First let me say in my defence that i am not a complete jam tart. I have faced down the charging grizzly bear; i have been dragged across the Mexican reef strapped to the boat; i have been trapped in the white-out atop the Arctic pingo. Yes, these were scary. But my experience in teeming T.O. this past few days has brought to light two things that scare me more than all of the above:
- PEOPLE. I walked around all yesterday afternoon with a mounting horror that i might have to actually talk to someone — this despite my observation that Toronto people unexpectedly seem to be among the friendliest urbanites i’ve met. In typical fashion, my fears were compounded by the beating-up-on-myself notion that i should not feel this way, that people are my species, that if i’m to get anywhere in life fearing people is not going to help. Which only made it worse, sweaty palms, tripping heart and all.
Maybe i was simply overdosed on the social, what with all my recent travelling, and this was just the recoil. Maybe i needed alone time, with nowhere to go to get it. But i have also begun to suspect something else. I’ve been reading the blog of the eclectic and pathologically blunt Faye Kane for a couple of years. She’s a high-functioning autistic with almost no interpersonal skills, who can relate to people very well on-line but not at all in person — to the point where, up until a few months ago, she actually lived in a secret “cave” or shelter concealed somewhere in urban Virginia, surrounded by her computer equipment, microwave oven and MREs (military rations). Reading her descriptions of how it feels to be autistic has lead me to wonder whether i, too, might have a mild form of autism (Asperger’s syndrome, to be precise).
It comes and goes, but at times just looking into somebody’s eyes, even a friend, can be a searing experience and a real challenge. I cannot understand how some people do it as a matter of course. Full, open communication is a challlenge, too — plodding, difficult and often futile.
But then it passes, or mostly, and i can function with (relative) ease again in the world of people.
I’m not going to pursue this self-diagnosis, for it wouldn’t lead to anything i can work with. Rather i’m taking the approach that i am as i am, despite my ideas or wishes to the contrary, and the best way forward is to accept that and work with it.
- PRETTY WOMEN. My social paralysis is redoubled when it comes to these delectable creatures, because it gets entangled with the wild card of desire. Now that i’m firmly into middle age, a lovely young lass (even the less than lovely ones) have become something to covet — not the plebeian way one might covet a new mp3 player (which i do), but in some gut-deep, evolution-driven, ineradicable, save-me-from-looming-death sense. It’s not like a choice that can be dealt or bargained with (or fulfilled), it’s more like a glandular, animal hunger with no conceivable end to it. Sure, it’s controllable — the last thing i want is to become that cliché, the older man with the trophy wife. But dang, that doesn’t stop me from wanting it.
And with that want comes a giving away of personal power. If a woman — any woman, probably — played her cards right, she’d have me on strings like a puppet. Worse yet, even if i did somehow resist her, i would think about it and regret it forever. Such is the lot of the insecure heterosexual male. I really hate this part of me, and so … i fear the pretty woman.