Who’s afraid of the dark?
I am the worst! I barricade myself in pillows at night to cover my back. I turn the light on in the room I am going into before turning the others off. My roommate thinks I leave a light on most nights for him, but really it’s for when I wake up. It has been brought to my attention that darkness is simply the absence of light and that I have nothing to fear…as if I did not previously know the definition of darkness. This forced me to face the reality that it isn’t the darkness itself, but the monsters I was afraid of. So out loud, to another adult, I admitted that I am in fact afraid of the “monsters” that may or may not be “under my bed”.
I promise I am fully aware that there is only a random assortment of homeless items living under my bed, but the term “monsters” covers everything from spiders to axe murders and “under the bed” covers physically under the bed to the dark crosswalk beside the gym. It is because of a rational fear of something real that I have become irrationally fearful of an intangible, inevitable lack of illumination. But when I consider why I feel this way and my roommate really doesn’t, I have to consider our main difference: genitals…he is very much so the average male and I am not. I am a girl. I was raised into being afraid of the dark and he simply was not.
Maybe this is a reach, but I am afraid of the dark because, as a girl, I have been taught to fear things that often lurk in the dark. Little girls are taught to avoid being alone in the dark. They are told stories of predators that may lurk around surprising corners. They are even told that sometimes these predators hide in plain sight. Little boys aren’t told these same stories. When they fear the dark as a child, they grow out of it because they are never forced to make the association between the darkness and the “monsters”. I am not saying we should teach little boys to be more afraid or that it is possible to avoid this association with little girls, I just (for the first time) have realized that this is what happening and it is universal.
I surround myself in pillows so nothing will touch me at night. I lock my bedroom door at night. I carry my metal water bottle like a weapon when I leave the gym. I walk faster when strangers talk to me downtown. These events of course are not limited to the darkness, but the two are guilty by association. Predators gain confidence in the darkness because the prey loses visibility. I associate the worst memories of my childhood with the darkness. Now, I also associate a breach of trust and act of violence with the darkness. It happened in a place I believed I was safe from the monsters; my own home.
What little chance there was that I might ever grow out of this irrational fear is lost forever.
Lost to the darkness.