The following is from my 2010 book, “Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom”
I have tasted fear.
It tasted a little like a breakfast burrito backing up on me but that’s not the point. The point is that everyone has felt fear but I’m not sure mine count as real, medically recognized phobias.
For instance, I feel sweaty pricks of panic every time I let my daughter get in the car with a teenage boy.
And I am overcome with cold, clammy anxiety until the moment I open her cell phone bill, at which point I sink to the ground, overcome by nausea.
But I don’t have a fear with a name, like the fear of spiders (arachnophobia) that my daughter has. When she sees an eight-legged creature in her bathtub, she screams, “Mom! Come quick! Get the spider.”
I come running and then she says, “Don’t hurt it!”
The reason I am not afraid of spiders is because I could squash them like, well, bugs. See, I am lots bigger than the majority of spiders, though some of those Amazonian ones I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel — the ones that look like they could be saddled and ridden to herd cattle— might give me a run for my money.
I figure that even if the spider is sitting in the bathtub, three or four legs raised in a threatening manner, shouting, “You want a piece of me?” I can say, “Yeah,” and pull off one of its legs.
Instead, I’ll put the spider in a jar and release it in the yard where it can go home to its spider wife and children and say, “You should have seen it. I had her right where I wanted her.”
Even spiders deserve to maintain some dignity.
Shannon’s fear of spiders does not keep her from functioning as a normal teen, although she avoids horror movies involving spiders, going into our garage, and cleaning the Skittles-encrusted corners of her bedroom (though I suspect this last one is due to perspirophobia, or fear of doing actual sweating).
Some people, though, have fears that are downright debilitating.
How, for instance, do you marry or hold a job when you have a fear of chins (geniophobia)? When you have a baby, do you cover his chin in little blue bandages? Are all the framed photos in the house of faces from the nose up?
Other fears that might prevent someone from living normally include: fear of knees (genuphobia), fear of gravity (barophobia) and fear of oneself (autophobia).
These are real, diagnosed afflictions. (Would I lie to you?)
The person who has linonophobia, or fear of string, likely had a big brother like mine who rigged some dowels and string to the light switch in our windowless bathroom when I was a child so that when I closed the door I was trapped in total darkness, left until I was a whimpering puddle and rescued hours later by my mommy. Not that I have a fear of the dark (scotophobia).
And a person with levophobia, fear of things to the left side of the body, must have found themselves sitting in the window seat on a 13-hour plane ride sitting to the right of Dr. Phil.
Some fears seem plausible to me to the point that I wonder why they are considered debilitating.
- Fear of work (ergophobia). All journalists suffer from this. It’s why we have careers in which writing about a tomato with a growth that could best be described as pornographic is called work.
- Fear of missiles or bullets (ballistophobia). I’ve never seen anyone run toward a bullet, except maybe Superman and Donald Trump (that hair helmet could withstand anything).
- Fear of the great mole rat (zemmiphobia). It’s likely I would not be afraid of a common house mole rat. But a great mole rat? Isn’t everybody?
The most realistic fear on the list is ephebiphobia, or fear of teenagers. Sure, I’ve survived two years with one but I have four to go. Each day it becomes more difficult to breathe without using a paper bag.
If I were to name real phobias that haunt parents of teens, they would be:
- Interruptophobia, fear of finally, after 10 years, having five minutes alone in a hot bath and having someone burst in and shout, “Mom, have you seen my other blue soccer sock? Oh, and I need a ride to the field. In five minutes.”
- Lowfundophobia, fear of running out of money before they move out.
- Bottomlesspitophobia, fear of never being able to fill them up.
- I’mtoooldtoraiseanotherbaby!ophobia, fear of becoming a grandparent too soon.
On second thought, maybe I do have a phobia, one called pantophobia, which is not a fear of polyester slacks like one might think.
No, it’s a fear of everything, which I’ll likely have until my teen grows up and has her own kids. Then I’ll give it to her.