You probably think you know what frightens most men. A long-weekend at the in-laws' place. Antiquing. Running out of beer in the third quarter. But that's just the stuff he'll admit to being afraid of, which, by definition, means they're not his true deep fears. So how can you determine what those are? Easy: They're the ones he'll almost never talk about. But I will. Let's count down through the Scary Fifteen:
#15 Hair in the drain. The first sign of male pattern baldness brings a man face-to-follicle with a skimpy aspect of his future. And it's always earlier than he expects or wants (which is, like, never). Logically, men know that baldness is as much of a part of life as Leno making Britney jokes. Logically, men know that being bald doesn't mean that they're any less smart, virile, or successful. Logically, men know that women don't care how much hair their men have. Logically, men know there are plenty of bald men who are comfortable in their skin--no matter how much of it they're showing. But when it first happens, it feels like stepping on a scale and being 20 pounds heavier or waking up in high school with a quarter-sized nose pimple. It's the inevitable and uncontrollable change in appearance that men try so desperately to protect. Maybe even more importantly, this moment when a man starts losing his hair says a lot about him-whether he's cool enough to handle it, or anxious enough to attempt to deny it with combovers, Rogaine, or faith healers.
#14 Getting caught noticing another woman. A man's instinctual response to visual stimulation very rarely has anything to do with his current relationship or how he feels about it. But his lizard brain reacts instantly, and before he knows he's doing it, he's looking at someone else. We hate having to explain behaviors that even we don't fully understand.
#13 Rejection. Doesn't matter whether it happens after a job interview, or at a bar, or on the basketball court. And remember, there's a difference between losing and being outright rejected. Men can handle losing a game or having a bar conversation disintegrate into nothing. But the proud creatures that men are, they hate having their shots blocked. Mainly, that's because it means that someone else has the upper hand-and is gloating about it.
#12 Super Nanny.
#10 His dad's death. It's his most powerful moment of a reflection, as he thinks about his own mortality. Becoming the family patriarch is heavy stuff. For many men, it's a life-changing moment, because they think about what their fathers did for them and what they failed to do. The next step: Considering what they need to do to be better dads and better men themselves--which means they must confront their own failures, as well. That's a lot for a grief-stricken man to deal with. He should get some latitude to do that in his own way. For him, reaching out may be through what seem like misdirections--more chatter about fishing with friends, an extra set of tickets to the Phillies showdown with the Mets. But guys need a reason to get together; the talk will come during a slow point in the 6th inning, or in the car on the way home.
#9 Her tears. Men know it's natural, that women need to do it, and that it's a signal that they better provide something more than just a tissue-even though many men have no clue what that something might be. Men have been told that women cry for all kinds of reasons-to release some emotions, to get our attention, or just because dammit, The Bachelor rose ceremony is so stinkin' sad. Men want to do the right thing, but because men don't navigate those falling waters very often, they probably do the wrong thing more often than not. Which is another reason why they fear her emotional tsunami.
#8 Being a lousy lover. Of all the things that men want to happen in bed, pleasing their women ranks near the top of the list, according to a national Men, Love, and Sexsurvey by Harris Interactive. Men hate to think that women may be bored, unimpressed, or unsatisfied. Maybe it's an ego thing (okay, it is an ego thing), but men do very genuinely care about how much pleasure a woman is having in bed. That's why the faking thing drives men so crazy. To men, feigned pleasure is code for: You're so damn terrible at this, but there there, little fella, I'm gonna make you feel good about your inadequate self. Men want to know what women want, and they want to be successful in delivering it.
#7 Not being a god to his kids. There comes a time when men don't care much about what strangers, co-workers, friends, in-laws, or anybody else thinks about them. But when a kid articulates his father's flaws, it's the ultimate heart crumbler. Men know that sometimes they work too much or are too short-fused or simply fall short on the hero-dad meter, but deep down, they know it's the most important job that they're going to do. And if they don't do it right, they know there's a significant chink in their masculine armor.
#6 Living paycheck to paycheck. Even though men aren't the only hunters and providers anymore, they still feel a deep evolutionary pull to provide the backbone and protection for their tribe. When men lose money, can't make enough money, or are scrounging for money, it can be an emotional disaster-it makes them feel like they're losing control in their lives.
#5 Beautiful women. Few things intimidate men more than IRS audits and 12-foot birdie putts. A beautiful woman is one of them. A beautiful woman-whether spotted at work, in bookstores, driving in the next lane, anywhere-simply has the power to turn a man of steel into creamed corn. Men know this. Men try to resist this. Ultimately, it's a challenge. Beauty may be a short-lived form of power, but it is profound, and nearly all men cower before it. It can make them do really, really stupid things.
#4 Getting naked. Ladies shouldn't think that they're alone in fleshy hang-ups. Guys are just as concerned about what women will initially think about their body hair, muscles, guts, toes, and other parts. Men are deeply aware that they can be too fat, too skinny, too hairy, too smelly, and while men are eager to revel in a woman's body, they also share anxiety about revealing their own.
#2 Not seeing his kids grow up. Death, of course, scares everyone-not so much for the bad stuff that may happen to them, but for missing out on all the good stuff that will happen to their kids. Or, worse yet, not being around to protect them from the bad stuff.
# 1 Public humiliation. Here's one that will make even the strongest men cave: Looking weak. Whether a man is extremely secure-or insanely insecure-about himself, he's worries that he'll look incompetent, idiotic, or both. Doesn't matter whether it's a zipper malfunction, an off-color joke he mistakenly slips in during a speech, a dismissive statement by a boss in a department meeting, fumbling the fly ball at a softball game, getting arrested for fighting after his kid's soccer game, whatever. It's one thing to make mistakes. But making the reputation-damaging ones in public is tough to take. That's because as much as men try to protect their homes, their families, their appearance, and their jobs, perhaps the most nerve-wracking job of all is protecting the thing they can't cure with money, with effort or with laser hair removal: their reputations.
What secretly scares you? Fess up and share it here.
Agree or disagree with all, any or none.