't you particularly resent that one? We all know that menopause can be crazy enough when we're awake, but the fact that it's always mentioned in anyone's short list of Crazy Behavior is demeaning. Clearly, dream interpretation is a stunningly inexact, and perhaps misogynistic, science. We can thank Dr.s Freud and Jung for much of that, since everything from trains entering tunnels to eating in dreams all seem to point to a woman's sexual frustrations.

Do you remember being a kid and hearing that, if you had a falling dream and actually landed, you would die? Or, along the same lines, if the monster chasing you actually caught you, same thing--lights out? It took me many years to realize that, by definition, there could not be any firsthand testimony to this truism. But it really scared me for a long time.

Particularly irritating to me are those dreamers who insist they dream in vivid color and/or that they can fly. Call me bitter if you want, since I still can't remember if I dream in color and I'm pretty sure I've never flown. I have had a couple of dreams in which a friend died. I would awaken feeling both grief and responsibility for this morbid view into the future. I'm relieved to report, however, that no one has actually died as a result of my vivid dreams, nor even reported the slightest headache.

I can't predict the future, read people's minds, commune with spirits or tap into a past life in my dreams--and I'm pretty sure no one else can either. Most of my own dreams are just a free-association recap of the petty concerns and worries that plague me in my waking hours. At best, I see dreams as an effective way to release stress while lying down...

EXCEPT WHEN I'M PREGNANT. The delicious little secret of countless pregnant women is that they occasionally have dreams that are so sexual and so intense that they awake to find themselves in the middle of an orgasm. No mate's help required. Hell, no hands required! They just awaken smiling, and maybe craving a smoke. Women are usually too embarrassed to share this tasty bit of hormonal heaven. Men, upon hearing about it, are flabbergasted and occasionally intimidated to learn that their Madonna Mommies-to-be are such rapacious whores beneath the cover of slumber. Many of these same girlfriends report that, a few years later, they experience similar dreams as they enter menopause. Take that, you men who think women are forever dealing with sexual repression!

Sex dreams are my kind of dream -- no meandering narrative, just the undeniable physical proof of the dream's meaning even after awakening. I wonder if Dr. Freud ever heard about that. If you've had one of those recently, feel free to share every detail with me--I promise not to stick forks in your eyes!

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