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.