Saturday, November 11, 2017

Phobias Redux

Probably everyone has phobias: things they fear or which repulse them to one degree or another. There are almost as many phobias as there are things to be phobic about, some of them very exotic and exotic-sounding. (I love “triskaidekaphobia”—fear of the number 13—for example.)

Some are very common, though we may not immediately know their names: Arachnophobia (Fear of spiders), Pteromerhanophobia (Fear of flying), Atychiphobia (Fear of failure), Catagelophobia (Fear of being ridiculed), Cynophobia (Fear of dogs), and Dystychiphobia (Fear of accidents) among them.

Other phobias range from the truly strange to the downright bizarre: Ephebiphobia (Fear of teenagers), Bibliophobia (Fear of books), Anthrophobia (Fear of flowers), Chromophobia (Fear of colors), Genuphobia (Fear of knees) and the “duh” of phobias: Phobophobia (Fear of phobias).

I only have three that I can think of, two of which fall into the second category, though I don’t know their Latin names, if they have one: I will not use anyone else’s toothbrush, and assume I’m in the vast majority on this one. But I also won’t use bar soap anyone else has used. (I know…it’s soap, for Pete’s sake: there aren’t any germs on it. No, but when wet it is slimy and I do not like slimy.)

But my primary phobia, and one in which I take some sort of perverse pride in its uniqueness, is against rings. I shudder even to think of them. I’m fully aware that hundreds of millions of people wear them, and I don’t mean to offend anyone who does. It’s just the way it is for me. I am, to the best of my knowledge, the only person in the world to have such a phobia.

Exactly how and why people develop phobias is pretty much a mystery. A lot of them, of course, are based on some traumatic personal experience with the object feared, but how and why dislike turns into a phobia isn’t clear (at least not to me).

I figured out long ago that my fear/abject loathing of rings is deeply rooted in and related to my rather odd views on human sexuality. I don’t think I have to explain that to my mind the finger is the…uh…and the ring is…well, you know…and I am so totally homosexual that the very thought of heterosexual sex makes me mildly nauseous. Again, apologies to anyone that statement might offend, and I realize that it makes me just as bigoted as those heterosexuals who express revulsion over the idea of two men having sex. I will definitely resist that inane cliché: “Some of my best friends are straight.” As are all my relatives, most people I see on the el, and nine out of every ten people on the planet. So considering those odds, sometimes I think I put a little more of me out there than you might be comfortable in seeing.

My phobia against rings was with me long before I figured out the symbolism. On my 17th birthday, my dad bought me a very nice ring. He knew how I felt about rings before he bought it, and he was deeply hurt when I refused to wear it and he had to take it back. I remember that when I first saw it, my initial reaction was embarrassment and shame. To my subconscious, I’m sure it implied he thought I was straight. I really felt bad for hurting him, but…well…he knew.


So phobias are just another of the myriads of little bits and pieces that make us all human, and which differentiate us, one from the other. Back to you, Dr. Freud…
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

My Garden of Phobias

We all have phobias…things which inexplicably and irrationally frighten or repulse us. I admit that I’m somewhat protective of mine. I’m not overly fond of snakes, for example, though I’ve gotten far better about being able to look at them from a safe distance. But that’s pretty much a garden-variety phobia, shared by probably the majority of people on the planet, so I can’t take any special pride in that.

I don’t like tattoos or body piercing. The former I’ve come to grudgingly accept since so many people nowadays have them. But it had been my personal experience with people sporting tattoos that there seems to be a definite correlation between the number of one’s tattoos and the number and severity of one’s emotional problems. One tattoo is fine; a couple are okay, but beyond that…uh…, no thanks. Body piercings give me a severe case of the crawlies and are a slamming-door turnoff.

I have a phobia against using a bar of soap other people have used. (I know—it’s soap: soap kills germs. Yeah, but wet soap can be kind of slimy, and I don’t like slimy.) I don’t like tasting food from other people’s forks or spoons or plates, or drinking from the same glass, can, or bottle—though I will do it if necessary in order to avoid appearing rude.

Okay, so a lot of my phobias are, indeed, fairly tame and shared by a lot of other people. But I claim to one phobia which sets me far apart from anyone else. I really hope my explanation of it will not convince you that I am totally ‘round the bend, though I am aware it might well offend some, and if so I am truly sorry. But the purpose of this blog is something akin to a pre-mortem autopsy, exposing parts of myself which may well better have been left unexposed.

I hate rings. My totally irrational antipathy towards them ranges from distaste to downright revulsion. This, if you will, is my prize hot-house orchid of phobias. To this date, I have never encountered another human being who shares it with me…though I’m sure there have to be some, somewhere. My reasoning may be seen as teetering dangerously on the brink of psychosis, but, hey, it’s mine and I’m stuck with it. Let it suffice to say that to me, the combination of ring and finger represents heterosexuality, and as a homosexual, I rebel against that concept.

For those who doubt my admittedly strange reasoning, I refer you to the wedding ring. Nothing more clearly albeit silently screams: “Heterosexual” to the world. Madison Avenue is painfully aware of the message of this symbol and uses it at every opportunity to subliminally say: “Hey, you can trust me! I’m just like you!” The number of men displaying wedding rings in commercials is far out of proportion to the number of men who actually wear them. And you will never see a TV commercial in which a man is shown to be alone with a small child unless he is wearing a wedding ring. Doubt me? Watch.

Which brings us to a little epiphany which came when I wrote the sentence about teetering dangerously on the brink of psychosis. I realized for the first time that my biggest, totally irrational and inexplicable phobia—the one which has fundamentally affected my life—is: heterosexuality. I mean no offense to the 9 out of every 10 people who happen to be heterosexual. I in some odd way fear it and look upon it as some sort of threat (which, given the historic treatment of homosexuals by heterosexuals, is not unjustified). I react to it, I realize, somewhat less strongly than I react to rings, but I have never understood it and am as generally uncomfortable around it (with the exception of my heterosexual friends and family) as many heterosexuals are around homosexuals. It’s not something I’m proud of, but the fact is that it exists, it’s an integral part of who I am. And now, thanks to this blog entry, I know it.

And now you know, too.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Role Models

My parents belonged to the Moose Club, and when, on a Saturday night, they were unable to find a baby sitter for me, they would take me along. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about these forays, since there was very little for kids to do. I’d spend most of my time in the large reception room, doing what I cannot remember. There were never very many other kids there, if any at all.

The large main room, where the adults gathered, had a bar and a dance floor with a constantly-playing juke box, and it always seemed to be crowded. I’d wander in only occasionally to ask my folks to get me a Coke or just out of sheer boredom.

Now, I was probably nine or ten at the time and already was well aware that I was fascinated by young men and desperately wanted to be like them. And one night there were two young men at the club. They may have been college boys or, since WWII was raging at the time, perhaps in the military: I can’t recall. 

What I can recall is that suddenly the dance floor had cleared and there, in the middle, were the two young men…dancing together! Not slow dancing, of course…jitterbugging. Everyone stood around clapping and laughing. I’m sure it was, to them, the equivalent of a truck driver dressing up as a woman at Halloween: really, really funny, you know? If anyone had thought for a nanosecond that the young men were dancing together because they really wanted to dance together, they would without question been ejected from the club and risked being seriously beaten.

But to me…!…I had never seen anything more wonderful in my entire life. Two men! Dancing together!

Children have and need role models. Most little boys want, at one time or another, to grow up to be a fireman, or a policeman, or a soldier or sailor…uniforms somehow seem to fascinate boys, probably because they represent authority, something every child subconsciously wants to have.

But when it comes to specific individuals children can look up to and aspire to be—a sports star or actor or singer or someone in public life, until recently gay children have been completely denied role models—someone they knew was like them. To be identified as openly gay was the kiss of death for any public figure.

When I was a child, the only time homosexuals were even mentioned was derogatorily, in a context of utter scorn or contempt. The only time they were portrayed on screen—and even then never specifically identified as being homosexual, but, then, they didn’t have to be—were as effeminate, prissy queens whose only purpose was for comic effect. (Sort of the equivalent of the few black actors allowed on screen…Stepp’n Fetchit-type visual jokes.)

As late as the 1950s, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Yet it seems to have occurred to no one that telling a gay child that to be gay was to be beneath contempt may very well have created exactly the mental problems they were accused of having.

The slow but steady emergence of actors, singers, politicians, and even a very few sports stars (interestingly almost all lesbian) from the closet speaks well for the progress we have made. And yet that the same people who now accept us once scorned us leaves a bitter aftertaste.

But we’ll get over it.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: