A friend recently complained about her recurring anxiety dream—it's the classic one, about showing up at school unprepared for a test. I couldn't exactly commiserate, since I haven't had that particular nightmare in a long time. My current dream-state fixation? Beauty. I've woken up in a cold sweat more than once in recent memory because I dreamed that I'd forgotten to shave my legs. In the dream I'm out in a cute skirt or dress and look down to see that I have a thick fur covering my calves—far more noticeable, mind you, than anything I would actually grow in real life. Am I just worried about proper grooming or is something else nagging me from the unconscious?
I asked Judith Orloff, an an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the author of Second Sight: An Intuitive Psychiatrist Tells Her Extraordinary Story and Shows You How To Tap Your Own Inner Wisdom (Three Rivers Press) to help me interpret my dream. She made me feel slightly better by telling me that many people experience beauty dreams. Her patients tell her all the time about falling asleep only to see themselves with no teeth or suddenly bald or 50 pounds heavier. (And not all the dreams are bad. Dr. Orloff said she dreamed of herself with a particularly flattering haircut and went out the next day and got it.) In my case, she believes that my leg-shaving anxiety stems from a fear of feeling exposed in front of other people. "You want to choose what you want to reveal to them, and you're worried about revealing too much," said Orloff. She also thinks that my dream indicates that I may be suppressing the carefree side of my personality. "I think you’re probably wary of your wild side and you’re trying to control it quite tightly."
Anyone who knows me will laugh to read those last few lines: Dr. Orloff is spot on in her diagnosis. I'd say her accuracy is frankly uncanny. But you'll understand if I'm off to shop for a replacement pack of razor blades. I won't be expressing my wild side through unshaven legs anytime soon.