What Are You Afraid Of?

posted by Momo Fali on May 30, 2008

When I was eight years old, on an early June afternoon, another eight year old girl who lived a few miles from me was abducted on her way home from school. She was found murdered in a culvert just blocks from her house.

I remember my Mom watching me walk to school the next morning, which she had never done before. I could sense her fear. It was the first time I can recall really being scared.

Shortly after this incident, I had a nightmare that the girl’s killer was in my room. I dreamed that he was hiding behind my bedroom door and I was facing certain death. The murder was never solved, so I have no idea what the killer looked like. But in that nightmare, my eight year old mind had a detailed image. The murderer was Mr. Clean.

In my dream, I slowly pulled the door back to reveal him standing there with a broom. Mr. Clean was sweeping my floor. It took many years before I could buy any of his products. But, those Magic Erasers? Well, they make my heart skip a beat.

My point is that even rational fears can sometimes turn irrational.

Some friends of ours are having a hard time with their daughter. She is suddenly terrified of tornados. Rational? Yes.

When she sees a random gray cloud in the sky, she begins to freak out. Rational? No.

I used to housesit for a neighbor when I was young and they had a cat that would greet me by standing on its hind legs while hissing and baring its teeth. From that experience, I grew to be truly scared of cats. Rational? Yes.

When a friend’s cat comes purring and rubbing against my legs, it might as well be a boa constrictor. Rational? No.

I even know a grown man with a true fear of clowns.

I know we’re not alone. There must be at least one person out there who is scared of Aunt Jemima or who cowers at the sight of cheerleaders. I want to make our friends feel better about what’s going on with their daughter. So boys and girlswhat’s your irrational fear?

**************
Also, thank you all so much for your kind words about my Aunt M. She will be missed. Here is a picture of her teaching a very young me about the finer things in life…Budweiser. What?! I do so look like a girl. Do so.
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    Comments

  • Heather


    I don’t know how irrational it really is, but I am afraid of driving over bridges. I can be driven over them by someone else, no problem. But I can’t even THINK about doing it, it makes me want to puke.

    My other one is stairs. I can go up and down them, but I am afraid OTHER people are going to fall down them. Especially when that person is carrying a child. I dreamt once that I was carrying my niece down a flight of stairs and I just dropped the carseat and the sound it made as it went down was horrifying. So I should be afraid of stairs myself, but how irrational is that – I am afraid for other people. One of the reasons we bought the condo we did is because is is on the ground level, no stairs at all.

  • LiteralDan


    Well, now my irrational fear is Mr. Clean… you make a convincing case.

    Now that I think about it, this dovetails nicely with my sheer terror at the idea of getting up and cleaning our house with any regularity– thanks for your help!

    And I think you look girly enough for your age. You should see my daughter some days– you’d never know she wasn’t a boy.

  • Jolly Green Dad


    Irrational fear? For me definately heights. I carry it to a new level. In the Army I used to jump out of airplanes, but whenever I am near a ledge I get that fear!

  • Amy


    Clowns, mimes, and those Mardi Gras masks. I don’t like anything that hides someone’s facial expressions. Freaks me right out. I can barely handle the circus. Seriously. A clown came up into the audience when we took the kids, and I was all ready to dig in my purse for my pepper spray.

    Ugh.

    Amy @ http://prettybabies.blogspot.com

  • DanaB


    Sheesh, don’t even get me started on my irrationalities lol.

    Our girlie did the tornado fear thing as well, after witnessing some scary stuff it wasn’t any wonder…the way we’ve helped in by education. We’ve all learned about the weather patterns and what to look for in severe weather. Tell your friends to give that a try, it really worked for us.

    Hugs on the loss of your beloved aunt.

    ~~

  • Kori


    Easy. Driving on a road where one side is a cliff or sharp slope. I used to have nightmares when Hannah was a baby about rolling off one of those, and hearing her crying in her carseat for me but I couldn’t get to her and died. Ever since then? Can’t even watch something like that on TV. Went to see Indiana Jones last week, and there was a scene where all the jeeps were running alongside a cliff? Had to close my eyes. Why is this irrational? Because if I am the one dricing, I obviously can do it. Odd.

  • Geeks In Rome


    Ronald McDonald — very creepy. And dentist drills: watching Michael Palin in the movie Brazil did that for me.
    (I cannot believe you grew up near a girl who was nurdered!! that is so scary! Your poor mom!!!)

  • Smart A$$ Mom


    Irrational fears-all the cool kids are doing it.

    I’ve been found in a tub covered by a mattress, equipped with a radio and bottled water.

  • Stella


    She clearly looks like a fun woman!!

    My fear? Deer. Woodland creature deer. DEATHLY afraid of them. We moved from NYC to the “country” of NJ when I was 6. All of a sudden animals were everywhere, not in cages as they belonged. I had a nightmare that a deer was dressed in overalls and hunting gear and this red and black checked shirt and hat and he was chasing me. He was trying to eat my hands. For weeks I had this nightmare. Finally I talked about it and it stopped happening. But to this day I am severely, cripplingly afraid of deer. I won’t get out of my car if there is one near me.
    Thanks…that helped…I’m calling you when the nightmares start again!
    I need to go to my happy place…where’s the John Denver?

  • Xbox4NappyRash


    Edges. Of cliffs, buildings, bridges whatever.

    I’m convinced I will be drawn magically and plunge to my death.

  • meleah rebeccah


    Great story.

    I too LOVE the Magic Eraser, that thing works MIRACLES.

    Hmm…I am terrified to FLY on a plane. I have to be sedated with xanax before take off. I simply cant handle turbulence.

  • Inzaburbs


    I was 20 before I could sleep without the covers pulled up all the way around my ears. Because when the bears with axes turned up to chop off my head, the covers would protect me.

    No, I have no idea where that comes from either.

  • Jodi


    I have a terrible & ridiculous fear of whales. I don’t know why. I’ve never had a horrible run-in with a whale but still to this day I cannot watch anything with whales on t.v., I have never been to Marineland and I’d rather die then ever go whale watching!

  • SherE1


    Heights – I can’t even look down from the second story at a mall!

  • Kimmylyn


    Complete darkness. I absolutely cannot be in a completely dark room ever. I flip out.

  • HRH


    My husband has that clown fear. Has had it since he was a kid…

    I am not a fan of noisy crowds but luckily have been able to keep from flipping out completely.

  • Jaina


    Volcanoes. I live in Southern California, never been anywhere near a volcano, and I’m irrationally afraid of them. Not as bad as when I was little, but a few months back I had a dream with a volcano and had a REALLY hard time falling back to sleep. When I was younger I had this outrageous thought that suddenly a new volcano would spout, only it would be in the middle of my bedroom floor, and I would be trapped by the lava. Incidentally, there was a stretch of a year or so when I was terrified that our apartment building in LA would burn to the ground.
    I don’t blame that little girl, I’m not too fond of tornadoes…if I lived somewhere where they had them? I’d definitely be scared. Or, I’d move. Earthquakes on the otherhand? I’m a pro. As long as they aren’t too huge and don’t kill anyone, I think they’re actually kinda fun.

  • Angie


    There are 2 irrational fears for me. I grew out of the first one though. It’s this: If my right arm itched, and I scratched it, I had to scratch the same part on my left arm. Same goes for sweeping hair off my right cheek, had to do it on my left cheek (whether or not there was hair there). Or, if I bumped one knee, I had to bump the other one. It’s wierd, but I felt like if I didn’t do it then the opposite part of my body was left out. And then the itch, bump, tickling hair feeling would phantomly appear and I had to do it anyway! Sometimes I had to do it more than once on both sides just to make sure my body felt ok. The other one is that I’m a little claustrophobic. But only in really small spaces. If I am wrapped up in a blanket I freak out! My highschool boyfriend knew this so he would pin my arms to my sides and not let me go until I was practically hyperventilating. If my arms can’t stretch out, I freak.

  • Jamie E


    maybe it’s irrational, maybe not…I worry that when a baby is laid out on the floor on a blanket that somehow my clumsy self will trip or swerve and step on its head making it burst like a watermelon, weird, I know.

  • BusyDad


    Female Disney villains. Scared the crap out of me when I was little. The scariest was the Queen from Sleeping Beauty, followed by Cruella DeVille, followed by the snow white witch. The hairs on my neck are standing just typing this. Mooom!!!

  • Kiki


    Horses. For sure, it’s horses.

    I’m so sorry about your aunt. It looks like she taught you what’s really important! I bet she was a blast.

  • Kathy


    Sunflowers. I kid you not. I think they’re mean and they’ll rip my face off if I don’t watch them carefully enough.

  • Immoral Matriarch


    My irrational fear is probably my gephyrophobia. Bridges. 🙁

  • Lisa


    Thanks for sharing the picture–she looks like she was a hoot 🙂

    I got very irrational regarding germs, specifically runny noses, after my fourth was born. I would scan where we would sit at church, restaurants, anywhere based on the people around us–if I saw smiles and energy, I was OK; if I heard a sneeze, we had to move seats. I have gotten a bit better 😉

  • Eve Grey


    I used to be so terrified of vampires (which i didn’t believe in?) that i would sleep with the covers around my neck. I did this into my 20’s, for like, 5 years! rational? No.

  • Eve Grey


    oh & when my twins were born & my girl was 2, i was terrified i’d get into an accident & end up driving into water & how would i get them all out of their seatbelts in time before the water engulfed us? It terrified me. And there are very few bodies of water around here!

  • nola


    I am afraid of the normal things–death and money matters. Even more so now that I am a mother.

    You are so a girl in that pic! Reminds me of what my grandmother would have taught me 😉

  • Aunt Debbi/kurts mom


    I am afraid of can openers and electric pencil sharpeners. Not kidding.

  • Heidi


    I am completely freaked out that the wheels will fall off of my minivan while I am driving. Completely irrational, as this has never happened to myself or anyone I know. But I read about it happening once, so now I take my van to the machanic anytime something seems a little “off” and tell him my wheels are going to fall off. 😉 He thinks I am a nut job. 😉

  • Meg


    I’m know to have panic attacks in elevators. It’s part of an anxiety disorder.

    Have your friend keep an eye out for other symptoms. Having fears is normal for kids. But when they incapacitate them, the kids may need some professional help with coping.

  • musing


    Bridges, spiders, and men who look like Eugene Levy.

  • Birdie


    first, I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt!

    Flying/stinging insects scare me. The worst culprits are the black paper wasps with their long skinny bods & dangly legs…they look like something straight from the pit-of-you-know-where! I just know they’re after me and want to sting me repeatedly. I’m sure of it. They make my heart race.

    p.s. I’d do commercials for Mr Clean sponges pro bono if they let me. Dern, they’re the best thing to happen to my kitchen!

  • Melisa


    People who are dressed up like various mascots. I’m fine with Disney characters, but all others make me very nervous when I’m in close proximity.

    It started in the 70’s when we went to Six Flags in St. Louis. There was an HR Pufinstuf live show there, and at some point during the show, the villain chased another cast member through the audience with a “knife”. (It looked real to me, and by the way…this was a FAMILY SHOW???)

    Ever since then…total heebie jeebies. We’ve been to see Blue Man Group 4 times, and because my husband adores the show we have to sit in the first or second row…I just got over the heebie jeebies with them on the 4th visit! (Therapy?)

    Woo, I feel better now. Thanks for letting me share.

  • The Laundress~JJ!


    I was always afraid of getting kidnapped, now I’ve transfered that fear about me to my fear about my daughter.

    I’m afraid of the dark. Seriously. I know it sounds kind of cliche but it’s really true.

    And I’m afraid of evil spirits and possessions…Truly.

  • MommyTime


    In high school, I spent a year or so nervous that Dracula was in my room. The book was that good that I was afraid to go into my room at night without turning on the light first. Totally ridiculous.

    I’m very sorry about your aunt M. I love the story from yesterday about how close you might have been. Much sympathy on your loss.

  • transfattyacid


    I have quite a few of them.

    I guess my main one is ketchup. I absolutely detest in.

    It stems from when I was about they and was at my gran’s house and we had bought so chips. And being in a playful mood I made a whole big thing of trying to pinch chips from her plate, and she trying to defend the chips and when finally I got one and put it in my mouth I was nearly sick at the unexpected and totally disgusting taste.

    Since them I can’t bare the stuff – and I feel pretty much the same about vinegar.

    Cute pic with Auntie M btw – sorry to hear of her passing.

  • transfattyacid


    Oh and I agree with people about heights.

    But only if I am in a certain state of mind.

  • Manager Mom


    I have a phobia about wearing earrings. For some reason, I think they are going to get caught on something and rip my earlobe off. I haven’t been able to wear earrings since the ’80s, when I sucked it up because they looked so good with my perm, thick eyeliner, and flashdance-inspired sweatshirts…

  • Laura


    Iam absolutely, clinically phobic about dentists. I can’t bring myself to go to the dentist,even when I am in severe pain. I went to the dentist a few years ago because I had to. It took mega does of xanax and still gave me panic attacks and nightmares for week afterwards.

    I know it’s odd for a counselor to have such an intense phobia, but…

    Guess I am odd!! LOL – and I’m fine with that!

  • Sogeshirtsguy


    Sharks when i go surfing for sure.

  • Laski


    My irrational fear reveals itself whenever life is going well . . . I believe it won’t last. That something bad will happen. That it is DESTINED to happen. So much so that at times I stop myself from relishing the good times.

    I know my past experiences are to blame, but gosh darn it! Why can’t I shake it???

    Oh, I also fear centipedes. Little buggers FREAK me out . . . that’s not all that irrational though, is it?

  • DysFUNctional Mom


    Yesterday, while we tubed down a river, my youngest obsessed about snakes, and then ticks in the woods, then bears at our campsite. It was exhausting!

    Me, geez, I’m a basket case. I’m scared of total dark, my kids around water (mostly if I’m not there….when their dad & stepmom take them to the beach, I worry myself sick).

    After a child at my kids’ school got ran over by his OWN MOTHER, I obsessed over that for a while (the kid was fine).

    And last night while we camped, I worried about treesbranches falling on us, someone stealing a kid out of the tent, and….bears.

  • O My Blog!


    I have to sleep facing the door so I can see what’s coming to get me.

    The bed must be placed so there is very little behind me and I can see the door at the same time to ensure maximum reaction time.

    I DO know where this comes from.

  • Bean


    Aw…I love the picture of you with your Aunt M. Some of your family members look like her.

    Well. I didn’t need to read dysfunctional mom’s comment did I? With me going camping soon and all. So I wasn’t going to say it, but I have an irrational fear of those things while camping.

    My main irrational fear is … BUGS. Most bugs fa-REAK me out. Also, heights. When I was a Leasing Consultant years ago, I’d fear falling down the stairs from the top landing while showing apartments. Yes, really.

  • Jill


    All right, if I must. I’m afraid of butterflies. They bump into you repeatedly and follow you when you try to run. And they know they’re protected — what asshole is going to dare try to kill them?

  • Sarah


    I have two major irrational fears (and a million rational fears since having children).

    The first irrational fear is sharks. Maybe a bit odd since I live in the midwest and didn’t even see saltwater until I was past 30. But even as a preteen-ish age, had shark concerns while swimming in freshwater lakes. I blame this on the fact that some friends and I snuck in to see Jaws at WAY too young an age and that was one heck of a movie for a little girl. I thought this was just a imaginary fear, until I faced the option of swimming in the ocean a couple times over the past ten years (I’m now 42) – I couldn’t do it. Not past my knees anyway. Most recently, we were at Myrtle Beach SC on a gorgeous day with time and opportunity to enjoy the beach – I completely balked – so instead of swimming walked out on the pier to watch the fisherfolk – only to find them catching – you guessed it – sharks. Little 12 inch ones. BUT WHERE ARE THEIR MAMAS????? I have my doubts I will ever swim in the ocean and panic even thinking about taking my kids…and don’t even get me started thinking about rip tides…

    Second major fear I always said was of heights but after reading the above comment I will edit and say it’s a fear of EDGES. I love to go up, I love to look out from heights over buildings or sights or whatever. I just don’t want to be close to the edge. Always think I’m going to have a muscle spasm or something and fling myself over. I have gotten over this somewhat as an adult, by realizing the rational fact that it would take one heck of a “muscle spasm” to throw myself over. But I’m not walking up to the edge of a cliff anytime soon, mind you, I’ll just look from back here…

  • Jared


    Getting hit in the crotch! If something is coming at me in the near vicinity (~5 ft radius) I protect them like they are the last two on Earth.

    My wife makes fun of my weirdness and will smack me on the inner thigh right above my knee to see my reaction and then say outloud to anyone around…”Please!! It’s not that big!”

    She’s just mean sometimes… 😀

  • imgladyouasked


    I get freaked out in big crowds, especially if the people start squeezing in on me, like at a rock concert or something. It goes back to when I was a kid and me and my brother would build forts out of the cushions from the sofa(we had one of those huge U shaped sectionals that had lots of cushions) and my brother and his friends would wait until I got inside the fort and then jump on top crushing me inside. Haven’t thought about that in a long time, umm thanks, I think.

  • Tenakim


    dark basements! In our old house, the light switch wasn’t until you got to the middle of the room. So I would run (if I were at home alone I would yell)and swing my straightened arms in front of me as I panned left to right so the boogie man (or Mr. Clean) couldn’t get me!

  • Half-Past Kissin' Time


    OMG, I laught SO LOUD at that “Mr. Clean” line. Too funny! As for fears, I have a fear of bullets; I break out in holes… (Just kidding; that’s what Hubby says as a one-liner now and then.) The only fear I can think of having is an irrational fear that I will die before my children. I’ve gradually gotten over it, though, now that they are older.

  • holly


    ooooooh. i am afraid of the middle of the ocean. when it is portrayed in a museum.

    SERIOUSLY!!! i get sick when i see a boat in the middle of a room. because i picture it lost at see in my head. and everyone drowning.

    okay! i think i need to book some therapy now. thanks for that.

    strangely, i am not afraid of being on boats, and worked on a factory fishing boat off the coast of alaska. there were other boats around. land was seven miles away.

  • Ms Picket To You


    similar thing happened in our town when i was a kid. it was also the same year that we were invaded with these wooly mammoth sized gypsy caterpillars. they were everywhere; they could sneak in under the door. i guess i couldn’t process the whole idea of this poor kid being murdered in the woods, but those caterpillars? christ, to this day, i get the shivers just thinking about them.

  • Jo Beaufoix


    I’d like to say something really cool like the green crisp?chips you get admidst the other normal ones…but that would be a lie.
    I am afraid of heights and spiders though. Bleurghhhh.

  • Mr Lady


    Confession Time: When I was about 10 I watched (we watched) a girl in the ‘hood get drug into the woods next to the playground and come staggering back put 20 minutes later black, blue and naked.

    And now I have a totally rational fear of strange, raggy white men and a totally IRRATIONAL fear of wooded areas with creeks in them.

    Guess what is 2 feet from my backdoor? A heavily wooded area with a creek running through it. We don’t play out back much.

    Also, thanks to stupid John Goodman and his stupid Arachnophobia movie, I am terrified by the littlest, teenciest spider.

  • Susan S.


    Not sure about current fears, but boy this brings back memories! I grew up in Michigan, and there was a slew of child abductions while I was in school. I also spent many an evening checking the weather outside after several incidents of having to head for the basement due to tornado warnings.

  • Sarah


    My irrational fear is definately butterflies, or any other flying insect (except actual flies). The thought of their legs touching my neck and hair arrrrrgh. YUCK!
    Also the Ronald McDonald statues at McDonalds. I can’t even look at them. Adn when i see people sitting with them or ON them. What are you people crazy – get off!

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