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I’m afraid.
You’re afraid.

Given the current state of the nation and world, the news media has presented us with plenty of reasons to be afraid:

  • Threat of terrorist attacks.
  • Corporate governance scandals.
  • Computer hackers can steal our identities.
  • Snipers shooting at us in our suburbs and on our highways

These may be good for certain marketers. We know the three most compelling buying motivations are sex, greed and fear. And marketers have plenty of fear in which to sink their teeth.

Personally, I’ve tempered my fears of national and world events. There’s nothing I can do about them.

But I still live with fear. And whether or not your daily newspaper and the evening news have scared the begeezus out of you, I suggest you add my list of scary stuff to yours:

1. Restaurants. Like most people, I enjoy a nice evening out at a fine restaurant. But I’m afraid to eat in them. A recent guest on Late Night with David Letterman told about his adventure working his way across America as a dishwasher in the sleaziest � and the finest � restaurants in the nation. He said, without exception, every kitchen was dirty. Letterman concluded, "Is there any restaurant in America you’d eat in?"

"No," the guest replied.

Now I’m afraid to eat in restaurants.

They scare me. I may have to start cooking my own meals.

2. Supermarkets. You’d think supermarkets would be the solution to my fear of restaurants. Nope. Go through the aisles. Product after product is labeled with the manufacturer’s caution to retailers: "Sell by Jan. 12."

What happens after Jan. 12? Will the food alter my brain chemistry rendering me powerless against the nonsensical suggestions of corrupt politicians?

I don’t want to know the date the retailer should stop selling the product. I want a "consume by" date. And I want to know what’ll happen to me if I eat the cheese after the food’s "expiration."

I’m afraid of supermarkets. Maybe I’ll give up eating altogether.

3. Reality Shows. Handsome men and beautiful women vying for one another’s affection in luxurious locations. Disheveled regular Joes turned into hip, sophisticated playboys by flamboyant gay men with fabulous taste. Active Americans dropped into desolate locations without food, water or shelter�and being required to "outwit" each other then voting who stays or goes.

These are popular television reality shows. The thought of these shows fill me with fear since they bear no resemblance to my reality. How about yours?

The television networks have redefined reality�and I don’t relate.

Something’s clearly wrong with my perception of reality. And that makes me afraid.

4. Rap Music. I love music, lots of genres: pop, rock, jazz, Broadway, classical. I don’t care for opera, but I acknowledge the extraordinary talent it takes to write and perform it.

I seem to remember from school the elements of music are melody, rhythm and harmony.

Music is pleasant, hence the embedded clich�, "That’s music to my ears".

So what is it about that angry noise to which people refer as "rap music?" It’s another form of music for which I don’t care. But in this case, I believe the skill required to write and perform it is something other than "talent."

It’s also missing most of the elements of music I learned about in school.

It’s not pleasant, either. It’s harsh on the ears, and the lyrics are angry. They’re about hate, drugs, killing and sexual abuse.

I fear rap music. It makes me fear I’m getting older.

5. Cosmetic Surgery. It’s scary to go "under the knife." So I’ll only submit to surgery if and when I must.

But an awful lot of people don’t share that attitude. Each year more and more people buy plastic surgery to correct flaws that make them insecure. I can’t imagine being that insecure.

Cosmetic surgery can make dramatic changes in the way a person looks. Think about the 6 Saddam Hussein look-alikes that were created to "protect" that dictator’s life.

Anyone with enough money can buy virtually any appearance they choose.

So when I visit my mother, how can I tell that’s my mother and not a crazed psychopath who wants to maim me�and has had cosmetic surgery?

When I go see my doctor, how do I know that’s my doctor? How can I know I’m not disrobing for an escaped murderer�who’s had cosmetic surgery?

When my son, Zack, flies in to visit for a long weekend, how do I know that’s my son�and not some Arab terrorist?

We’ve all got plenty to fear, although the worst is seldom realized. Let’s kick back and chill.

Is that OK with you, Saddam?

What are you afraid of? Tell me. Call me at 212.696.1200. I’ll make everything all better for you!

Mark S. Levit

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