I saw the weirdest thing the other day: an ad in a bus stop for the Disney Hallowe'en extravaganza. I think this year it's called Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, so unsurprisingly, of course, the centerpiece of the ad was a delightedly beaming Mickey Mouse in a black cloak. From a distance I could see that there was something wrong with his mouth, though, so I headed closer in idle curiosity to see what was up.

Mickey had… well, technically I guess you'd call them fangs. But they were these soft, rounded things — it almost looked like he had white popsicle-stick ends tucked under his lip! I stared at it for a while, and remembered a friend of mine who is a kindergarten teacher talking about how school decorations are getting cuter and softer and rounder and… well, unscary or realistic. She had photos of when she was a kid, and we looked at them and agreed that the Hallowe'en decorations were actually creepy when we were kids. Now, though, they were… well… sort of pastel and stupidly childish.

I understand not wanting to terrify small children; I don't want to do that myself. But should our entire world be padded and rounded and made perfectly safe? We may say it's for the children, but is it really good for them to not realize there are sharp and pointy and nasty things in the world? Also, what does this overwhelming caution do to us, the adults? I agree that it's good to have places and times where we can metaphorically let our hair down and relax and have fun… but when did we culturally choose to conflate "fun" with "childish"?

Perhaps more importantly: how do we stop?


On an only marginally related note, I recently responded to a consumer testing study request where part of the description stated we'd be speaking into a microphone. Since I didn't want my throat to dry out in mid-speaking, I brought along a full insulated water bottle. The people organizing the study seemed surprised at this, and complimented me on my forethought. When I asked in perplexity if this was unusual, they laughed and told me I was the first.

I find this surprising. The ad for participants specifically noted we'd be talking quite a bit, so wasn't it just good common sense to bring something to keep your throat lubricated? However, as a friend noted to me, I enjoy public speaking; consequently I know how to do it well. I don't just plan ahead for it — I also know what to bring and do.

This was borne graphically home to me the other day as I helped a friend prepare for an unexpected 20-minute talk she was supposed to give. It's easy to forget that not everyone is like you, after all, and I've seen this friend speak in small groups. Consequently I was a bit surprised when I realized from her nervousness regarding her talk — which I was helping her to write up ahead of time — and from her body language… that she still really hated public speaking. Now I don't know whether to be thrilled that I could care less about what is often categorized as one of folks' greatest fears — or wonder what's wrong with me. :)


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