Taking the Fun out of Life

by DavalosMcCormack on March 23, 2009

When I was growing up kids playgrounds had the most amazing collection of fun and wild things to play on. Swings, roundabouts, see-saws (or teeter-totters as they are called here in America) and they were all on concrete so that as you came flying off there was no end of opportunities to land and cut and scrape and bruise yourself. It was a metaphor for life; with fun comes an element of risk.

Today, we seem less interested in allowing kids of all ages to have fun, and more intent on making sure no one hurts themselves, on removing all element of risk.

I was reminded of that the other day by two very different news stories that ended up with a similar theme. The first was the tragic death, after what seemed like an innocuous fall on a ski slope, of  the wonderfully talented actress Natasha Richardson. Richardson died from a traumatic brain injury after falling on a bunny slope.

The accident immediately led to some people calling for everyone to have to wear crash helmets when skiing, to protect them against such accidents.

The other news story was the call for a ban on women being allowed to get a “Brazilian” bikini wax in New Jersey. Now you may not know what a ‘Brazilian’ wax job is, but it’s where the lady in question has all hair removed from a part of the body that may not be quite Brazil but is certainly south of the equator!

Apparently a couple of Jersey girls ended up in the hospital with infections after getting this kind of treatment. Now far be it from me to trivialize this, but really.. banning a whole state from waxing if not lyrical then at least genital because of a couple of infections seems like overkill.

But that seems to be the standard response to any problem, if something goes wrong, regulate it. If there’s even a hint of a safety concern, ban the activity or regulate it.

Now, every year in the U.S. more than 300 people die in accidents in bathtubs. No, really, they do, just ask the folks at the National Safety Council who keep track of these things. And every month six people die from hot water scalding.

Add to that the more than three hundred people who die in falls from ladders annually, or the even more terrifying fact that each year ladders account for 100,000 injuries and it’s clear that we are facing a huge public health crisis.

As a result I am starting a national movement to make our ladders and bathrooms safer.

First, we need to put safety rails on ladders and only allow people who have passed a training course and are wearing crash helmets, knee pads and safety harnesses to use them. And even then only when there is a huge rubber mat underneath to cushion their fall.

Second we need to institute strict rules about the use of bathtubs, so that people can only use them if another person is present and trained in CPR and water rescue techniques. Then we need to pass laws that do not allow hot water to be any hotter than 75 degrees to protect people from inadvertently boiling themselves alive.

Or we could just accept that everything we do carries with it some element of risk. Getting out of bed could be life-threatening under the right (or wrong depending on your perspective) circumstances. Taking the dog for a walk could endanger you – after all you could inadvertently get tangled up in the leash and twist and fall under a passing bus carrying health and safety experts to a conference. Oh the irony of it all!

Clearly there are some things it makes sense to regulate. It makes sense to require children to wear helmets when riding bicycles because they are too young to make safety decisions for themselves. But once you are over 18, can legally drive, own a gun, join the army, get married, even vote, then clearly you are capable of making decisions for yourself.

You can decide if you want to join a gym or eat yourself to death at McDonalds. So why can’t you decide if you should have the hair from your nether regions removed without having someone else make that decision for you.

Why can’t you decide that you’d like to ski without a helmet. Heck in Switzerland it’s legal to go hiking in the mountains in the nude, even in winter – ok, not smart perhaps but legal. They figure it’s your extremities so you can put them at risk if you like (just don’t expect the St. Bernard to lick you back to life when frostbite sets in!)

Sometimes we just need to accept that risk, life and fun go hand in hand. Remove one, and the others are also at risk. It’s up to each of us to decide how much risk we feel comfortable with – not to impose our fears and limitations on others.

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