Once, after introductions while at a party, a girl I knew caught my eye from across the table and said with a grin, “You’re scary.” My eyes narrowed, and I just smiled back and nodded, “Yeah, a little.”
Before and since, I and a few other people I’ve seen or enjoy being around have said or done something that reflects in the same light—worthy of receiving that line, “You’re scary.” To this day, I’m not 100% sure exactly how she meant for me to take that, but here’s how I do.
Understand this isn’t horror movie scary, or police lineup scary, or a Halloween fright. This is something more interpreted than perceived, something more intangible, but nevertheless felt, and ultimately something more useful. Which brings us to the question: What then is it to be “You’re scary”-kind of scary?
Exhilarating. It’s the kind of scary you feel when you move to a new town for the first time, or enter a new school. Or when you near the top of a roller coaster dive, or your jetliner is about to takeoff. It moves you—or causes you to feel as if you should—either toward the edge of that risky goal, or to stand rigid as, for an instant, the world seems to move without you, gripped as you are.
Instructive. It’s the kind of scary that children often read about. Aesop wrote about it in, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Rudyard Kipling wrote about it in, The Jungle Book. And Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein wrote about it in practically everything! It’s in all the fairy tales and fables that populate the movies and books of our youth. It’s the free-wheeling fun of dreaming what you dare in a prohibitive world, and minding those same inhibitions when it seems everyone else has forgotten theirs.
Liberated. It’s the kind of scary that convinces one it's all right to leave one’s home town and go off to college hundreds of miles away, or leave one’s home country and live in another for years at a time, while various among those back home scratch their heads and wonder. It's about taking your home with you, creating it as you go.
Bold. It's a Batman-kind of scary. It makes for a good weapon against other kinds of scary. It's returning home to find your door unlocked or open and searching the house in a loud or threatening voice, singing, or growling like an animal to unnerve any would be intruder.
Random. It’s the kind of scary that prompts you to completely rearrange your room every couple years, because it's really scary not to. It's detached without being unobservant; ready without waiting; loudest when it's quiet. It's right in front you, in these words. And then.…
So when I think back on that time when that girl I once knew said, "You're scary," I know what it means. It's true. I'm a little scary. In fact, I'm all kinds of exhilarating, instructive, liberated, bold, random-ness!