Fears and Self Loathing on the Way To San Francisco


Fears and Self Loathing on the Way To San FranciscoLying in bed, the night before this big trip to San Francisco, I came to what I perceive as an important (and rather surprising to me) revelation about myself. Many of my big concerns in life are fictions. There are people in my life, who upon reading that sentence, would assure me that this is true of most people, and most worries, concerns, etc. That concept isn’t new to me, and I agree whole heartedly that many of my big worries in life are baseless, or at the very least pre-mature.

But lying in bed before this flight, the one that kept coming back to me was: Fear of flying.

This is a huge common fear, I know. And it can be crippling in many people, forcing them to either confine themselves to their general area, or take long driving trips.

Cooper, you ask, are we really talking about fear of flying? This is a fucking non-monogamy website!

Oh, my friend, haven’t you learned that I like to meander before getting to a point (if at all) and almost everything I talk about eventually circles around to sex. This one will…promise.

So my fear of flying wasn’t present when I was young. My family and I rarely flew on trips, instead preferring to road-trip it across the country, but we did indeed fly to a few vacation destinations. I enjoyed every bit about the experience, reading on the plane, watching the countryside pass below (as I am right now, in fact; I believe I see Iowa) and if anything, a distaste for flying was only predicated on the fact that, as a voracious bookworm, I was unable to spend more time reading, the kind of thing that was possible on family drives.

So what happened? Well, a long time passed without flying anywhere. I got married. We took a flight to Vegas, and something had changed. The words “I’m not a good flyer” escaped my lips to my wife upon our first trip. I would ask to sit at the aisle for a bit of claustrophobia, but also because I didn’t want to look out the window. I was abnormally concerned about being near the wing as well (which we were near seemingly on almost every flight.)

This persisted for future flights: concerns, difficulties. “I’m not a good flyer.” Especially on the occasional solo trip. “I’m not a good flyer” to my neighbor on the plane. “Why don’t you want to sit by the wing?” they’d ask me without actually using their mouths or saying anything. “John Lithgow and William Shatner,” I’d tell them without using my own vocal chords. “Too scary.”

(If you don’t know what wings of planes and Lithgow and Shatner have in common, google that bitch and be amused and scared for a while. [The amused part would be from a 3rd Rock From The Sun episode where the two actors referenced their individual roles that they shared. {And, aside, ahhhh, fancy brackets within plain brackets within parenthesis, good to be back to my style!}])

So, Cooper, you’ve meandered enough, get to the fucking point, or at least mention anal fisting so we can feel more at home.

The point is “I’m not good at flying” is a lie. Not an intentional lie. But a quirk I developed. A quirk I LIKELY developed because it’s a character trait. As a writer, we look for these things that people can identify with for our characters. Fear of flying is a pretty universal one. It’s a conversation starter for people at the airport (Flying, eh? Hate it!) and a way to get that “aww, that sucks, anything I can do to help” sympathetic nod from people.

So I developed it. Hadn’t been there before. Nothing traumatic happened. (Loved the Lithgow and Shatner trauma, nothing permanently damaging…) And then I was afraid.

Walking into the airport this morning, I was determined to not think about it, any of it. The tension was gone during the wait to board, the gripping of my armrest as we take off, the panic at the popping of my ears. All gone. Fake. Completely inconsequential. I even looked out my window. (Farmland below just now.)

I’m sure you’ve realized by this point that this idea has broader implications. If something as simple (and frankly silly) as a fear of flying could be imaginary, what other of my various quirks, fears, neurosis or “character traits” could be also as artificial. (not saying that the fear itself is silly, though statistical analysis may say that for me.)

Moving on. Since high school I’ve developed feelings of claustrophobia in large groups of people in small spaces. Also a common fear/concern/quirk, but not something I always had, or something I had any reason to have. This has caused trouble in party situations, most recently at Kendra Holliday’s Queen of Hearts Ball in St Louis. Lots of people I don’t know, small space, Cooper standing outside on the sidewalk with the smokers just so he can breathe again. With as false as the fear of flying turned out to be, what are the odds such an obvious character affectation would be real?


I find myself talking to people so often about these issues. Is it perhaps because deep down I feel they make me more interesting? (Or a more believable character? [and when one gets down to it, how obnoxious is it when a writer refers to themselves as a fiction?]) I think there’s a lot of truth to that, because as Ginger and Shira are always assuring me, these fears that I allow to define me are things that are universal in the world. The fears of rejection, fears of intimacy, fears of public speaking (something I actually don’t have) they are part of our collective unconscious, like that dream about going to a class that you hadn’t attended all semester, and realizing all the work you didn’t do.

So if they’re simply collected fears, and so many people in my life have assured me that these fears/concerns can mitigated in most cases and obliterated in many, wouldn’t it follow that an obnoxious fellow like me might have developed neurosis simply to be cool? (uh oh, the blog is spiraling out of control! Hope you have your seatbelts on! [The plane I’m in is experiencing turbulence, but certainly not out of control, and my pulse is still normal…groovy. My biggest concern is my Coke Zero tipping over and spilling on my super awesome bluetooth keyboard. {and that’s a good question, are you allowed to use bluetooth on a plane?}]) Okay, after a deep breath (and some parentheticals) I’ve acknowledged that it wasn’t to be cool that I developed them. BUT, it’s possible it was to be interesting.

Which stems from the fear of not being interesting/popular/choose your poison.

When Marilyn and I first started swinging I had many fears about inadequacy, both in sexual prowess, and in the physical department. Because of this, I think I wasn’t as selective as I should’ve been at the beginning. I had, as I’m sure many of us with body issues do, the feeling that I should be grateful for people having any interest in me, regardless of my interest in them. Luckily, there are only one or two regrettable decisions in my past, and only one bit of “taking one for the team.*” But as I’ve developed in non-monogamy, I’ve realized I can (and should) be more selective.

My fear becomes “should I approach that person” but not because I’m necessarily afraid they won’t want to fuck me, but because I’m afraid of the part before all that. Will they want to talk to me, will they be interested in what I have to say, will they just be polite, will they NOT be polite and tell me to fuck off?

I’ve never really NEEDED to overcome this fear, because I never actually picked people up before we became swingers. Most of my dating was either through referral (ie friend of a friend) or stumbling into a datable situation. I never actually identified and approached. In swinging I had to do that, but it’s far easier to do so online. Parties presented their own challenge, so we usually only went to parties where we knew most everyone. The fear of approach in these environments was mitigated, though. Mostly because I have a wife with big boobs that I could throw at them. Talk about an attention getter!

I coddled my fear, nurtured it. Allowed it to take hold. This one is far more significant than the Fear of Flying or enclosed spaces. It’s been with me a lot longer, set up shop and hung its shingle in my cerebral cortex. But am I just, again, playing a role? The role of wallflower. The role of the neurotic (and hopefully adorable) nebbish who saw one too many Woody Allen movies during his formative years. (And hey, Woody got Diane Keaton. DIANE FUCKING KEATON.)

So, if it’s a role, and if it’s a character trait that was adopted, I can shed it, right? Redefine myself? Or maybe all of our character traits really are fictions that we apply to ourselves from decades of watching characters on TV. Do we decide to be Chandler?

As I sit on this plane to a weekend in San Francisco, where I won’t be able to show off Marilyn before engaging, where I’ll need to actually step up and be a real person instead of a collection of character traits on a bio sheet. So, what if a weekend in a new city I’ve never visited before, amongst a throng of sex positive people, could be the game changer I need.

I’m Cooper S. Beckett, and I am ditching the portions of my personality that no longer serve the whole. Fear of flying? Check. Next up, claustrophobia and fear of the approach.

We’re above the clouds now.

*Taking One For The Team, when one half of a swinging couple goes along with a four-way sex situation despite being uninterested, so his partner can have whom they wants.


About Author

About Cooper Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset: The Podcast since 2010, author of swinging & polyamory novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching The Swingularity, and memoir My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is a graphic & web designer, photographer, and voice over artist, has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, & is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He is currently working on two instructional non-fiction books, one about beginning non-monogamy, and another about pegging.

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