Adult learner

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front | Tim & Bim - Coco Khan

Les­son 46: self-knowl­edge When I was at univer­sity, my neigh­bour in halls was do­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion on niche erot­ica – acts that weren’t overtly sex­ual but in­volved some­one do­ing some­thing (sit­ting on cake, stroking a lizard) in an “erotic” way. I am cer­tain now that this chap’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was a ruse, rather like me be­ing a 30-year-old and still eat­ing Dairylea Lunch­ables as a “jour­nal­is­tic in­quiry into di­etary trends”.

But I was a naive 18-year-old who had grown up in a con­ser­va­tive Asian com­mu­nity. How, I won­dered, did peo­ple dis­cover their niche fan­tasies? Were they struck by them at ran­dom, like light­ning. Would

I be? I’d fret about walk­ing down the street and be­ing drawn to some poor mug do­ing a restau­rant promo in a sweet­corn cos­tume. What if, in that mo­ment, it be­came my thing; could I ask any self-re­spect­ing man to dress up like a Nando’s side dish? I would be cer­tain to die un­ful­filled or alone.

When I was younger, I feared I might never fully know my­self, and I was right. Be­cause over the past few years a dif­fer­ent change has been oc­cur­ring: pho­bias. I was never afraid of heights – and then, sud­denly, af­ter won­der­ing what it might be like to fall, I was. I had never cared about creepy crawlies – but when re­cently vis­ited by a huge house spi­der (furry, with a de­fined, mus­cu­lar torso), I went into a spin. The or­deal seemed to last for ever – the shout­ing, the fran­tic Googling of ‘deadly brown recluse spi­der’; the laugh-cry­ing when I re­alised it wasn’t one, but that this fear­ful brown girl might some­day end up a recluse her­self.

Just when we think we know our­selves, we change again, though I’ve grown out of be­ing afraid of this. Maybe a peri-peri boyfriend wouldn’t have been so bad, af­ter all.

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