Posts Tagged ‘cannibals’

Experience Anxiety

19 December 2008

Dear J-

Is there a word for the social terror that overwhelms you at the slightest mention of a birthday party?  When I was roughly seven, any hint of impending festivities would set off natalphobia alarms in my head, to the point where I’d send my brother to face that party-hatted firing squad in my stead.  When do we decide that the outside world is a terrible place, full of suspicious strangers and folks whose only intention is to eat your brains, your delicious tender brains?  (I know, in the back of my head, that we were getting delicious cake instead but you never know what guests may be subjected to).

I don’t believe that we’re born wary; I watch figgy wave and flirt with folks, though, and it’s clear she has preferences:  not too comfortable with strange women, and not comfortable at ALL with the guy last Saturday who came up and shook her hand as she was strapped into the high chair.  She bore this last one gamely but at the extreme end of her range, scrunching into a corner of the chair.  Otherwise she’s amazingly resilient and confident; does she not know differently, or does she just not care at this point?

We mature at different rates, I guess; we learn abstractly and we learn through experience.  Birthday parties are usually filled with games, not the cannibalistic undead; but not all strangers are benign, either.  How does she learn now?  She watches with an alert keenness; she imitates, she understands simple spoken commands.  “Want to go out?” is met with her running off to fetch her socks from wherever she’s managed to fling them.  I’m torn between protection and permission; experience and exposure war with isolation and insulation, but doesn’t it just make it that much more tempting?