ave you ever skimmed the Contributors section of a fashion or lifestyle magazine? It’s where special guest editors, photographers, and industry celebrities get introduced for their involvement in the issue. Granted, the contributors aren’t typically given a lot of space for their introduction – often it’s maybe eighty words tops – but the blurbs often come across holier-than-thou, tragically hip.
Months ago I read a few that really irked me. The format wasn’t anything new. The magazine editors asked the contributors five questions each, one of them being,
What’s your biggest fear?
Each and every one of the contributors replied with,
…And I rolled my eyes.
Obviously Death is scary. It is intense and mysterious, but I really don’t understand fearing it. Everybody dies, and then…they die. A select few can come back from it, but largely dead people are gone. I feel like I’ve lived/am living an awesome life, and I’ve pretty much always known that I will die. My awesome life is gonna end, and I may have regrets, but for the most part it’s a path I accept when it accepts me. You do a lot of shit, and then you go. Same with everybody else. Why worry?
So these esoteric contributors with their lofty answers just annoyed me. Other answers they gave to the rest of the questions were on the level of “My best meal of my life was truffles straight from the ground, sniffed out by my pig Quincy” and “Everything sounds so much better on 8-track.”
“Death” has to be the least original answer to “What’s your biggest fear?” that I have ever heard. I feel like people who answer “Death” are not thinking big picture. Or for some reason they think they’re entitled to more Life than everyone else based in carbon.
I don’t care what FDR said, I fear, and I fear not one thing, but two.
Shit worth fearing.
My biggest fears are rape and miscarriages.
Let’s get morbid.
Rape and miscarriages are living experiences that victims live with. They’re probably really fucking hard to live with, and that’s why I fear them.
Friends who know me know I’m squeamish around any sort of physical contact (I’ve always been this way.), so the thought of being touched and sexually violated terrifies me. How do you get it out of your head, and how do go outside afterward? If it occurs in your house, how do you handle moments of being alone? If someone else was present, how do you learn to trust anyone with your well being?
I was groped once – alone, daylight, public – and it left me with unresolved issues because I just sucked it up and convinced myself I only had a couple days to get all the venting off my chest. In the end, I don’t think that venting was enough, and my suppressed feelings were triggered when encountered by the mere suggestion of stepping into another situation where I might be vulnerable.
If I handled that so badly, how could I possibly handle rape?
(And no, I don’t think rape is an appropriate topic for stand-up comedy. When a comedian resorts to rape, AIDS, or harassing audience members, they’re basically admitting they have no original material, or that their original material isn’t getting laughs. I don’t have time for shock jocks.)
That opening sequence in Up tore me apart.
Sometimes I think Hollywood is more comfortable depicting rape than miscarriages in film. An awkward comparison, but when a character loses a baby, they often don’t show anything. It’s all entirely suggested.
Five years ago, I didn’t get babies, but then my friends started popping out adorable, bubbling things, and now I know for sure that I would like to start my own family one day. It’s not like I don’t know there are options for growing a family. I would not be averse to adopting. But the sheer thought of growing something inside me, and for whatever reason proving to be unfit to carry it through – it also terrifies me. I would take it personally, like some choice I made in the past was repaying me in karma, dealing me something I could never repair.
Back to death.
I could go on about those heavy zingers, but I think my point is clear:
There are bigger things to fear in life than death.
There are probably myriad experiences that could render a person inoperable and rob them of their surviving spirit: torture, illness, a really bad breakup. I’m not saying I’d prefer being snuffed out to being made the victim of something physically and emotionally damaging. I’m just saying I don’t believe people who say their biggest fear is death. I think they haven’t really thought about it.