For my happy and gay experience, I have chosen to write about, as my title suggests, how people react in the presence of someone exhibiting a great fear of something. In this case, “people” refers mostly to my blockmates made out of three males and five girls, plus an additional one male outsider, and the “great fear” refers to crazily-high-that-if-you-fall-you-will-die heights. Walking into EK, I had no idea what I would write about here. But after our crazy ride in the Space Shuttle, which I will narrate more later, I knew exactly what I would write about.
It was a great day at EK. There were not a lot of people in the amusement park, just enough to make you cue up in a line for five minutes per ride. It was an ideal environment for observing people closely and more intimately, as only few other interesting characters would have distracted you from your possible subjects.
There were nine of us who decided to stick together for the adventure, and we were all hyped up for the experience. The first thing we rode was the Flying Fiesta. It was my first time riding the thing. Based from my sisters’ feedback three or four years back when they rode it, it wasn’t at all scary. So my spirits were high and my courage was up while we waited in line. After five minutes, it was our turn. My confidenc lasted for all of the three minutes it took for all the riders to settle down and buckle up and for the ride to start spinning and take us up while keeping on changing which side is up and what is down. I screamed most of the time.
After the ride, I quickly regained my composure and hid all expression of fear in my face. I reassured myself that it was all over. “Nothing to fear now,” I said to myself. But I felt the familiar fear once more as my friends agreed to ride the Space Shuttle next before eating lunch. It was at this time that I my fear of heights started controlling my speech. I subtly asked my fellow guys if they got a little scared at the Flying Fiesta. Both of them said no.
While in line for the Space Shuttle, my fear became more apparent. In the face of possible death, I confessed my fear to my friends. They reacted differently before and after the hell-bound ride.
Ten minutes after our escape from death, we were all enjoying our lunch at the cafeteria inside EK. By this time, I was already feeling normal but still at an awe that I have finally ridden a roller coaster. I was awfully quiet as compared to my normal self.
Next in line was the Anchors Away. This time, my fear was in full view of the other riders. Needless to say, I closed my eyes and shrank into a semi-fetal position most of the ride. We exited the vehicle with laughter from my friends, mostly from the guys. My legs were still shaking, but still, it was shaking less as compared to my knees after the Space Shuttle ride.
As I have observed, the females were more compassionate and empathic to the signs of my distress. Before the ride, they were concerned and supportive. They kept on reassuring me that I could handle this ride. While talking about how I am afraid of this ride to my peers and trying to joke about it to release the extra energy brought about by the fear, other people were starting to look at me. Most of those whom I caught looking at me were females. Some were smiling, with a glimmer of amusement in their eyes. After the ride, they started to comfort me and attend to things that would relieve me of the stress brought about by the ride. One even asked me if I wanted an ice cream. Yes, they were laughing at times, but it was a good-natured laugh brought about by the unexpected presence of fear in someone close to them. The pair of girls seated in front of us in Space Shuttle looked at me after the ride and laughed not mockingly, but laughed as if they thought I was just feigning fear.
While the females were fussing about me, the males were a different case altogether. Before the ride, they were already teasing and scaring me about it. Two of the guys were my best friends, and maybe that explained how they acted, but still. They were telling me things like “Gagi, ang taas o. Mamamatay ka na,” and “Oy, bawal maihi sa pantalon ah?” The person seated next to me was one of my best friends, and he is a male. As the ride was climbing up, I felt my seat belt loosen somewhat as it took on almost my full weight. As the contraption continued its backward ascent, he told me that my seat belt should still feel tight, and that if I felt that it was starting to loosen up even slightly, it means that it is defective. This made me squirm and hold on tight to my harness, fuelled by the memories of Final Destination 4, a rollercoaster ride doomed to malfunction and kill all its passengers. But he soon told me that he was just joking and laughed.
During the Anchors Away, there were a group of guys opposite of where we were sitting, and, according to my friends, they were recording and laughing away at how I hung on to my seatmate’s arm for dear life during most of the ride. My seatmate whom I was clinging on to, was forcing my hands up and telling me to open my eyes, all the while laughing and teasing me.
After the ride, the males were asking me how I was while still laughing at me. They were congratulating me for my “bravery” and asking me to have another go with them on the same ride but this time, with my hands up and my eyes open.
Based on my observations, different genders relate to and react differently to someone exhibiting great fear of something. Females reacted stereotypically. They acted in a motherly way; caring and comforting me after the ride, and supportive and empowering before the ride. To further support this, it was a female who noticed that I was unusually quiet while we were eating after the roller coaster ride.
The males on the other hand, were severely amused by my situation. They chided me and treated my phobia as a source of humor. Not that I am resentful in any way. I am actually grateful for it, because I can honestly say that I had a great time.
Obviously, the setting and situation also played a role in their reactions. If we were all in a concentration camp and we were Jews held captive during Hitler’s time and were sure to be dead by next morning, it would have been normal for me to be afraid. In fact, it would have been more out of the ordinary if someone wasn’t showing any signs of fear. But because we were at an amusement park at a ride which the administration of EK deemed to be safe to ride, and the fact that I was almost out of my teens and still fret about riding the vehicle like an uncircumcised idiot, it was definitely a situation to laugh at.
Stereotypes were also observable in my experience. A line kept flashing on my mind: “Lalaki ka pa naman.” I think it was funnier because I was a male, and it probed both genders to act the way they acted. However, if I was a female, I bet the guys would have reacted differently. Also, it seems that males were more expected to be tough and unafraid.
My experienced showed how a lot of reactions and attitudes of both genders are in line with the stereotypes placed upon by society. I think that no matter how much we try to defy stereotypes and be our own selves, in the end, our “own selves” just tend to be unconsciously close to that of the parameters set upon by the society for our respective sexes. Based on what our Fil 14 teacher last year, Sir Alvin Yapan, patterning our actions to defy something does not defeat that certain something, because in the end, we are just an anti-culture: something based on and dependent on the other culture.
It’s definitely not really our own faults; it’s just a system brought about long before we existed. And maybe it’s not all that bad as most feminists think it to be. But then again, I’m just another guy saying this from our side of the fence in a patriarchal society.