Today’s Writing 101 Challenge – to write about a personal fear as a vehicle for putting your personality on the page, perhaps by using a different style of writing…
My fear may appear trivial to some people. It does not amount to a fully-fledged phobia, although it does share some characteristics. In particular, a marked degree of avoidance. This aspect could be construed by less kind people as laziness, but we know different, don’t we?
I only have to step inside a large DIY store for my heart to start beating faster. This is not excitement, believe me, it is fear. I am overwhelmed by the vast array of products available, 95% of which I either will never know what to use for or have any inclination to use.
The fear is multi-layered, like a piece of laminate. The first layer is incompetence. I simply do not have the fine psychomotor skills, the dexterity, to manipulate tools or materials. I blame part of this on being left-handed, and we all know that tools are designed for the right-handed world. Additionally, I really believe I have a form of dyspraxia, starting in my early school days. It took me a long time to learn how to tie my own shoelaces – yes, I can tie them now! – and you would not believe the mess I could make with ink and paint in the classroom. This gets played out in the present day. Me, a paintbrush, and a pot of paint. No matter how careful I am, I will get paint on my hands which will transfer to somewhere else, and somewhere else, and at some point I will step in a paint tray or knock over a container of something, at which point it is of course no longer a container. There is not a nail that I can’t bend or piece of wood that I can’t screw to a wall at some strange angle. There is not a piece of paper or card I can’t cut in a crooked line. Like a line from the nursery rhyme “There Once Was a Crooked Man”.
The second layer is ignorance. A simple lack of knowledge about the subject. Compounded by the lack of a framework for understanding the knowledge. If I got round to creating a suitable conceptual framework, it would not be straight or rigid, and it would probably fall over. Into a tin of paint.
The third layer is more complicated, because I think it goes to the heart of the fear. This is about identity and role modelling. I know in these more enlightened times this should not be an issue, but I grew up in late 1950s when hammering was man’s work. These are powerful messages we carry with us, even if the rules no longer apply. If I have to buy something from one of the DIY stores, I put it off as long as possible because my ignorance may become apparent if I’m asked a searching question. The horror of being unmasked as an incompetent and ignorant DIY imposter or heretic in this temple! And someone who is not quite a man.
“Yeah, I’ll have half doz three by twos”
“Three by twos what?”
“Oh, the usual”.
“Do you want them bevelled?”
“Yeah, and put some mustard on them while you’re at it….’Bye!”
Incidentally, this reminds me of a little insight I had at the weekend. I am a social chameleon. My language and manner change to fit the environment. Every time I go to the local tip – sorry, recycling centre – with garden waste, when the guy at the gate tells me which skip to drive to I say “Lovely Jubbly”, just like Del Boy from “Only Fools and Horses”. I wouldn’t do this in the bank or in my GP’s surgery. I suppose I’m “in role”, with my old t-shirt, jumper, the jeans with a big hole in the knee, and black shoes splashed – you guessed it! – with paint. Maybe, that is why I might have a special way of walking in the DIY stores – I will check this next time I go. Which may be a while…
Oh, and when I’ve finally bought whatever it is I need for the job, it will sit unopened – and probably hidden – for a long time until I finally tackle the task. And then phone a professional to come and put it right.