When I was a teenager, I suffered—and I do mean suffered—from being very shy, a condition called “venustraphobia.” I didn’t know what it meant, but now I do. It is a fear of beautiful women. If you are a boy with a touch of acne, this is not a good phobia to have hanging over you.
Here was a typical symptom. In my high school, there was a very pretty girl named Ruth. A friend told me she liked me. Instead of asking for a date, every time I saw her, I crossed the street. Fortunately, in time I recovered—and I had a great help in my recovery. I was 21 and sitting in a hotel room where a new batch of camp counsellors was meeting. A beautiful young woman came into the room, sat right next to me, looked me smack in the eye and said in the sexiest voice known to man, “My name is Suzannne Pleshette and you are going to be my boyfriend this summer!” She became a famous T.V. and movie star and she fixed my phobia for good. Better than any shrink, for sure.
Much later, I developed “gephyrophobia,” a fear of bridges. It happened when I was driving and crossing the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina. This modern bridge is open and airy. As I was driving across it, I started sweating and shaking. My wife asked if there was something wrong and I chattered out, “You bet!” I kept my eyes ahead on the road and, mercifully, made it, but it sure shook me up. I got over this with the help of a very small pill.
I guess I have one phobia left, a dandy tongue-twister called “ypositismospobia”—a fear of being hungry. This phobia often manifests by one’s getting a bit thicker in the middle. The cure for this is constant alterations to my pants and going out to dinner.
Just for a touch of politics, so very much in the air these days, there is also “alethephobia,” the fear of telling the truth. Just noting this in passing.
Finally, I am happy to report that I do not have “scriptophobia,” a fear of writing in public. Thanks to my editor for supporting this claim.