One of the first games we instinctually play with newborn babies is peek-a-boo. Perhaps it’s a relic of our early human ancestors who had to be adept at hiding to avoid being attacked by predators. Whatever it’s origin, it’s a game that appears to exist across different ethnicities and cultures throughout the world. We cover our eyes and pretend like we can’t see a baby. Then we reveal ourselves with glee, exclaiming “peek-a-boo,” generally eliciting joyful giggles from the infant because they have been proverbially found. It’s a precursor to the game we play later for fun called hide-and-go-seek , where we literally find places to disappear ourselves and then challenge our peers to locate us. When they do, everyone is happy and all appears to be back to normal.
But what if it isn’t? What if the game that we’ve been taught to revel in from our infancy becomes a coping strategy — nay — a survival mechanism to avoid being abused? All of a sudden an innocent game played amongst peers becomes an active combat training session preparing us for making decisions that might very well mean the difference between life and death. This was my reality growing up.
I hadn’t really thought about this until recently when I heard someone carelessly ask an interviewee “Did you have a favorite hiding place as a child?” For some reason the question triggered me, eliciting a wave of fear in me. The idea of a favorite hiding spot — while seemingly innocuous to those who grew up hiding for play — awakened my hyper-vigilant inner child who knew all the hiding spots for survival.
I was the best hider. I had to be. And I took this game so seriously that when I hid, I wouldn’t come out if I wasn’t found. Giving away my hiding places or secrets
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