The Magazine

Scared Scareless

The brain can only fear so much.

Feb 21, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 22 • By JOE QUEENAN
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It’s not a good thing to lose your ability to be scared in the presence of the certifiably scary. For one, scary-looking guys who try to scare you may get upset that you’re not quaking in your boots when they transfix you with their malevolent gazes, and may take things to the next level. But the sad truth is that there is nothing I can do about it. No matter how scary the movies I watch, no matter how scary the gangstas I see on MTV, no matter how scary the creeps who try to stare me down on the subway, I no longer have the ability to be scared in the presence of the authentically scary. It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve ridden the scariest subway lines in New York and Philadelphia. I’ve walked the scariest streets of Baltimore. I’ve talked with some of the scariest bouncers in London. Everywhere I go, I cross paths with scary-looking guys—scary-looking guys who try to scare me. But I simply don’t scare anymore. I lack the scare gene.

This is no reflection on the men who have done their level best to scare the hell out of me. But there’s just no point in trying to scare me anymore. You’re wasting your time; you might as well just take the rest of the day off and busy yourself trying to scare somebody else. I’ve been scared scareless. I’m scared out.

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Closing Time: A Memoir.

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