I’ve always had an aversion to antiques. When I was very young I remember going to church with my parents every Sunday and that musty, old smell that I suspect came from the old wooden pews assaulted my senses in a most unpleasant way. Beyond that I never gave it much thought until I was in grade 3. My class had a field trip to Pioneer Village and when I entered what was once a homestead for a Blacksmith’s family I immediately recognized that smell. Musty, old, damp – but more than feeling the unpleasantness, I had a very sudden and overwhelming feeling of fear. The furniture, the bedding, everything in that home made me feel creepy….and afraid. Being just a child, I didn’t understand the emotions running through me but I knew I had to leave the building.
Ever since then I have been conscious of my reaction when in the presence of antiques, particularly those from the early 1800’s. I’ve often wondered if perhaps I lived a life during this time that was in some way difficult; my subconscious recoiling from the memories of an unhappy time. I’ve tried to reason with myself, I am, after all, an adult. I’ve forced myself to wander through flea markets where antiques are abundant. They’re just things, I tell myself. They can’t hurt me. Maybe it’s just the old musty odour? But no, I’ve actually felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up in the presence of certain antiques. I’ve even felt nausea and had to make a hasty exit before I embarrassed myself. Over the 57 years of my life I’ve come to accept what I cannot rationally explain and I simply avoid antiques and turn of the century/old homes.
Is my fear of antiques normal? People are afraid of dark places, confined spaces, open spaces, water – is there anyone out there who has a fear of period pieces? If I’m accurate in my notion that I’m tapping in to the hardships of another life, are there people today who have a fear of fire because they were burned as witches in the late 1600’s? Or maybe someone who rejects a job of labour because they lived in Cleopatra’s time 30-44BC, and suffered the hardships of slavery in Egypt? I did search the internet for answers and while I could find no official name for my fear of antiques, I did find out that it isn’t as rare as I’d initially thought. (So either I’m more normal than I thought or there’s more abnormal people in this world for me to relate to!)
If scents are merely a powerful suggestion can we train our subconscious to overcome irrational fear? Maybe. I imagine hypnosis might help, therapy even, and for those with fears that impair their day to day lives, like the fear of darkness or open spaces, some mode of healing is necessary to help them live a normal life. I’m fortunate in that I can easily avoid the objects of my fear. I do enter a church periodically, and I note that those built in the last 50 years have no effect on me. Take me on a tour of an old cathedral however, and I’m bee lining for the exit, fast. I don’t frequent flea markets and avoid antique shops like the plague. I will never own a century home, by choice. And every now and again I test myself, just to see if I’ve outgrown my fear but as soon as I smell that old familiar mildew, musty scent, I get that creepy feeling again, and I bolt.
I’m not what I’d call a super modern girl, so while my taste leans toward traditional in dress and décor, I do favour items from the 1940’s on. In short, I will not outbid you at an auction for that red velvet settee.