Written February 22, 2020 at the Gateless Writing Retreat
“You seem to have a long list of interesting fears,” she says as I decline her offer of pouring coffee into the cup while I hold it.
We’re at a weekend writing retreat, all staying in one house and squeezing on two sofas. This isn’t her first glimpse of my hyper-specific phobicness. To her observation: Yup.
I want to put the cup down and pour the coffee myself. I want the control, but ok yes. I’m weirdly afraid of letting someone pour it for me. Maybe because they’ll pour just too much and then I’ll have to pour some out in front of them to add my milk, which will look passive aggressive. Or maybe they’ll pour too little, and then after they put down the coffee pot I’ll have to say thank you! And pick it back up again and pour myself some more, which ditto. Or maybe because I’m afraid they’ll pour on my hands, or my hands will shake because they sometimes do, which I’m too young for but my mom always said not having protein made her shaky – her excuse for sneaking some cheese, which she only needs to excuse because she’s sneaking it. So I’m afraid of someone pouring me coffee.
I’m afraid of getting a chair with no back. I’m afraid of sitting at a bar that’s all backless stools. I’m afraid of sitting anywhere without lumbar support. I’m afraid of sitting anywhere near a draft. I’m afraid, always, of being cold. I’m also afraid of sweating, not while I’m working out and it’s allowed, but in my regular clothes or at dinner. For this reason, I’m afraid of silk. I do a spit test when I shop, especially for anything gray. I lick my finger and then touch the fabric to make sure it doesn’t make a dark spot. Dark spot is a deal breaker, I’m afraid of dark spots. I was deeply afraid of the grey silk chantung my best friend made all us bridesmaids wear. I looked into having the orthodox Jewish seamstress whose apartment we had to go to for our 2 fittings sew those sweat pads I’d heard about into the armpits.
I’m afraid of flying coach. I’m afraid of not being in Group 1 boarding. I’m afraid of not being on the aisle because I always have to pee. I’m afraid of being anywhere I have to pee but can’t. I’m afraid, when I stand up after peeing, that I haven’t peed completely. I’m afraid of leaving the house when there’s still another pee in me. I’m deathly afraid of being in a car that breaks down on a cold dark road and having to pee. I’m afraid of camping. I’m afraid of slugs in my hair, which happened both times I went camping at camp, and I’m afraid of having to squat in the woods to pee. Worst, I’m afraid of squatting in the woods to poop. I’m afraid of running out of toilet paper. When people ask “what does abundance mean to you,” I say, extra money and extra toilet paper.
I’m afraid of being thirsty or hungry with no water or food. I’m afraid I’ll leave the house without my water bottle or lip balm.
I’m afraid of an accidental facebook live on the toilet. I’ve had close calls. I’m afraid of not doing as well this year as I did last year.
I’m afraid of not having enough money. I’m not afraid of being homeless, but I’m afraid of having to “tighten my belt.” I’ve never done that. I’m afraid of not getting my daily exercise. I’m afraid every day of consuming more calories than I burn. I’m afraid of getting fat. I’m afraid of putting on my pair of GAP 1969 jeans from 2003 that I use to see if I gained any weight and not being able to zip them and not being able to say it’s because I just washed them because I didn’t. I’m afraid of wearing my favorite jeans so much that they get holes between the thighs. I’m afraid of losing my luggage because I’ll lose my favorite jeans. I’m afraid of someone taking the seat next to me on the bus. I’m afraid of that luxurious space being taken away. I’ll fake sleep leaning on my bag in that seat when people get on to keep them away. I’m afraid of fire. I’m afraid of dying on fire. I’m afraid to light a match. I’m still afraid of fireworks. At camp, I used to yell “they’re right over us!” And run and run and run as far as I could so they couldn’t land on me and blind me like the kid in that book I got at a yard sale, “Follow The Leader.” It was about a boy who went blind from a firecracker and had to go to blind school, learn braille, and have a seeing eye dog. After each firework, I’d jog back to the group sheepishly. I’m afraid of seeing fireworks on a roof because there’s nowhere to run.
I’m afraid of not being the best at anything where I think I’m going to be the best. I’m afraid of someone saying, “this isn’t your best work.” I’m afraid of them not understanding my sentence. I’m afraid of farts, specifically my own, specifically in bed. I’m afraid of being bloated. That’s what makes farts. I’m afraid of not pooping all the way. I’m afraid of starting a poop in some bathroom where I knew better than to start a poop. A poop I can’t finish. I’m so afraid of pulling up my pants when there’s a turtlehead.
I’m afraid of feeling bad about my neck, ever since Nora Ephron wrote the book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I was young enough to think, “Why would anyone feel bad about their neck?” And then, one day, I knew. Now I’m afraid of feeling worse about my neck. I’m afraid of it getting more and more crepe-y and my jawline more jowly but I’m also afraid of doing something about it and looking like Lisa Vanderpump. Hers isn’t the worst plastic surgery but it’s also not subtle. You can tell she’s had lots done and she’s trying to look like she used to and she just doesn’t. I’m afraid of looking like I had work done. I’m afraid of having work done and not waking up, like Kanye’s mother. But I’m more afraid of knowing I’m dying. I’m afraid of a plane crash that I know is happening. When a plane is taking off, I now remind myself, if I were trying to kill myself by flying on every plane I possibly could, it would never work. I’d fail miserably. I’d probably die from something you catch on a plane, like Corona Virus, maybe I should be more afraid of that. Steven looks at me tenderly and says “I love you” when we take off, to torture me and remind me that this is the part where we die. After the Sully incident in 2009, he’d make goose noises. I’m still afraid of geese being caught in the engine. I’m afraid of smelling meaty smoke on the plane and going out with my two worst fears. Fire and crash. Or, as Steven calls it, “crashels.”
I’m afraid of cancer but still haven’t gone back for the ultrasound I’m supposed to pair with the mammogram, because even more than cancer, I’m afraid of appointments on my calendar.
I’m afraid of awkward hugs and oopsy double kisses. I’m afraid of double kissing someone I thought was a double kisser but isn’t and saying, “oops! Double!”
I’m afraid of dry lips, of dry mouth, of what I call banana mouth. When you talk and your mouth makes the sticky sound of eating a banana. Old people on NPR, like Jonathan Shwartzman, have banana mouth. I’m afraid of getting drunk and spitting on people when I talk. It’s why I don’t get drunk. I’m afraid, when someone I’m in a conversation with wipes inside their glasses, that it’s because I just spat in their eye.
I’m afraid of not having enough time. I’m afraid of being late but also of being early, I don’t know why. Being early is awesome but I have to leave as late as I possibly can so I time it just perfectly and arrive on the dot. Time on the other end seems wasted, and I’m afraid of wasting time.
I’m still afraid of what Beth Fishbone thinks of me, 39 years after she can hurt me.
I’m afraid of skiing now. Not just of killing myself while skiing like Sony Bono, but of all the gear and being too hot or too cold or helpless on a mountain and needing a stranger’s help. I’m afraid of Steven dying. I check every night to make sure he’s breathing. I don’t always have to because he’s either snoring or farting, farting intentionally. You pushed that one out! I accuse. I tell him to go to the bathroom. That’s what the fart is, it’s saying you need to go to the bathroom. I’m afraid of not enough sleep. I’m afraid of how it will make me feel the next day and look over time. I’m afraid of spending my whole life afraid. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” those people ask on Facebook in their sponsored posts where they’re leading a horse or standing with their arms crossed next to a Lamborghinii. I’m afraid to even think about how much. I’m afraid of so many more things but I’m afraid of writing too much but I’m also afraid of leaving something out but I’m most afraid of being longwinded and boring and not considerate of the reader so let’s stop here.