Scared… Great!… or How I’ll Learn to Love the Axe Murderer in My Closet

I have a confession to make: I am not exactly a paragon of masculinity.

This may come as a shock to those who know me personally, all of whom, I am certain, see me as utterly confident in my manliness. (I am speaking on their behalf here, of course: I assume they translate my love of top 40 pop, entertainment magazines and hugs as manly confidence, as anyone would.) But it is truth. Sometimes I feel a certain distance from my gender and its accepted norms.

Television, which holds great sway over me, isn’t helping any. As we enter October, the newest television pilots are telling me to “Man Up!” and that, somewhere, there is a “Last Man Standing.” (Typically, he is Tim Allen grunting his way back into America’s power-tool loving hearts.) On “How To Be a Gentleman,” I found out that chivalry isn’t dead but it apparently should be. Even the pilot of “The New Girl” revealed to me that women do NOT think pink ties on men are sexy! (Dammit!)

Women are taking over, and pretty much anything men do to react is wrong. Just ask the cops on “Prime Suspect,” who mask their insecurity at a lady cop being better at their jobs than they are beneath blatant sexism. Or Hank Azaria’s character on “Free Agents” — he cries after sex because his ex-wife took his dignity, which it turns out is a turn-off. Essentially, we’re facing a crisis of masculinity here. (I refer you to Linda Holmes brilliant article on the subject on the Monkeysee blog: “Congratulations Television! You Are Even Worse At Masculinity Than Feminity”) What is an average guy with an affinity for Regina Spektor and Coldplay to do?

Well, to reclaim some aspect of the incredible, Old-Spice-Guy like manliness I never really possessed, I am going to do the most manly thing I can think of: watch an entire horror movie — with my eyes open and everything — without openly weeping!

I might even do it more than once, just to get my manly juices flowing… Probably even three times!

In all seriousness, I’m a coward. A chicken. I would say I’m a fainting damsel, but now that television has enlightened me, I realize that fainting damsels have it way more together than I do.

I do not watch horror movies — it’s just a forbidden area for my brain. My brain is completely averse to putting itself in any situation where artificial fear might be induced upon it. I am confronted with any form of “scary fun” and I freeze up. I become a blubbering idiot, a scared child with a glazed far-away look.

It’s strange because I don’t believe in the supernatural at all. But the spectre of the supernatural evinces in me this dark fear that, having witnessed horrible deaths and ungodly frights on a screen or in a book, I will be visited by an axe-murderer who will break into my house and axe-murder me ruthlessly and murderously. It’s a strange correlation I make there, I agree, but indeed, after seeing a scary movie, I am completely convinced that I will be targeted for death, not by whatever demon was in the film, but by my own personal boogeyman who waits until I see Final Destination 2 and then decides that I must also likewise die because of… synchronicity? A creepy spectre who I do not believe in until after I am frightened by some form of spooky arcana, at which point every shadow becomes the man hiding in the closet ready to take revenge on me for daring to even look at those promos for American Horror Story that Fox keeps playing. (Stop it Fox!) I seriously must believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there is a deranged man who kills only people who have recently watched a horror movie and found it to be an utterly paralyzing experience, as if he didn’t have any better use of his time. It’s all a bit like “The Ring,” but with my own crazy mixed in!

To be perfectly honest, even at the somewhat tense parts in manly action movies like Inception and Harry Potter, I lose all grasp of reality, and I do the strangest thing… Whenever I know someone’s about to get shot or something’s about to pop out at me from the shadow’s, I don’t cover my eyes… I cover my ears. I’m not sure what I think I’m accomplishing by doing this, but I know that somewhere in my battered psyche I believe (erroneously) that I am being less obvious if I jam my fingers in my ears, because no one will ever notice that the 6’0 guy with the beard is cradling his entire face in his hands, with his giant shoulders hunched up at about eye-level in some kind of movie-theater-seat fetal position. Because that’s a whole lot less obvious than just closing your eyes… (You should have SEEN me in haunted houses when I was a kid. Oy.)

And Halloween’s coming up. I suck at Halloween. I just dress up as some comic-book or cartoon character and walk around like a lost soul with no purpose — but a lost soul with silly make-up on. I’m essentially a sad clown on Halloween. No one likes a sad clown!

The kids stuff associated with Halloween is long past boring now (though I’ll defend Nightmare Before Christmas to the death… Halloweentown, not so much…), but I’m not ready for the grown-up stuff like walking through strobe-lit tunnels with nice actors in serial killer costumes menacing me with fake machetes. Or am I? I can logic my way into knowing that this is all that Halloween Horror Nights truly is — and that, essentially, that’s all Halloween is anymore — but if a friend asked me right now to go with them to Orlando, I would be under the covers with a stake and a silver bullet faster than they could say “fear.” (I would, you see, be so not cool with going, I would forget that vampires and werewolves are now totally sexy and not scary, rendering my hastily grabbed weaponry totally useless.)

But all that changes today, October 1st! Fear is not a choice, but embracing it is. It’s All Hallow’s Month now folks, and I am going to conquer my fear of fear! (Or die trying, at the hands of my friendly, neighberhood closet axe-murderer!)

This blog is about discovery, and I’m going to at least put myself out there so I can try to discover the one thing that I have been sheltering myself from most for pretty as much as long as I can remember — the exhilaration of letting yourself be scared, spooked, creeped out, grossed out and shocked! In a safe, cathartic environment…

What is fear? Can you turn it off? When you learn to use it to have fun, will you even want to? Is it true that it’s good for you some of the time? Are we really all more desensitized to artificial fear today? Will watching The Exorcist in fact traumatize me until I am in a nursing home? I’m going to take a shot at finding out. October will be the month I give myself over to fear and see whether I make it out alive. And, more importantly, whether I make it out ready to loosen up, have a bit more fun, and revel in the unbounding masculinity that comes from standing up to Paranormal Activity and saying “I’m freaked out by you in a fun way, and not in a psychologically damaging way! Yeah!”

(If I sleep with my light on for the next month, how much higher will my power bill be do you think? Too much?)

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