Today’s guest blog is by Els, one on my oldest friends from my Sydney days. I had no idea about this aspect of her! And you might want to put this song on while you read — although it is not quite appropriate — and Els informs me she actually loves the song, and declared it only says the word once. Anyway, here it is:
Ever wondered why Steve Jobs wore skivvies? Koumpounophobia. Button phobia. Chances are if you are not one of the 1 in 75 000 people with this affliction, you haven’t heard of this freaky, so-called phobia. I say ‘so-called’ because I am not actually afraid of buttons in any way. I just find them utterly revolting. Filthy, disgusting, gag-inducing things. Why? People, we have Velcro, we have zippers, we have black skivvies, PLEASE! No, no, sorry… . in my rational, objective mind I can admit the evidence.. that it makes no sense, that 74 999 people in my vicinity don’t think twice about wearing these commonplace everyday items, and thus I am willing to stand in my little corner and wave my little freak flag and laugh along. Ha ha. Yes, it is funny.
In fact, when the day came, in this glorious internet age, that I first tapped ‘button phobia’ into Google, I laughed long and hard. It was the hilarity of relief and recognition, as well as the inherent absurdity of it. I learnt that day that this phobia sits on a spectrum, and I am fortunate to only be mildly afflicted. I also learnt that it follows similar patterns in all sufferers. It’s a revulsion – ranging from avoidance, through gagging, and into actual nausea and vomiting. Some people don’t even want to breathe next to them. It specifically relates to plastic buttons. Metal buttons, such as those you find on jeans are usually totally acceptable. It is worse if the button is a little loose, and it is particularly GROSS (and I am honestly having trouble writing this) if someone sucks or nibbles on them. Buttons and mouths NO NO NO. People who collect buttons trouble me (sorry if that’s you). Items of clothing which have prominent buttons used purely for decorative purposes do my head in, and I will remember them for years afterwards, long after the interaction I had with the wearer has been forgotten. And, as one forum user said ‘buttons on duvets… the devil’s work!’ I need to take a little break and think happy thoughts now…
Ok. I’m good. Like I said, I am only mildly afflicted. I can physically handle the buttons on my children’s clothing, if I do it quickly. I just have to take a deep breath, let my mind go blank, and (weirdly) swallow all the saliva in my mouth. Also I can totally be around people wearing them on normal shirts. I just have a blind spot . I don’t pay them any attention, and they don’t bother me. As long as I don’t have to wear them, it’s all good. Live and let live. Some people’s lives are actually severely restricted by their phobia, vomiting at the sight of them – you can imagine the trouble this would cause. And others have to wash their hair and skin after contact like an OCD.
After I discovered this world of fellow koumpounophobes online (some of whom can’t even type the word – they write b*@#*s, or ‘those filthy things’) I started coming out about it, working it into conversations. It makes an amusing anecdote, and it can help people with relatively normal phobias, like fear of heights, to feel a little better about themselves. I thought it was so funny that it actually had a name that I began to own it. My freaky phobia. My (then) husband was not helpful. He thought it was great fun to put them in places where I would find them, or chase me around the house with them. Not funny. Actually not so funny. One day I was sitting opposite him at the kitchen table when he began to snicker at something he was reading in the Drum Media. ‘What is it?’ I innocently asked. He shoved the paper under my nose and announced gleefully ‘Look! There’s a band called THE FUCKBUTTONS!!’ Without missing a beat I screamed, grabbed the newspaper and threw is straight out the open back door. Ugh. All true.
No-one has yet managed to come up with a psychological explanation that made sense to me. I did not choke on a button as a young ‘un, and am otherwise relatively sane. No really. REALLY! Ah
Whatevs. Anyway maybe it’s a good thing for humanity. Maybe we have koumpounophobia to thank for touchscreens. Think about it.
I just remembered I took these two photos in Manchester on my first trip to the UK for Jeb (who is a big fan of buttons) and the third one in London.