Everyone has something they’re afraid of; a particular panic-button pushing phobia that just thinking about causes unsightly sweat circles. Some fears are completely rational: I am afraid of a shark eating me, ever since a surfer friend told me you’re never less than a kilometre from one in the ocean. “One!” scoffed the economist. “You’ll be lucky if there’s only (seeing my face) won…derful thing, Mother Nature.”
As an aside − come over here by the arras for a moment − I’ve noticed that when you say you’re afraid of sharks; at a dinner party for instance, someone always pipes up: “It’s the ones on land you’ve got to look out for!” As if a poker cheat/internet fraudster is going to rip your arm off.
Anyway, a quick poll of friends revels some pretty weird fears: black toilet seats (fairly uncommon, I would think), balloons (potential for popping), commercial radio, coins, Mike Hosking. One otherwise sound gentleman has an irrational fear of Komodo dragons. There’s absolutely no chance he’ll ever see one, but he freaks out about them anyway. He’s afraid of them in theory. A sensible lady broadcaster confessed ET gives her the absolute heebeegeebees. She’s dreading the day her children discover this ‘classic’ film.
Most women fear spiders and anything with too many legs and an ability to skitter. Skittering is creepy. That the poor spider in the bath being shrieked at and appearance-judged, “It’s big, black and hairy! Get in here now!” (spiders can’t hear, just sense vibrations, so he’s experiencing an earthquake on porcelain tundra and hoping it will soon end) has no desire to run up your leg is of no consequence. He could. A lack of symmetry is also intolerable to the point of anguish for some ladies. Makes sense. Furniture out of alignment can be tripped over on your way to the toilet in the middle of the night. Thus it might be for reasons of safety that our whole house is so neat it wants to scream: Hitler corners, pathological pillow plumping − or a deeply unflattering reflection of my mental state.
The economist, like many men, is afraid of flat pack furniture. It takes a great deal of pre-assembly swearing and beer consumption before he can even approach the box it came in. He also has a thing about unhappy women. “I don’t know what I can do about it,” he says, displaying a staggering ignorance of cause + effect, “except stay away from them.”
Both of us were, until a few weeks ago, terrified of the chainsaw. Not without good reason. “Do you like meat?” the salesman asked when we bought it up to the counter. Oh goodie, I thought, he’s going to invite us to a Stihl-owners-only BBQ. No. “This baby will make a kilo of mince per second,” he said. By the time it dawned on us townies that we were made out of meat, it was too late and the transaction had gone through. “I still thought about handing it back,” said the economist.
For months, the chainsaw was the bane of our existence. Started once, it unleashed a terrible blood-thirsty roar (“I need my fingers to play the piano!” I lied, sprinting for the house) and hereafter remained the cleanest chainsaw in New Zealand. You could have mounted it on a plinth in the foyer of a law firm and called it modern art. The pile of dead tree limbs requiring chopping into smaller, burnable pieces increased exponentially until it resembled a Wicker Man pyre. Not only was winter coming, but, sensing weakness, random men had started dropping by the house and mansplaining for hours. Something had to be done.
Psychologists tell us fear is evolution’s way of keeping us safe in the face of danger. That when awakened, it can let loose abilities we never knew we had, unlock reserves of strength otherwise hidden. But I didn’t want to lift an automobile off a small child, I just wanted the firewood chopped. Rather than ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,’ − I think you’ll find you can eliminate worries, fears and anxieties by simply getting a man in. He used our chainsaw, by the way, and spoke very highly of it.
We all have our own personal chainsaw. The secret is to acknowledge the fear. Freely admit it. Say ‘hello’ to it. Learn more about what makes it special: “Without sharks, you take away the apex predator of the ocean and you destroy the whole food chain,” said Peter Benchley. So special.