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A Brief Gentleman’s Guide to Fear


Fear comes in many forms.

There are fears with a logical evolutionary basis—the fear of heights, for example, was embedded pretty deep in our psyche so that our idiot ancestors wouldn’t go jumping off cliffs. Google would have you convinced that the only thing men fear is commitment (which, we’ll admit, is an objectively terrifying sentiment). Then there are ones you’re hesitant to bring up on a date in fear of coming off... soft.

Carnies. Insects. Stand-up comedians. We’ve all experienced those minor terrors of irrational fear. And that’s what we’re here to discuss. With a brief, uncontrolled and wholly unscientific polling of the Kempt staff, we’ve taken the time to learn about what makes men break out in a cold sweat and duck for cover. And we’ve uncovered quite a bit.

So close your eyes and pinch your nose as we plunge into: A Brief Gentleman’s Guide to Fear.

Question #1: What is it that you’re really afraid of? Before you even get to thinking about how to manage your minor phobias, it’s important to know what it is that actually makes your hair stand on end. It seems that most of the time, obscure fears have some foundation in logical thinking. Take, for example, Kempt Staffer X, who claims to be afraid of ketchup bottles and pocket change. Are those seemingly harmless objects really bothering him? No, it’s the uncertainty of who they’ve been handled by and that they’re breeding grounds for heinous microorganisms.

Is it germs? Grown men in face paint? Not trusting the physics of flight? Figure it out. Then proceed to Question #2.

Question #2: Can you rationally justify the fear? To one person, a bee might just be a bee; to another, a bee might mean hives, an EpiPen deep in the thigh and a quick ambulance ride to the nearest emergency room. Or just a visceral childhood flashback to a painful barefoot episode. (We’re not here to judge.) But in the context of your own life, is there a historical or physical basis for what you’re afraid of? Is the probability of whatever you’re afraid of actually happening great enough to warrant the fear itself?

If you can legitimately answer yes to both questions, proceed to Solution #1.

If you cannot, proceed to Question #3.

Question #3: What impact does it have on your day-to-day? Having recognized that your fear is indeed something with little to no basis in the way the world actually works, now’s as good a time as any to assess its effect on you. Can the thing you fear be avoided without major life alterations? For instance, Staffer Y’s fear of “being on a hidden camera show and acting like a complete moron” leaves them uncomfortably paranoid on a daily basis, whereas Staffer Z’s fear of Carrot Top (the “comedian,” not the root vegetable) will probably only help them in the long run. Where does your fear fall in the spectrum?

“Being that I don’t work in a petting zoo or an aquatic center, my fear of snapping turtles is probably fine.” Proceed to Solution #1.

“My fear of staplers has left me unemployed more often than not.” Proceed to Solution #2.

Solution #1: Keep doing what you’re doing. Okay, so maybe your fear of herringbone isn’t founded in anything coherent. But if it’s not making a quantifiable difference in your life—you’ve always been a houndstooth man anyway—then what’s the real point in changing? Scientists haven’t figured it out. The fairer sex has no claim over fear as a genre. Gentlemen are allowed their fair share of anxieties, however silly they might seem. Well, as long as there’s no shrieking involved. Seriously, don’t shriek.

Solution #2: If your name isn’t Woody Allen or Larry David, it’s time to reassess. Seriously. If your growing multitude of neuroses hasn’t made you famous, or you can’t use them productively in any way, you probably shouldn’t be looking for psychological problem-solving from the same guys you go to for jokes about camouflage.

Time for a professional.