1. Dad: “Call your grandmother, she’d love to hear from you.”
From me?? She’d love to hear from me?! Why? What for? I’m suspicious. And does one call from me really have the power to brighten her entire day? If so, I don’t want that—it’s too much pressure for me. Also, these requests always have the same dismal, underlying tone—a soft, desolate inflection that screams, “The clock is ticking! She might not be around for much longer!” It’s an urgency that, for anxious people like myself, repels us rather than motivates us.
2. The faint cry of a baby.
If a baby is crying, I like it to be where I can see it. If not, I’m liable to have a mini stroke. I’ll torture myself with questions like, “why is the baby crying? Uh oh, is this an abuse victim?” “Fuck, am I giving it secondhand smoke?” and “Where IS this baby?? Dear God please say it’s not under my bed or stuck in the ventilator.”
3. The doctor.
It’s not uncommon for those with anxiety to flirt with hypochondriasis. I know I do, except for me it manifests itself in a compulsive need to avoid all doctors and at all costs. Which, as luck would have it, just brings me more uncertainty and thus more anxiety. I’m not prejudiced either—all doctors are evil mind-fuckers in my book.
4. To-do lists.
Why I even still bother making to-do lists is an utter mystery to me. I got them everywhere—on post-its on my wall, in the “notes” section on my iPhone, on my work computer, on my laptop, in my notebook. But rather than compelling me to get these things done, it would seem the mere pressure of having to do something is enough to turn me off of it for life. To assuage the anxiety, I’ll usually take the loose sheets of to-do lists lying around my home and roll joints on them.
5. “Thank you” note.
Similar to the perennial to-do list that weighs on my neck and shoulders, the elusive “thank you” card seem to give me just as much anxiety. The pressure here usually stems from my parents’ constant and relentless pestering about the status of the cards. If you popped in on us mid-conversation, you’d think it was a college application they were bothering me about. But again, it’s the pervasive air of urgency that makes me want to hide under my covers and suck my thumb.
6. Techno music.
Us anxious people are not cut out for techno music. Because we have a hard time not letting the music encompass us and seep into our ever pore, our heart rate tries to dance with the music; to keep up with its pace. Which is just a roundabout way of saying heart palpitations. It gives us heart palpitations.
7. When a barista asks me for my name.
First there’s the anxiety that the name Rachel personally gives me—I can’t TELL you the number of times people thought I said Richard. Then there’s the curious nature of this question—why do you need my name, really? Is Chase going to call me tomorrow with a bank fraud alert? And finally, the pressure. I feel like you asking for my name is a direct challenge to me to come up with a fake witty name for myself, something I simply cant do before I’ve had my morning coffee.
8. The question, “What music are you into?”
Ummmm let me think about that one: PAUL SIMON. It was Paul Simon 3 weeks ago, it was Paul Simon 3 years ago, it will ALWAYS BE PAUL SIMON. The whole anxiety comes into play when I feel the pressure to mention an obscure band I saw at SXSW. I know no such obscure band, now leave me alone.
9. Being caught fibbing.
Sometimes it’s our most special talents that induce the most anxiety in us. For me, that talent is nodding along to a conversation, pretending like I know what everyone’s talking about. Which is all peaches and cream until a nosey Nancy decides my nods aren’t quite convincing and that it’s time to call me out and see if I really know what they’re talking about. Just leave it be. For the love of god, just leave it be.
10. Having B.O.
There’s nothing quite like the moment you get that first, fleeting sniff of your own B.O. Just one sniff is often enough to propel you into a web of lies and swindles, all so you can run home and take a shower as quickly as possible.
11. Watching super skinny models walk down the runway.
You’ve heard the term second-hand embarrassment, but how about second-hand nervousness? That’s the feeling I’m overcome with when I watch super skinny models walk down the runway. I just can’t wrap my head around how their legs support their entire body. I see them doing it, and yet the laws of physics tell me this is impossible. Ergo, anxiety.
12. Falling and/or tripping.
There’s no good way to fall. Any which way it happens you’re bound to look stupid and emit a high-pitched “ooooh!” sound. It’s a conundrum I deal with frequently, as I’m clumsy and don’t own any snowshoes. It doesn’t matter if I tore my meniscus, the first thing I do after every fall is take a quick survey of my surroundings to gauge what level of anxiety and humiliation is appropriate. Then, depending on what I see, I’ll let out a sweaty chuckle and jump to my feet, or I’ll sit there and start sobbing.
13. Airport security.
In my opinion, the security at airports is a massive conspiracy to make every traveler as nervous as humanly possible. By the time I’ve made it through all the checkpoints, it doesn’t even matter anymore how many times I searched my bag while packing—my mind will STILL be flooded with anxious worries and concerns. Chief among them being: are there any drugs on my person?
14. Spin instructors.
It’s true that people with heightened anxiety can sense the anxiety levels of others around them. Acute, conspicuous anxiety can be very contagious. And what is a spin instructor if not a walking and talking ball of tightened, wired, and overzealous anxiety?
15. Trying to sell your clothes at a thrift store.
Sometimes, when the Beacon’s Closet employees ask me, “Is this all your selling today?” I just want to be like, “Yeah, it is, Hipster von ATTITUDE. WHAT GIVES??” But I never do because they’re always so judgmental and intimidating, holding the fate of my 8-year-old Vince sweaters in their very hands. And so I’ll typically stay silent, observing my increase in heart rate every time he takes a sweater over to his boss to “deliberate,” and they both start giggling.
16. Those Sarah McLachlan commercials.
The first, relatively big-screen TV we purchase should come with a warning sign that EVERYTHING on the TV will be 48 inches—and that includes those Sarah McLachlan commercials with the deteriorating dogs and cats. After getting my new TV, I have a whole new perspective on these commercials, namely a crippling fear that it will pop up on my screen after an engrossing fight between Kylie and Kris.
17. Santa Con and suchlike calamities.
I say Santa Con, but notice I also make a point to not limit it to Santa Con. Because the critical issue here is that of blacked-out drunk buffoons raping and pillaging my city. Again, I’m not prejudiced—I will loathe whatever shape or form this happens to come in, just as much as the next one.
18. Being alone in a clothing store.
Nothing makes my armpits sweatier than being in a clothing store alone—especially if it’s a small boutique. All I want to do is casually browse through the racks, but I usually have a hard time doing this with the sole salesgirl’s keen gaze piercing my back like a sharp blade.
19. The question, “What’d you do this weekend?”
It’s just such a loaded question, piled high with expectations and presumptions. Something tells me YOU had a fun weekend—jam-packed with culture, bars, and engrossing conversations—or else why would you be asking about mine? I did fucking nothing this weekend, okay? Is that what you want to hear? I did nothing.