I’ve been getting asked quite a bit lately about where I got my penchant for doing highly dangerous things to myself for the sake of other’s entertainment. Oftentimes I’ll archly point out that I do these thing at a risk to myself AND in a state of undress. But the question is a valid one; how does one find their calling for tempting fate? Is it something that they always felt driven to do, to test boundaries and push personal limits? Or do they discover it by accident and become addicted to the rush?
I have a recollection of watching some small children play on a jungle gym and a tree while at a friend’s barbecue one summer. The little ones threw themselves off of things, performed ridiculous stunts, and potential bone-breaking manoeuvres. Because this gathering was largely made up of parents who are of a decidedly more laid back nature than most, the kids were able to be kids without helicopter parenting ruining the raw moment. It brought me back to a few of my own early ‘big bang’ moments of my youth, and I began to wonder as the kids in front of me playing took on a much more dark ‘Lord Of The Flies’ tone.
We grew up wild. Before the village I grew up in became an over developed bedroom community doomed to economic failure, there was tons of bush around it. Entire weekends were spent by the children of the town in the forest making up epic make-believes. I’ve no doubt this is why LARPing later appealed to me so much; full regression in grown up playing pretend and dress up combo. When left to their own devices, kids dream up impossible shit, with rational kid logic to go behind it: the pizza in the VCR, the bingo dabber on the pet of choice, the need to turn every room in your house into a fort and so on. With no parents hovering nervously around us, we were free to set our own limits, of which we found we had few. My folks were and are firm believers in experience being the best educator. So now that we’ve established that in our heads, all us neighbourhood kids thought that anything was possible. It was my dad though, who taught me that cheating death on a regular basis is possible.
My dad should be dead by now. He has danced perilously close to the grim reaper for years without ever getting his dance card punched. He continues to allude him, but when I was younger I witnessed some amazing feats which, I’m sure if they had happened to anyone else, they’d have been pushing up daisies. I think there must be some unconscious endorphin rush he must get by motoring through these events and getting scathed but not lathed, and has him continuing to put himself in, where he almost will be taking a dirt nap.
My Dad is a Kiwi. And like most New Zealanders the only thing I know that will kill them is being gored by an errant bull or old age. I have a funny feeling with Dad it’ll be the latter. I know this because his job is one that requires the utmost care and safety that he never balks at taking a minute longer to make sure everything is fine, double reads all technical notes and takes time to see they are applied that you’d never know he almost took off his own arm with a chainsaw.
I was nine, had come home from school and found my mother curled up in her room, white as a sheet. A myriad of scenarios went through my head. She’d been crying, which was never a good sign. She told me, shakily that my dad had an accident, and he was okay, but she was shaken up by it. I finally got out of her he was home and in the kitchen. I flew in to see him making a sandwich, forearm bandaged. He shrugged and said he had some stitches and asked it I wanted tea. What had happened was he was up a tree, trimming branches, and had just lightly tapped his arm as the blades were still rotating. A feather’s touch to be sure, but one enough to rip and rend his flesh open. Mom has never been good at the sight of blood (I know, I appreciate the irony about this too) so she passed out, leaving Dad to pilot himself to the hospital, with a towel wrapped around his arm to soak up all of his blood.
In time he’s fallen off of multiple roofs, electrocuted himself a few times, and I’m waiting for the day I hear about a piece of landscaping equipment gone awry and he’s dragging himself to the doctor to get a limb sewn back on. But never once did he flinch after the fact or have the little voice in his head speak up and say, “Oh, you might want to rethink this,” at any point. I think in that respect we are made of the same stuff. Oftentimes I’ve been playing with fire or pushing a needle through my arm prior to an energetic dance routine. The first time doing hair hang was suggested to me, I remember not worrying that my scalp would separate from my skull with the sound of velcro parting but if I could do the splits midair.
So if you see me doing something dangerous en pointe, eating something that should kill/maim me, or doing my best Bob Fosse moves in broken glass, know that I come by it honestly. And somewhere, as the stitches heal, my old man is smiling.
Little Miss Risk