When I was a child, a bee landed on my hand. My mother said it’s only a bee. Just hold still, she said, there is nothing to fear. My mother was not afraid of bees or snakes or the dark, or water, or strangers. She taught me not to be afraid, and I wonder if somewhere down the line that lesson contributed to her lack of grandbabies. I never learned how to shriek for help. I didn’t attract willing protectors. I never learned to manufacture the perfume of fear.
A woman in a red bikini drifts toward the sandbar on a grey inflatable dinghy. The lagoon at low tide a playland of clam-diggers, happy dogs, and children with float toys. Bikini lady is shrieking at the top of her lungs: noooooo!!! I’m SCARED! help me help me help me! Laughter mixed with shrill mock-terror. No really i’m serious hee hee hee ha eeeeeeeeeee i’m scaaaaared HELP ME!!
C’mon lady, i mutter from my lookout. What would you ever do if you were really in peril? What would you do if not surrounded by eager rescuers, noses atuned to the scent of female fear? If you are so fragile and defenseless how do you even manage to walk out the door? Have you ever been truly in danger, ever had to make it on your own—or is this all just for show, a shallow mating strategy? You are what the boys want: someone to save.
Bikini girl drifts on the gentle current. Big-bellied boyfriend teases her for a moment, drawing out her need. She giggles and ratchets it up a notch, injecting a note of hysteria. Fear factor, really, heeeeeeeelp me!!! The saviour comes to her rescue, reaching out a beefy arm. He chuckles derisively, protectively, and catches the oar.
I don’t fault the boys for running to the girls’ aid. A woman consoles a crying child, offering a breast or soft words of reassurance. A man puts his arm around a screaming young woman on a roller-coaster. Who doesn’t want to give comfort, if not salvation? We all want to comfort; we all want to save. The perfume of fear is like sugar to a fly. Irresistable.
<image stolen from http://shiningcityteens.blogspot.ca/2010/05/damsel-in-distress-feminist-movement.html>