A phobia is, by definition, an irrational and extreme fear of a situation or a thing.
Mine is Mottephobia- the fear of moths.
I recognise that moths are (allegedly) perfectly harmless. I mean, they don’t bite or sting, they don’t have razor sharp moth-feet, they don’t eat people (apparently) and they aren’t venomous.
They do, however, have insecty-segmented bodies, a bunch of legs, freakishly powdery wings, scary eyes and an uncontrollable attraction to me. It’s terrifying.
About 13 or 14 years ago, there was a plague of great, big moths in Sydney. Awful things, the size of a small pterodactyl, from memory. One night, I had gone to bed and just started to drift off. It was a hot, summery evening but I ALWAYS need a sheet over me (In case of bugs, the bogeyman, intruders etc- what good it will do I have no idea, all I know is I must have it). Anyway, as I said, I was just drifting of when something thudded on to my thigh. I would estimate the weight to be that of a small-to-medium bird of prey. I froze, then pulled the sheet up over my head. My then-partner flicked on the light in response to the distressed noises I was making. He instructed me to remain under the sheet, refused to answer my impassioned pleas to know what it was that was on my leg and set about coaxing the thing on to a pillow and carrying it outside. Once he’d slid the balcony door closed I risked a peek. It was a moth the size of a dinner plate (or near enough) that had been ON ME.
My fear was big enough that I got very little sleep that night and every time the sheet shifted on me I would jump, sure that the giant moth was back with his mates, ready to take turns in terrifying me.
I have another phobia, too. This one probably interferes less in my day to day life. It’s fish. Fish, with all their scaly, slimy, bug-eyed…fishiness. I’m not sure it’s an actual phobia so much as it’s a revulsion. I can’t eat fish. Looking at whole cooked fish or fish with scales on- can’t do it!
So moving in to this house was kind of an issue, because of the shower screens in both bathrooms:
I’m sure you can see my dilemma.
I don’t shower in the butterfly shower. Butterflies are just slightly more colourful moths. Instead I put up with the fish. I literally turn my back on them and just avoid looking at them. It became worse when I found out that the style of screens were super popular because they used real fish, butterflies and what have you encased in the screen. Vom.
I have two friends who have a phobia of cotton wool. It’s pretty real for both of them. Adam had this to say when I asked him:
My friend Marissa recounted this for me:
Both Adam and Marissa know that cotton wool is harmless, just like I know moths are. But the fear and revulsion is still there and we’re helpless against it.
Somewhat more concerning is another phobia that seems to be getting a lot of airtime. It’s being called Islamophobia. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s were people act like total jerks towards members of the Muslim community. This includes abusing and physically attacking people. Islamaphobes get all upset if a new Mosque is being built, they refuse to purchase foods that are halal certified, they try to ban cultural dress and they talk about driving Muslim people out of the community by contaminating their places of worship. There is, however, a huge difference between Islamophobia and a fear of bugs or cotton products. Whereas people like Marissa, Adam and I know our fear is irrational- Islamophobes, in my experience, claim the opposite. I was involved in a discussion recently with a very objectionable man. He was full of justifications and rationalisations for his attitude towards Islam and was keen to sign up new members, so to speak. At one point, he said:
“I’m not against Muslim people, I am against their religion, beliefs, food, dress and culture. As people, I’m sure they’re fine.”
So essentially, what he said was:
“I’m not against Muslim people, except when they are, you know, being Muslim people.”
Well, that’s a relief.
He also raised the issue of Sharia Law. Two Muslim women who were part of this conversation said that Sharia Law was broadly misunderstood and not something enforced in Australia anyway. Both mentioned their faith dictated that they first follow “The Law of the Land”. The man told them they were wrong.
He told two practicing Muslims that he knew more about their faith than they did.
I won’t even go into the other things he said, because quite frankly, that shit doesn’t bear repeating. It was offensive.
What do you say to people who are so heavily committed to hating a minority group that they literally deny the facts to maintain their hatred? This guy belonged to a number of Anti-Islamic groups and I clicked on some of the pages and websites. I saw their online memberships numbered in the thousands. How bloody depressing.
This is different to your run-of-the-mill phobia. It’s irrational, sure. It tends to be extreme, too. The trouble is- this particular phobia? It’s a choice. If I could become friends with our mothy brothers, no longer paralysed with fear at the sound of powdery wings flapping- I’d do it. If Adam and Marissa could roll gaily in cotton wool, abandoning themselves to billows of the soft, squeaky balls without wanting to vomit or die, I have no doubt they’d do it in a second. Because phobias really effing suck. I can’t even pretend to understand why you’d choose one. Do you have a phobia?