Everyone’s scared of something. And that frightens me.
What are you scared of right now? Reading this, on your desktop computer (get with the times granddad), laptop computer (get with the slightly newer times, younger granddad), tablet (yeah fine) or smartphone, what’s the one thing that frightens you? Is it the thought of accidentally liking the five-year-old photos of an ex? Is it the thought of accidentally streaming an entire video over 3G, despite having very limited data remaining? Or is it the simple possibility that a horrifyingly massive snake sneaks up behind you, opens its mouth, and tells you that you’ve wasted your life?
These are mostly legitimate fears, based on familiar situations. But what about phobias; irrational fears that have no basis in reality, save for perhaps a mildly perturbing childhood event, like walking through a supermarket and reaching up to hold your mum’s hand, only to realise you’ve actually grabbed the gloved hand of an off-duty circus clown, still in full make-up and costume. That could quite understandably lead to coulrophobia, fear of clowns, but not for any real reason, like you think a clown will one day replace your mother and take you out of education to teach you to juggle flaming knives on a unicycle. That would obviously be brilliant. No, you’re just scared. If someone came up to me in a supermarket (as far as I’m aware, all phobias begin in supermarkets) and told me that my parents had just drowned in a vat of Marmite, first of all I’d want my parents’ deaths to be broken to me in a different way, but I could quite reasonably develop an aversion to, or even fear of Marmite. It wouldn’t affect my opinion of its taste of course, flying in the face of their marketing campaigns as I would now be in a position to both love and hate Marmite. This could either lead to a lucrative career as their new spokesperson, or dissolve into an indifference of Marmite, forcing them to drop their Love/Hate campaign, and honestly market the product as it is, something that no-one really understands, except for the fact it involves yeast, and is for some reason acceptable. ‘Marmite. Remember, it’s still for sale.’
Some ‘phobias’ of course stem from more practical aversions; agoraphobia, fear of large open spaces, or crowds, is understandable. Obviously there’s nothing inherently dangerous about those things, but there is some logic to them, being around a lot of people whose motivations you don’t know, or in open spaces where danger can come from any direction. It’s basically a fear of the unknown, and a cynicism for human nature, which must surely stem from a wariness of one’s own darkest thoughts and desires. And that is why agoraphobics are evil.
My own fears would have to include spiders, heights (or rather, being aware of a great height, from the same height. Just the concept of something tall is quite inoffensive to me. Walking past skyscrapers or noticing clouds leaves me basically nonplussed) and I also suffer from what I have dubbed claustrophiliaphobia, which is a fear of people who are sexually aroused by enclosed spaces. Additionally, I did have a run in with a rat a few years ago when I entered the kitchen of my university accommodation, and walked in on one nibbling at something on the floor. My first thought was one of embarrassment, as it was well past midnight, and the thought of anyone knowing I was up so late would have been a real blow to my misplaced sense of responsibility and burgeoning adulthood. Luckily, the rat didn’t condemn me, but rather scuttled across the floor, its claws scritching about until it reached a hidden aperture somewhere in the corner of the room. By this point of course, I had shrieked quite audibly, and jumped onto one of the kitchen chairs, inadvertently taking on the role of Tom’s faceless female owner from the Tom and Jerry cartoons, albeit less racistly. Sadly, there was no cat I could call to aide me, but a couple of my housemates did respond to my falsetto wail, and walked in on me cowering on a chair in my pyjamas in a well-lit kitchen at three o’clock in the morning. Naturally I exaggerated the size of the rat to justify my reaction, but to this day I have an irrational fear of feeling emasculated on a lino floor. I’m just glad I didn’t lose my virginity in a bathroom in the eighties. Surrounded by spiders.
Next time on the Bandwagon – If you printed out every blog ever written onto A4 paper, and placed them end to end, then maybe I’d understand why you hadn’t got round to reading mine. Otherwise there’s no excuse.