Unusual Things I’m Afraid of

Here is a list of some slightly unusual things that I avoid and some of the reasons why:

Most people think I don’t have a cell phone because I’m stubborn. I am extremely stubborn, so of course that has a lot to do with it (and everything else I do), but I am not a luddite (I’m writing this on an iPad), and in fact the reason I don’t have a cell phone is psychological. I have a fear of phones (phonofobia) because of a traumatic experience I had when I was young.

It seems stupid when I talk about it now, but I think it’ll help to write about it anyway. I think I was maybe 8 years old, I had gone to a summer arts camp called Kids in Clay where I learned to use the potter’s wheel. At the end of the camp they did one last kiln firing (this was my best work, the culmination of 2 weeks or training or whatever) and told us to pick up our pieces within a couple weeks or they would be destroyed and used for mosaics or something. My mom agreed to drive me to pick them up but I had to call them first to make sure they would be open and also that they hadn’t already destroyed my things since I had waited a while. As I remember it, one night, my mom was out and I decided to call the clay studio (I really wanted to pick up this nice vase I had made for her). I must have misdialed because I didn’t get the clay studio I got a very angry man. I called and asked if it was Kids in Clay, and the man screamed obscenities at me, saying I needed to stop calling. It didn’t occur to me to hang up on this person, I was an extremely polite child and I didn’t understand the power of hanging up (I did, later, go through a phase in middle school where I just hung up on everyone… I didn’t have a lot of friends in middle school). He asked who I was and I told him I was Ofurhe Igbinedion, to which he laughed, not believing that such a name could exist. This is probably when I started crying, I could feel his vitriol through the phone. I told him I was only 8 years old, and he didn’t believe me about that either, I’m sure I sounded like a 25 year old, because that’s the body I had, but nonetheless I was telling the truth. He continued to scream at me that I had no business calling him and how did I even get this number. I said I was trying to get my pottery back from Kids in Clay, which he also didn’t believe. Apparently he had recently left his job and had been getting harassing calls from former coworkers, he was convinced I was one of them. I was not. At this point my brother says that he took the phone and told the man to leave me alone and hung up. All I remember is crying, I think I cried the rest of the night, and I don’t think I ever got my pottery back.

This story seems really stupid, but it was really traumatic for me, I actually have tears in my eyes just writing about it. I was a really sensitive kid on an innocent errand and I was subjected to this unhinged man. I have had anxiety around phones ever since. With technology the way that it is, ‘Just email me’ has become my mantra. I have built a life around this, I use my friends phones when necessary, but mostly I don’t get in situations where a phone is the only way out (I’m actually not sure such a situation exists).

I’m 24 years old and I don’t know how to drive. I say it’s because I went to boarding school (where I didn’t have a car), then lived in Chicago and New York where the public transportation is more than adequate. People often think I’m taking an environmental stand, which is part of it, but in truth, this is psychological too. Statistically car accidents are one of the leading causes of severe injury and death around the world and I’ve known this for a long time. Both my father and my uncle were nearly killed in car crashes.

Update 5-30-12 according to my mother, my memory of the following is not really accurate, whatevs

My father emmigrated from Nigeria in the 70s and has only gone back a few times since. The last time he went I was around 1 year old, he got in a nearly fatal car crash, came back home, and never went back to Nigeria.

When I was 8 or 10 my father and my uncle got a 280 ZX. I remember the first time they pulled up to the driveway and my brother and I got to ride in it. We all thought it was pretty awesome. My uncle, especially, spent a lot of time working on it. One night when we were little he and my father apparently got into a fight and my uncle drove off in a fit of anger. He almost died that evening, and since the fight was a big one, he didn’t talk to my father for a long time after. I actually haven’t seen him since. I remember my father talking to me about how driving angry is as dangerous as driving drunk.

I was starting to learn how to drive last year, but then I got in a car accident with my roommate. While we weren’t seriously injured, it brought up a lot of anxiety for me and I haven’t been behind a wheel since. Cars are dangerous, and they are a responsibility I don’t feel quite ready for.

When I was in New York I think I only took cabs twice, not just because they’re expensive, but because it always feels like you’re getting into a car with a total stranger, which I find truly disconcerting.

I like riding bikes in open spaces, but I’ve never thought it was fun to do in the city, it always struck me as dangerous. When I was in college, a good friend of mine clipped two bikers on her commute, after which her boyfriend took away her keys. A few years later a friend of mine, Sylvia, died when she was hit by a truck while commuting to work on her bicycle. I know she would want me to keep biking, but it reinforced my idea that biking in a city is inherently too dangerous. One of these days I’ll learn more about bike safety, put on a helmet, bike to work, and think of her. Not today.

Groups of Young Men:
This I mostly have gone over in the Street Harassment Post. I think women of the world could be divided into those that are excited by groups of strange young men and those who fear them. I fall squarely in the latter camp.

I am a lot better about my photophobia lately, but I dare you to find a picture of me from high school. I would do pretty much anything to avoid being in a photo. It wasn’t because I had low self esteem, I was in good shape and actually pretty hot in high school (and aware of it myself). I was mostly afraid that I was being misrepresented. In high school and college it was really important to me to cultivate my mind (otherwise, why move away from California?). I felt that when people looked at a photo of me they saw a black girl, they didn’t see my mind, which I had spent so much time, money and energy to cultivate. Not to mention, if it was a weird picture there is a risk that they would remember me like that forever. A risk I was unwilling to take. A picture only portrays a certain aspect of a single moment, what about all the other aspects of that moment? what about all the other moments?

updated 5-29-12 – When I was born my parents were involved in a spiritual community, they were devotees of a guru named Adi Da. Growing up in the community the children read books that the guru had written, one of the most important ones was called ‘What to Remember to be Happy.’ We had several paper copies of this book as well as the book on tape, it was a mantra and I could recite it by heart right now. The book starts with an image of an apple and says ‘Have you heard this is an apple?’ and continues with a tree and an image of a boy and a girl. It says if you ask people what these things are and where they came from they may say ‘God Made it’ or ‘I don’t know,’ and that in fact, no one knows what these things are and how they came to be (not even our parents, not even the president). The moral of the book is that we are more than what we look like, and no one can take that away from you.

While I know that everyone with any spirituality or religion knows that they are more than what they look like, it was a hugely important tenant of my upbringing. I think that to me I find photography a celebration of what you look like, and it misses the more important thing, the soul, the part that no one can take away from you.

Loud Noises:
This is more general, and there is no real trauma associated with this. I just have very sensitive hearing, and I sleep a lot, so this is a major problem for me. Loud noises make me want to curl up in a ball and die.

I’ll probably keep adding to this as I think of more.

5-27-12 – I guess having sex should go on here, but I don’t really feel this is the appropriate format to discuss this. Suffice it to say, I have no wish to end up pregnant or diseased.