1. Mel Gibson.
And by “Mel Gibson” I don’t mean the disarming businessman who starts hearing women’s thoughts and becomes exceedingly sympathetic as a result, but rather the man who told his ex wife, “You need a fucking bat in the side of your head,” and “Shut the fuck up! You should just fucking smile and blow me because I deserve it!”
My anxiety here isn’t contingent upon Mel Gibson specifically, but rather any man who has a penchant for domestic abuse and is tragically, debilitating anti-Semitic. It’s just that, so far, Mel Gibson has been the only man to fit this description.
There’s something about the way in which my brain is wired that makes it wholly incompatible with any and all thermostats. I find all thermostat manuals at once bewildering and inscrutable. I feel like I’m trying to decipher hieroglyphics on a scroll of papyrus. Which, as you can imagine, doesn’t make for a relaxing night when Mr. polar vortex is in town.
3. If a dude asks to use my bathroom.
Whenever a dude asks if he can use my bathroom I always want to snap back with, “Do I even have a choice?!” Because by this point, I have lost; for, he has usually made his way into my bathroom, his body disappearing behind the closing door. All the while I’ll be sitting on my couch, watching on in horror, conjuring up images of violent diarrhea spraying every which way as he emits a maniacal laugh. And so, like the Beatles’ guitar, I’ll gently weep, resigned to my fate with the plunger.
eBay is all fun and games until you realize that it’s not Monopoly you’re playing, but an actual auction, with real money. That’s when the fun starts to wane; it’s when the buyer contacts you, wondering where the tracking number is; it’s when you have to haul your ass to the nearest FedEx to pick up that iPhone case you bought on a whim and really don’t want or need; and it’s when eBay calls you, finally, informing you that you’ve been banned from their website. I think it was Spiderman’s nephew who said, “With online auctions comes great responsibility.”
I see a bowtie and—I do!—I genuinely tense up. I’d say there are four—max, six—men in the world who can pull off a bowtie and guy, you are not one of them. Coming face-to-face with a lonesome bowtie has the same nauseating, cringe-inducing, and nervous effect as watching a Macklemore music video.
6. Enviable Instagrams.
There’s nothing like a good, elitist Instagram to remind you how much of a peasant you truly are. Check Derek Blasberg’s Instagram, for instance, and you’ll see fashionistas lounging on velvet and suede banquettes, an array of supermodels, names written in Caribbean sand, and remote islands you never knew existed. As if to say, dear followers: you weren’t invited. How charming!
7. My parents’ footsteps.
One trip back to your parent’s house is enough to remind you of all the little anxiety triggers you’ve forgot about since moving out. For me, the number one anxiety trigger while living at home was always the ominous sound of my parent’s footsteps, advancing closer and closer towards my bedroom door. It’s filled with such threat and portent that by the time they open my door I’m usually like, “Fine!!! You caught me! I tried crack in 11th grade, I did, okay??? Is that what you want to hear??” To which my dad would usually say, “Uhh, dinner’s ready…”
8. Saying “gay” in front of gay people.
I’m sorry (for myself, for everyone, for the world) that my generation’s lexicon has matured in a similar fashion to Benjamin Button—that is to say, not at all, maybe even backwards. But such is the state of 20-somethings everywhere, which has led me to find myself on more than one occasion using the sophisticated term “gay” to describe something lame or pitiful either in the presence of or actually to a gay man. And I hate it. Every time I do it, I want to run far away and hide. Funny thing is, it usually bothers me more than it bothers my gay friends.
The only thing worse than having your entire face turn crimson red while pools of sweat begin to form behind your knees, at the crown of your head, and in your armpits is having someone point it out. “Awwww look. She’s blushing,” perhaps the most fruitless comment known to man, and for everyone involved. The only time such a comment is appropriate is if you’re leading around a blind person. Because anyone with decent eyesight is perfectly aware that I’m blushing, and you bringing it up is just causing those around me to feel the weight of secondhand humiliation just by glancing at me. And me? Well, seeing as I just excused myself to stick my head in my own freezer, you can bet your ass that I know I’m blushing. Drawing attention to it only furthers my anxiety and, as a result, makes it harder to cool down.
10. My dog.
I blame my mom for the undue adoration I have for my hairy sister. P.S. that’s how I refer to my dog—an unfortunate fact that I also blame on my mom. There’s just something about my dog’s utter naiveté that, to most people, would make them feel more comfortable about putting their dog in a crate for an entire day, but for me, makes my empathy soar to unwarranted degrees.
Even the prospect of taking care of her fills me with anxiety, my mind racing with scenarios that would end in her tragic death (sorry mom).
The more obsolete voicemails become, the more nervous I get when I receive one. At least once a week I’ll receive a voicemail of this nature: “Rachel, it’s your father. Please call me, I’d like to speak with you.” Uh, thanks, dad. KIND OF hard to go on with my day when it was just interrupted by a menacing message. He may as well just say, “The tests came back and you were tested positive for leukemia” because frankly that’s all I’m hearing in his curt, somber and foreboding voice.
12. Daddy long legs and moths.
I have spent years trying to figure out the types of bugs that give me the most anxiety and I’ve whittled it down to two: daddy long legs and moths. It’s odd; when faced with one of these creatures, I’m startled by the measures I’m willing to take and the lengths I’m willing to go. It’s enlightening too; in such situations, you discover things about yourself that you never knew. You learn, for instance, that it takes one moth to ensure that you sleep under your bed, enveloped in bubble wrap, risking suffocation. Likewise, I’ve learned that it takes one potent daddy long leg to make me lose my cool, revert to a state of infancy, and start violently pinching the first man I can get my hands on.
13. Woody Allen movies.
Though it’s hard to celebrate his work in light of the recent accusations that he sexually molested a minor, the fact still remains that Woody Allen is a cinematic genius. He has a rare ability to tap into the psychosis of a particular demographic. And it just so happens that this demographic is home to my father and thus quite familiar to myself—upper west side, neurotic, Jewish New Yorkers, to put it succinctly. The situations and outcomes that Jewish New Yorkers most fear become grim realities in Allen’s movies, sparking the self-obsessed, pathetic type of anxiety that Jews find so hard to repress.
I’m not sure what went wrong—between my bar mitzvah years of making copious solo karaoke tapes and now—but over these years I’ve developed a crippling fear of karaoke. And yet to say that it’s merely karaoke that I fear would be deceiving, for it’s actually the undue attention afforded to me on such occasions that I appear to be allergic to.
It’s quite unfortunate that possibly my biggest source of anxiety is also what I turn to when I feel anxious and want to zone out. You see, the thought of a deadline hanging over me is enough to make me break out into hives, though, interestingly, it’s not enough to force me to complete the assignment. And so I’ll procrastinate, for that fleeting sense of gratification, only to eventually plunge further into anxiety once I realize I still haven’t gotten anything done.