Life, Minutiae, Toys, Irrational Phobias, Peeves, Fiber

But, Tons

Posted on | January 3, 2007 at 11:17 pm | 15 Comments

For years I suffered in silence, thinking there was something dreadfully wrong with me. Only my family and a few close friends knew of my affliction, but they all laughed it off and were not very supportive. In fact, I was ridiculed by those closest to me and told to just deal with it. But now I know I’m not alone. There are many people out there with the exact same issue. My problem is real, debilitating, and is not easily dealt with. And since I no longer feel stigmatized or shamed by it, I can finally reveal it to the public at large. I do this in the hope of furthering understanding of this issue and unburdening my traumatized mind.

I have a fear of buttons.

(For reasons which will become clear, from here on out I will mostly refer to these objects of revulsion as “b’s”.)

After finally researching this issue on the web, this phobia appears to be more common than I would’ve imagined (look here, here and here, for example). However, it does not appear to be common enough to warrant a cool -phobia designation like “agoraphobia”. It seems to be known only as “button phobia”. I was astounded at how much I had in common with the other people who shared my aversion. To whit:

  • It’s pretty much only plastic b’s that I fear. Metal ones, especially if they are attached by “rivets” like on jeans, do not bother me. Wooden ones are somewhere in-between. The threads and thread holes seem to have something to do with the phobia.
  • Unattached b’s are the worst. Many people report wanting to vomit when coming across unattached b’s on a surface. That situation does produce an intense revulsion in me – far worse than seeing something most “normal” people are revulsed by, like a spider or snake. But it doesn’t make me feel nauseous.
  • I hate the sound b’s make when the shirts roll around in the dryer, or when tossing them from the washer into the dryer. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • Even the word “button” produces a shudder in me. For example, I have a very difficult time listening to the Church song Ancient History (from the Sing-Songs EP) because of the way Steve Kilbey emphasizes the word in the line “convinced down to his BUTTONS this was how it was planned”, which makes me cringe. I really like the song other than that, but I can’t listen to it because I know that line is coming. Some people cannot even see the word written down (or typed) without experiencing revulsion. I don’t have it quite that bad, but in deference to those that do, I’ve minimized the use of the B word in this post.
  • I have had this phobia as far back as I can remember. I have this memory, possibly false, of having swallowed one when I was very young (like two years old), and I always thought that was at the root of this phobia. However, now after reading the experiences of others, I think that there was no particular cause of this fear. My memory is probably of just being revulsed at the thought of accidentally eating one or touching it with my mouth.

As a kid, I used to get shirts with b’s as birthday and Christmas gifts from aunts and such who knew not (or didn’t understand) my phobia. They would just lie in my closet unused forever. They would have to be at the back of the closet, because if I happened to see them, there would be trouble. After awhile, my immediate family knew better than to give me those sorts of gifts, because they knew I wouldn’t ever wear them.

Formal events were always extremely problematic. I would often avoid going if possible, chiefly because of the fear of having to wear something with b’s. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t go my prom… yeah, that must’ve been it. No other phobias involved there.

Oh, I’m dealing with this phobia much better than I used to. About 9 years ago I started working for a company that has a business casual dress code, and I have to wear a button-down shirt or a polo to work. That went some ways towards acclimating me to them and overcoming my fear somewhat. (In the beginning, I thought only button-downs were allowed. When I found out that polos were okay, it was a vast relief. They are so much easier to deal with, both because there are fewer b’s and because I generally don’t have to touch them.) And let’s face it, there are formal occasions when you just have to wear a button-down. It helps if I wear a t-shirt under the shirt, because then the b’s are further away from my skin. It also helps knowing that I generally cannot see the b’s when I am wearing them. Hence, it’s almost worse for me to be around someone else who is wearing b’s than to have them on myself. And even though touching them is the worst, I have learned to suppress my revulsion long enough to button up a shirt. I’ve come a long way, baby. But still, the sight of a b sitting there unattached puts me in a tizzy.

At our family Christmas celebration this year, my sister had a decoration up on her wall which was the face of Santa. His beard was comprised of all white b’s. Even knowing about my phobia, my family couldn’t understand why that disturbed me so much and how I had to face away from it when eating. I called it “Evil Santa”.

I am so lucky to have found a caring, understanding girlfriend who tolerates my phobia.

So, that’s my Deep Dark Secret, of which I am no longer ashamed. Anyone else have any unusual intense phobias to confess?



15 Responses to “But, Tons”

  1. Sue
    January 4th, 2007 @ 12:41 am

    I hereby apologize for putting the White Stripes’ “Another Button to Button” on our year-end best-of-2003 CD.

  2. Editrix
    January 4th, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    Inneresting. I don’t suppose you were a fan of candy buttons as a tyke, then, huh?

    I don’t think I have any bona fide phobias, but I’m not a fan of heights, crowds (would rather stand at the back of a club with easy access to bar, restroom, and exit than actually view the band and be able to report whether or not they have hair), and (increasingly) flying. Oh, and zombies.

  3. Flasshe
    January 4th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    Actually, I think I liked candy buttons. Though I don’t remember them being called exactly that.

  4. Alan
    January 4th, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

    Have you investigated formal shirts with studs instead of b’s? Granted the majority of the ones easy to find are ruffly tuxedo shirts, but you should still be able to find some classic formal ones.

  5. Alan
    January 4th, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

    And there are also the Western style with snaps, and I’ve seen some very traditional ones that don’t look very Western at all, especially under a jacket where you can’t see the the back yoke.

  6. patty
    January 4th, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

    I understand that straight jackets have no buttons…so if ya ever go totally over the edge…yer alright on that part….

    happy new year , and the best to you in 2007!!!!


  7. DMR
    January 5th, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

    You have to love the global support group features of the internet!

    It’s a good thing you don’t have any evil co-workers who might use this information to torment you. Don’t worry – we’ll leave it up to your family to mentally abuse you. ;-)

    I despise button-down shirts for other reasons entirely. I know I must have some phobias, but I think they’re masked by my general anti-social tendencies.

  8. BillF
    January 5th, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

    I have a morbid fear of finding out bizarre things about old friends ;)

    [Flasshe hasn't mentioned yet that we just had our -third- dump of snow here. My sense of humor is somewhat a-tilt as I just got back in from shovelling it off our 100 foot driveway :( ]

  9. DJSmallberries
    January 6th, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    Well, odd phobias are nothing to be ashamed about, I’ve seen (and have) my share. (And to think, when I was a kid we had a dog named buttons). Thinking back, it does kind of explain some of your fashon choices in the years that I’ve known you. But I’m kind of surprised that you didn’t consult a professional about this a long time ago (athough it is kind of embarrasing). It seems like it would be one of the easiest sorts of phobias to cure through densitization, being so easy to activate and de-activate. BTY, is it the object or the word that bothers you? Do you have problems with devices that have the sort of controls that you have to push with your finger?

  10. Flasshe
    January 8th, 2007 @ 12:02 am

    [Flasshe hasn't mentioned yet that we just had our -third- dump of snow here. My sense of humor is somewhat a-tilt as I just got back in from shoveling it off our 100 foot driveway]

    I am this close to being driven insane by the continuing winter storms. I’ve lived in Colorado since 1970 and have never witnessed anything like this before. And it looks like we’re going to get #4 this coming weekend. I’m glad my driveway is not as long as yours! My car is going to need new shocks soon – driving on the ice-chunked streets is like hitting one pothole after another.

  11. Flasshe
    January 8th, 2007 @ 12:07 am

    BTY, is it the object or the word that bothers you? Do you have problems with devices that have the sort of controls that you have to push with your finger?

    It’s definitely the object that bothers me. I think the word bothers me only by association with the object. And no, I don’t have any trouble with pushbuttons.

    The phobia seems to have something to do with the buttons being attached by threads and the threat of them becoming unattached. And something about the plastic they are made of and the look of them. Like most phobias, I really can’t explain it. It just is.

  12. 2fs
    January 26th, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

    I think it’s your morbid fear of what “buttons” spells backwards. Ewwww.

  13. Greg
    February 1st, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

    And a prodigal voice from the past says:

    I used to have a spider phobia. I was able to pretty much cure it through desensitization – I simply spent 10-20 minutes each night before sleeping visualizing the most horrid spider situations – huge hairy spiders frantically crawling all over my body, biting, etc. I tried to not only visualize, but to feel, hear and smell it happening. At first I could feel my heart racing, sweats and an unbearable urge to stop. But after about a week, when the lizard-brain finally realized that nothing bad was actually happening, I didn’t freak out anymore. Now I can squash the dammned things with my bare hands. (And I think I could now actually hold one in my hand without showing outward discomfort, but really, what would be the point? I’d just drop it to the floor and grind it under my heel as soon as I possibly could – as any sane person would surely do. Yeah, I’m ‘cured”.)

    Anyway, I don’t know if this exercise would help you desensitize your “B-spot”, but it might be worth a shot. Problem is, I can’t imagine what you’d visualize to trigger the response. A lone b on the table? A bowlful of b’s that you mistakenly plunge your hand into, expecting M&Ms? Rolling inside a rotating polishing drum filled with cascading b’s inside a b factory?

  14. 2fs
    February 1st, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

    There’s an article in this week’s Onion just for you…

  15. Flasshe
    April 18th, 2007 @ 7:43 am

    Sadly, I’m closing comments on this post due to spamming…

Comments are closed.