I’ve been thinking about the fine line between a healthy fear of strangers and a fraught paranoia of anybody who crosses my path. I don’t think I have quite got the balance right; a conclusion I came to recently when a man jogged past me and I turned with my fists raised and growled at him.
A fear of strangers was drummed into me from a very young age, leaving me hugely suspicious of lost people, beggars, and supply teachers. Whilst on holiday in America, aged 8, I was testing my nerves by treading water as long as I dared in the deep end of the hotel swimming pool. Out of nowhere, my younger brother (who couldn’t swim) leaped into the pool and screamed, “Catch me, Karen!”
I was a poor swimmer myself, and the two of us started to flounder as I desperately tried to keep us both afloat. At that moment, a Good Samaritan swam over and scooped us into his arms. Despite the fact that we were drowning, Stranger Danger kicked in and I began to punch him as I shrieked at the top of my lungs, “Let go of my brother!”
Fortunately for us, the stranger carried on saving our lives, although he did emerge from the pool rather beaten up and shaken.