This morning we were teaching a group of 11-14s on the issue of ‘identity’. I was a little nervous. The last time I spoke to the same age-group, I was talking about my granny dying when one of the kids took a call on his mobile, yawned and said ‘yeah boring: hopefully she’ll be done soon’. Thankfully, the young people today were lovely. But it made me think about what sorts of people I find most intimidating, and why.
In terms of scariness (0 being fine, and 10 being horrific) I rate strangers like this:
Little Children – 0.
Yes, they’re liable to puncture your stories with an anecdote about their gerbil. Yes, they can get overexcited and wet themselves. Yes, they will go to sleep if you bore them and cry when you bring out the puppets. But at least you know where you stand. No unnecessary chitchat or social niceties. And if all else fails there’s always ‘sleeping lions’.
Older Folks – 2.
They know far more about everything (including your specialist topic) than you…but still act like it’s the first time they’ve heard it. They’re unfailingly polite. They pinch your cheek and tell you to eat more flapjacks. They laugh at your jokes (even when they’ve heard them). They preface your name with the word, ‘young’.
Teens – 4/5
Ok. Little bit scary. A million times cooler than you will ever be. Their jeans don’t seem to fit and you can see their pants, (but you’re too polite to tell them). However – they’re also smart and funny. They’re brave and dealing with all kinds of crazy stuff that would have made your head explode. Beneath the bravado they’re hungry and scared and they feel things in technicolour and they remind us of a world that’s bright and intense and quivering with possibility.
Couples My Age – 7
Oh goodness. They’re all so shiny. This is what I should be like. These people have almost certainly got a five year plan, gym membership and a pension. They’re on season six of a box set I haven’t even heard of and make jokes I don’t understand. They don’t find farting noises funny and they don’t steal toiletries from hotels. You don’t belong here and they know it.
Clergy – 7
They know the ten commandments and the order of God’s creation. They’ve all had a stonking quiet time and they speak Greek (with their kids). They have a theology of cheese. They know why God causes suffering, they give blood and they’ve converted three people since breakfast.
Women – 8
They’re co-ordinated and they can drink tea without spilling it down themselves. They don’t have hairs growing out of their chins. No-one else is nervous. Maybe because they all know each other (except me). They’ve probably been on hundreds of girly days out and hen days that I wasn’t invited to. They can smell my fear. I really want to join their gang, but I’m a troll in a skirt and I can’t walk in heels.
Christian Women. In Large Groups – 10.
See above. Then add godly and nice. In surround sound. Aaaaarrrrgghhhhh…
What’s on your fear list?