Friday 13 January 2023

FOMO or FOSY? No mate, FOR - Fear of Ridicule

How do our peers see us?
On BBC Radio London, they were talking about whether you are FOMO (Fear or Missing Out) or FOSY (Fear of Saying Yes). This debate has been going on all week. When the debate started, I was a bit perplexed. I am really not sure either fits me. So what does? I've largely conquered it, but especially as a child and a teenager, I was terrified of ridicule and the more I tried to avoid it, the worse the ridicule got. I simply couldn't escape it. At home, my elder brothers and sisters delighted in humiliating me and seemingly nothing I could do would prevent me from escaping this. At St Vincents, my sisters decided I had a crush on a girl in my class called Mandy Pond. Now Mandy was a perfectly lovely girl, but I didn't (my good mates will know who I did have a crush on, that thankfully my sisters never twigged). When my mates came around, they'd say "We're going to tell them all aboiut Mandy Pond". This terrified me. So much so that, I became terrified of fancying anyone, in case they twigged and humiliated me. Into my teens, I'd see girls, fancy the pants off them, but not ask them out as I was worried mates would deem them uncool or weird.

Then there was music. My tastes were never what anyone else deemed cool, until the advent of Punk. When all of my family and school friends were talking about The Beatles, I loved the whymsy of Syd Barratt's Pink Floyd. When they loved the Stones and Jimi Hendrix, I loved Ska, when they got into Led Zepplin and Deep Purple, I loved Suzi Quatro and Mark Bolan. My strategy was to say nothing. Ever.

And there was my sense of dress. As the youngest of six, many of my clothes were hand me downs, often from cousins, with worn elbows and shiny bottoms. School uniforms had been through six or seven other older family members, probably having been bought at a jumble sale in the first place. At FCHS, my nickname was Tramp. I'd walk in the class and all of my mates would start baying this out. I used to hate walking in, but not enough to ever be early for a lesson. Being last in was a cross I had to bear.  When my Dad found this out, he went mad. He said "Why don't you take more care of yourself". I said "Because all you ever buy me is old third hand clothes and hand me downs". He just said "Oh". Fortunately, with the advent of punk, my anti fashion stance became quite fashionable. As soon as I could afford to buy clothes, I developed a different style. In truth, I've never been one for being particularly sharp dressed, I have a suspicion of over-groomed men, but I think it works pretty well for me. As someone who has two large dogs and walks over muddy fields, being overly fussy about atire would not work well. I don't miss the jibes about looking like Steptoe, but I can't say that it would bother me particularly now. 

When, as a 14 year old, I discovered punk rock, most of this went out of the window. All of a sudden, I really didn't give a stuff what anyone had to say, outside of my tight knit bunch of friends. With this debate, I got to thinking, have I really put it in the box though. When I overcame my innate shyness and fear of ridicule, I still have a residual fear of being found out and ridiculed. I regularly have dreams where I am at school and failing miserably, even though I left 42 years ago. When I started writing this blog, a band of local Tories went through a period of setting up blogs,etc to call me names. Much to my surprise, being ridiculed by a bunch of blithering idiots did not overly concern me, in fact it warmed the cockles of my heart, so some progress has been made. 

More recently, a rather strange character in Mill Hill has taken a similar approach, but unlike the Tories, hasn't given up, despite four years failure to rile me. Over the course of the period, he's attacked my drinking, my blogging, my guitar playing and my sanity. What he doesn't realise is that compared to my siblings, he's a kindegarten novice in the art of ridicule. I find nothing funnier that the concept of such folk sitting in their bedrooms, typing comments on Twitter and in blogs, only for me to roar with laughter when I see them. Being accused of being out on a drunken binge with my mates, when I was having tea with the vicar was a highlight. When I was 12, such things would have me worrying what everyone will think. Now I couldn't care less, especially when it's the Vicar who brings it to your attention.

It also took me a long time to be confident playing recordings of my music to people I felt were better musicians. On occasion, mate's who are amazing guitarists would turn up to watch the band. It used to make me feel very uncomfortable, until I realised that whilst they may not be that impressed with my playing, they got the vibe of the bands and were complimentary of the song writing. Crossing that bridge was a major hurdle.

But that isn't the whole picture. There was a period where someone who's views I respected decided to have a go at my blog. I was quite taken aback by this attack. I really felt a deep sense that the attack was unfair. I responded in a rather childish and stupid manner, with a less than flattering critique of the blog that had criticised me. Once we'd both had our say, we resorted to a more sensible way of discussing the matter, over a beer. As often happens, the comments were not intended as a dig and were an incidental statement, to illustrate something in a completely different context. In hindsight, they were also fair comment, especially in the context they were actually used

What it did reinforce was that I am not entirely past being knocked back by ridicule of those I respect. It has long since stopped being an impediment. As for FOMO and FOSY, I've enough to worry about, without inventing new things.

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