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Kosmemophobia - The Zotmeister

solving the puzzle of life one entry at a time

Dec. 28th, 2004

12:40 pm - Kosmemophobia

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My last entry was about what affects me the deepest; this entry is about what affects me the most often. It is more widely known about me than the subject of my last entry, but yet may remain unknown even by some quite close to me.

I have suffered from kosmemophobia literally ever since I can remember. Of course, at the time I had no word for it. Only recently have I found the word, or more correctly, constructed it. There are many sites out there - such as The Phobia List - that proffer numerous names of fears, but mine appears on none of them. Nonetheless, I know that 'phobia' is a Greek term, and all I need to get the proper name of my fear is the Greek term for what I fear, so after a little research, I was able to determine the proper term for my life-long affliction. The primary accent is on the second syllable, and it has a long 'e' sound; the secondary accent is on the fourth syllable. It's pronounced "koz-MEEM-oh-foh-bee-uh".

The worst part about kosmemophobia is that the condition itself is rare - so rare that its name is not "officially published" - but its trigger is extremely common. So, basically, I've been suffering on a daily basis without having any reference to point to about it for explanation. Here is my attempt to relate how it makes me feel.

I'd like you to think of your typical day - the people you encounter, the places you go, the things you do, the items you work with. Done? Now I'd like you to take all of those images you've just compiled and locate all of the jewelry visible in them. Pretend that you are absolutely revulsed by each and every such instance, each individual frame of them you see in your mind's eye.

I would not be pretending. Such is my torment.

There is a decent chance that right off the bat, you realize that you yourself wear jewelry. Well, guess what - I can't stand to look at you, much less touch you, and I will be uncomfortable being anywhere near you. I will avoid you, even in dialogue, until you go away - even feeling your breath would likely urge me to go wash my face. Roughly half the time I visit a bathroom - which would be frequently enough without this - is for the purpose to simply wash myself, and that is often due to a kosmemophobic reaction.

If you yourself do not wear jewelry, you probably know dozens, if not hundreds or more, that do. I dare say that there are likely more that do wear jewelry than those that don't. That's a VERY large subject base - and the commonality doesn't make it any less severe for me. Any one instance of jewelry is enough to disturb me. Imagine how many I must encounter each day.

Earrings tend to be just a minor annoyance, but rings are a definite turn-off, bracelets make me queasy, anklets make me nearly nauseous, and necklaces... ugh, I scratch my neck just thinking about them, much less looking at them. Necklaces are by far the worst. I feel the need to wash my hands after touching something touched by someone wearing one, much less touching the person directly. I often fail to repress the desire to wash them even after just scratching my never-had-a-necklace-on-it neck after even just envisioning a necklace. I wash the neck itself on particularly bad thoughts, and even if my neck doesn't feel "dirty" I will often wash it simply because the water will feel nice - my neck gets very sore from the scratching! You probably couldn't afford to pay me to actually touch jewelry - not even an earring - directly; I'd probably try to run away from or kill someone - you know, fight-or-flight survival response - that tried to make me touch it.

My mother did notice this about me as I was growing up. Both of my birth parents wore necklaces. I don't remember when it was, but there was one time my mother tried to dispel this fear from me by having me touch the pendant she was wearing, while she was wearing it. There was at least one other person present, I'm sure, but I don't recall who. I felt compelled to do it - my mother was demanding, and it did not seem to be my place to refuse. It was not pleasant. It's humiliating on top of fear-confirming. Note that I did not touch the actual chain, only the pendant - I doubt I could have done otherwise. If anyone ever made me touch the chain of a necklace, I'd probably use it to strangle them. Then I'd start peeling the skin off my hands, I figure.

I have never forgiven her for that. I can understand her reasoning, perhaps, but it was very wrong.

What's most annoying is that she hasn't learned. I wear a tie roughly once a year at best; I was asked to wear one at the beginning of my company awards party the Saturday before last. My mother, whom I still live with and who works at the same company I do, was dressed up for the party already when I emerged from my room, dressed apart from the tie in my hand. I, of course, had no idea how to tie it. My mother knows how to tie a tie but cannot visualize it well enough to explain how; instead, she has to put the tie around her own neck and tie it, then hand it off and tighten it. My mother owns the gaudiest necklace I've ever directly seen, and sure enough she was wearing it at the time she took my tie and proceeded to place it around her own neck. I couldn't wear that. Thankfully, I was clever enough to grab another tie in my room, asked her to tie it again, and I duplicated her motions with my spare tie, thereby tying another tie around my neck. Of course, I then refused to wear the one she just tied, citing that I already had one on at that point and that I had tied it myself - both of which were true, but naturally there was a far deeper reason for my not switching. Shame, really - that was a playing-card tie I was rather fond of, that she had purchased for me but that I had yet to wear. She seemed a little hurt that I didn't wear it, but if she spent a nanosecond actually thinking about it she should have realized that it would have hurt me far more to wear it after what she did with it. I'll be able to wear it some other time.

My brother was no help as a child, either. He had this HUGE necklace with a large metal crucifix pendant that he LOVED to taunt me with. He simply adored tormenting me with it, telling his friends that I was a vampire and would try to touch the pendant to me as "proof". One night, on a trip far from home, I discovered upon lifting the bedsheet preparing to turn in that he had placed the necklace in the bed, resting on the topsheet and the pillow - thereby managing to make it touch everything on that bed except the mattress itself. Needless to say, I tore the sheets off the bed and slept on the plain mattress that night. I think I at least was able to find some other blanket, which served double-duty as a pillow. Of course, the little son-of-a-bitch would complain that he couldn't find his necklace the next day, accusing me of taking it. Which, of course, I didn't. He "gave" it to me. So not only would I be suffering, I'd be receiving admonitions from my mother as well.

I have never forgiven either of them for that.

I had had enough at one point; I openly admit, here for the first time, that he did not "lose" that necklace as a result of misplacing it one time my family moved. I made it very much disappear shortly before then. He "gave" it to me far too many times, and I wasn't giving it back. It was fortunate that I was given the proper timing to deal with it, such that I wasn't questioned about it.

Although that was easily the worst response my kosmemophobia ever forced from me, it continues to influence me daily, and in some unexpected ways:

- As much as I enjoyed the Final Fantasy series of games from Square, I stopped playing them from VIII onward when they decided their protagonists all needed gaudy necklaces (this is also the primary reason I have no interest in Kingdom Hearts);

- I will never suffer myself Cameron's Titanic due to a scene that I'm sure many found sexy but that would likely make me vomit if I were ever forced to watch it;

- My main reason - if not sole reason - for having declined ROTC offers is my inability to wear a dogtag (and my REALLY not wanting to have to explain why);

- Some entire cultures and religions promptly turn me off with their accoutrements;

- Almost worst of all: it's hard enough trying to find a decent woman. I basically need to find a decent woman that doesn't wear any jewelry, and that cuts my chances to, what, a thousandth of the norm? At best? Have you any idea how rare unpierced ears are on women? Maybe I could settle that point, but even if I wanted to marry such a woman, I probably couldn't wear a ring...

What could be worse than that, you ask? I'll tell you - the sense of being alone in my plight. So many wear jewelry without a thought regarding it. All those phobias on the list, nor is mine there. The gaming club I hang out with, although often quite supportive of me, has also presented me with two very great disappointments:

- A woman who is the only other kosmemophobe I am aware of... but we dislike each other at best (and she has since moved);

- A woman who is otherwise quite kind but has the habit of bringing candy necklaces to the office, handing them out to people and insisting they wear one if they want it - which of course leads to them putting it in their mouth and otherwise fiddling with it.

I need to stop now - my neck is getting raw. The comment box is open as always - feel free to call me a friend, a poor bastard, a sick bastard, a lunatic, or what-have-you. However, I do promise that my next journal update won't be so bloody depressing. Or long. - ZM