First of all, I am a big chicken. That’s probably obvious, since here I am, writing yet another blog post from my quiet little cave, where I observe the world without interacting. But anyway, it’s true. I could use a trip to see the Wizard about acquiring some courage.
That said, here’s the thing: I have a new neighbor. I discovered this as I was coming home from a soccer game the other night, and to my surprise, there was a car parked in the carport next to mine, and a stranger with his arms full of boxes. He greeted me and explained that he was slowly moving in.
“A new neighbor!” I cheerfully announced to my kids. “Should I bake some cookies for him?” My kids were enthusiastic, and for the next few days, we kept an eye on the house next door, waiting for an opportunity to pounce with friendly greetings and home-baked treats. However, the neighbor did not appear. Days passed. No neighbor, no car in the carport. Nope, not even at midnight. Once, we spotted the car and got all excited, but half an hour later, it disappeared.
We began to form outlandish theories. Maybe the new neighbor was a ninja. Or the ghost of someone who used to live there, but died. Maybe he was a psychotic serial killer who was only hiding bodies inside the house every few days. (And yet, I still wondered whether psychotic serial killers preferred chocolate chip or snickerdoodles).
Then my son said, “I dare you to peek in the windows to see if anyone’s in there.”
A dare? Oh wow. Suddenly, the urge to do it was overwhelming – the urge to part with practical wisdom and become the crazy stalker neighbor who peeks in windows. Did I dare make such a bold move just to prove that the new neighbor was not Jeffrey Dahmer? The fact that I was even considering it made me think, what is it about dares? What is it about the words, I dare you, that burns away our common sense and turns perfectly rational people into thrill-seeking daredevils with little fear of consequences? Sure, I’ll stick my tongue to a frozen pole! Sure, I’ll go skinny-dipping in the hotel pool! Sure, I’ll play Chinese Fire Drill at the next red light with a car full of people! (I may or may not have accepted at least one of these dares before). Is it only that we give in to peer pressure? Is it that we seek to prove that we are brave and capable people? Or is it that we really want excuses to be wild every now and then, and it is easier to blame our ridiculous actions on an external challenge than on our own dumb choices?
Maybe it’s all three.
No, I did not accept my son’s dare and invade our new neighbor’s privacy. Because yeesh, what a poor example I would set. Instead, I will continue to peer out of my window to see if the car mysteriously appears again. Then, if I do not see the new neighbor dragging any corpse-shaped plastic bags out of the trunk, then maybe, just maybe, I will knock respectfully on his front door and welcome him to the community with a dozen homemade snickerdoodles. If I dare.