In the August 8 online edition of Marie Claire magazine, Taylor Swift admitted to having five fears. She is afraid of sea urchins, Googling herself, earwigs, cynics, and getting arrested. While not the standard fears of death, heights, flying, or speaking in public, her list prompted me to wonder what am I afraid of? What is on my own fear list?
I grew up in the Midwest and all I remember being afraid of was the reeds and grasses that grew in the bottom of the lake where my grandparents had a cottage. I was sure my legs would get tangled and some mythical force would pull me under the water. We can get past the fact that I was only swimming in about three feet of water and even if I were sucked in, I could stand and my chin would still clear the surface of the lake. Since I don’t swim there anymore, I am no longer afraid of lake weeds.
I used to be afraid of heights to the point where I would insist on taking the elevator when faced with having to use what my grandmother called, The Moving Stairs. I remember a cartoon that my uncle had in a book on his coffee table. It showed people getting sucked into the base of the escalator one by one as they neared the bottom of the stairs. It was supposed to be funny, but that image terrified me and even now, when I hear of escalator accidents, I imagine the looks on the faces of the people in that cartoon and I opt for elevator.
I once had to be escorted out of the Beaubourg in Paris by gendarmes when I panicked on the famous exoskeleton escalator that runs up the outside wall. To me it was like some awful thrill ride I wasn’t really tall enough to ride by myself. So for this one, I guess it wasn’t heights so much as escalators. And I know now, I was just looking for a little extra attention.
A lot of folks are still afraid to fly, even though the number of flying fatalities is at an all-time low these days. Since it was a popular fear years ago, I used to say I needed a stiff drink and headphones to make it from place to place flying, but in reality, I love to fly and I think it’s really fun to take off and land in a plane. I can see where Army helicopters could be a little scary, not about flying but about falling out through those gaping holes where the doors should be. And the way they dip down forward when they take off is more than a little scary looking.
Mice and rats do not scare me, they disgust me. Giant bugs running toward me do not scare me, they startle me. I am no longer afraid of terrorists, even when I see the bulky HazMat safety gear the police have when they work in the subways. Sometimes I am afraid I will miss a plane, but even then I know I can just take the next one. That’s not fear. That’s just inconvenience. Is it possible I am no longer afraid of anything?
The last on the Swift list is the fear of getting arrested. I can honestly say, given what I know now, as an adult living in New York, I too am kind of afraid of getting arrested. I am not sure a jury would find me all that sympathetic. And I think I’d crumple. So, there you go. I’m not really afraid of getting arrested. I’m afraid of crumpling.
So I quizzed my daughter and her friend. They’re out in the kitchen now making cupcakes. My daughter is afraid of pigeons, which is unfortunate, given how many she sees every day. And her friend is afraid of bugs and heights, in that order. These are the kind of fears you’d expect from a couple of urban 20-somethings. They didn’t say anything about terrorists because they were both too young to remember 9/11. They didn’t list crime, bad guys, or the dark. My bet is because they are both smart, capable young women, they too have let go of the fears they acquired when they were growing up in the big city.
Thanks, Taylor! Next to earwigs and sea urchins, my fears are pretty small. What are you afraid of?
Anne Born has been an editor and writer all her life. She writes poems, short stories, and personal essays on family history and her view of living in a big city after growing up in a small one. She likes an audience or she would keep her writing in her personal notebook. This embarrasses her children. She lives in the South Bronx and writes on and about the MTA – the New York City system of buses and subways. You also find her at Open Salon and Red Room, and you can follow her on Twitter at @nilesite.
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