July 12, 2013

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I sort of understand how eating dirt can upset you. Mushy bananas do sound gross to eat, especially under a microphone. Fear of sand rubbing against you is a stretch, but I can almost wrap my mind around it.

A morbid fear of buttons, on the other hand, is a phobia I can”€™t even begin to understand. I”€™ve known Mark for 30 years and though he’s 50 now, he is still unable to even think of buttons. Like most of the people on this list, Mark is a successful and independent guy with a perfectly normal life. He also lives in a household that is 100% button-free. I once asked him if some pedophile stuck buttons up his ass when he was a kid or something and he said, “€œI don”€™t want to talk about it.”€ When I persisted he said, “€œIf you keep asking me about buttons, I am going to punch you in the face.”€ Soon after, a full-page story about rock star Prince appeared in the local paper. A picture of the artist took up most of the page and his outfit consisted of three large buttons that were the size of Frisbees. I knew nothing made Mark angrier than superfluous buttons. When I showed him Prince’s three totally unnecessary gigantic buttons, he flew into a rage and tore at the page until no shred was wider than a centimeter. Then he sat in silence for about an hour. Ooooh Kaaaaye.

Many people dislike frogs. They”€™re slimy and unpredictable and their eyes look dead. My cousin Darren hates them and when he saw me pick one up while we were walking home from a pub in England, he shrieked like a girl and ran. Imagine my euphoria when I managed to whip the frog at him so accurately that it slapped against his face and made him go careening into a bush. Darren wasn”€™t traumatized. He was simply grossed out.

Our nanny Katie’s not like that. She would never hurt a fly, but she would be happy to see every frog in the world die. Seeing a frog she can”€™t easily run away from will make her collapse onto the floor and start sobbing uncontrollably. She even has a tattoo of a crucified frog on her arm. “€œIt wasn”€™t always like this,”€ she told me without threatening to punch my face. “€œMy dad says that when I was a kid I would play with frogs all the time but my mother always had a phobia of them and I think she passed it on to me.”€ I asked her if maybe the frog becomes a vessel where you pour all your other fears and dislikes until it becomes this Pandora’s box of evil you can”€™t go near. She said she doesn”€™t know but would really like to stop talking about it because she’s getting sick.

She’s coming to visit us today because Mark’s going to be here, too, and we need help with the six kids under six who are going to be running around. I told my wife to avoid shirts with buttons and I warned Katie that mid-July is an amphibian zenith. She pulled me aside and explained that although it is going to be really tempting for me to scare her with a frog, it would be a really dumb move. “€œI won”€™t just scream,”€ she warned me. “€œI”€™ll cry and cry for hours and it will probably freak out the kids.”€ I”€™ve worn buttons around Mark before and he usually just grabs the shirt and rips it open so they go pinging all over the room. I like Katie and I don”€™t want my kids to see her suffer, but a person is only born with so much willpower. Some people are stuck with certain compulsions and it may be impossible to resist putting on a big button shirt, grabbing a frog, and going Maury Povich on their asses.


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