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When Phobias and Fiction Collide

I have a strange phobia. Really, it's an odd one. Ready? I hate belly buttons. Yep, that supposedly innocent body part that little kids love to show you. I can't stand them. I hate talking about them, looking at them, touching them-they really gross me out! Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I've learned that my phobia is called omphalophobia and I guess it's a rare but real phobia.
But bellybuttons are so normal, right? Who would be afraid of them? I can't explain it, but I've always been freaked out by belly buttons. Which makes my strange phobia even more weird when it comes to reading. I'll be innocently reading a book and then out of nowhere comes a belly button and my mind is distracted and I'm grossed out. Or there's a book that's all about belly buttons that really creeps me out.

To a typical reader this wouldn't be a distraction, but for me, in some ways I think it taints my reading of the book.

Take Sandra Boynton's Belly Button Book:

I adore Sandra Boynton and love her books. But I can't read Belly Button Book! Too much to creep me out. And yes, they are cartoon animals with belly buttons, but they're still there! Nope, can't do it!
I was recently reading My Beating Teenage Heart. Good book and I'm enjoying the story until I realized I had skimmed a couple of lines. I backed up, re-read the lines only to realize they contained a character crooking her finger into her boyfriend's belly button!  Completely normal, but to me? Gross!! Total reading distraction!

The worse was when I was reading Girl of Fire and Thorns only to discover the main character has a stone located where? That's right: her belly button! I had to put the book down for a bit and come back to it later it was so distracting to me! I'm sure the author didn't think it would freak people out to have a stone there-I mean, people pierce their belly buttons, right? But for me, that was a distraction as I read that I had to let go of before I could pick the book up again.
OK, so these are extreme cases and I know, my phobia is a little (alright, A LOT) weird. Most of the time I can overlook it, be temporarily grossed out and move on. But it does take away from my enjoyment of the book and my reading fog for a moment because I'm jarred back to the real world. 

Reading these books recently got me thinking. Are there things that you're afraid of that distract you when you're reading? Do you have a quirk that seems ordinary when it appears it a book, but really bothers you? I'd love to know about it!


  1. This made me laugh! :) This isn't a phobia, but I don't particularly like detailed descriptions of food. Lunchmeat, which is totally normal (and maybe two words but whatever), grosses me out. So if I read about a particular thing the character is eating, it's kind of ugh. Weirder still - I like to read recipes. I like to read Food & Wine. I like when food is written about as it applies to a memory ... but when it comes to actual taste and texture and stuff I start skimming. (I also hate the noise cotton makes when you pull it out of a new bottle of Tylenol but so far I've never seen that in a book.)

  2. Hahaha oh I CAN'T handle bellybuttons, mine or my own!

  3. I'm with you.

    Stay super-far away from Tasty Baby Belly Buttons by Judy Sierra. Yeah, it freaks me out every time.

  4. That's the beauty of phobias--you can't control them or explain them away, so no one can judge you for them!

    I get squicked out snakes and rooms full of bugs. There was one book I was reading (forgot the title--that's how traumatized I was) that described a swarm of creepy crawlies all over this guy's body and just....ngah!


  5. I don't know if there's something I'm afraid of that distracts me when I'm reading, but I do have one pet peeve that I had a particular issue with during the book Entwined: the main character mentions a couple of times her distaste for horses. I was incredibly annoyed because it didn't add anything to the story or to her character and, being someone who loves horses, having a character mention multiple times her dislike of them was rather obnoxious. It really soured the whole book for me. Which is sad, because I had read another adaptation of the 12 dancing princesses (Princess of the Midnight Ball) which was lovely.

  6. Well, I haven't encountered my "phobia" in any books, but I have in a couple movies. I hate it when parts of people's faces disappear. Like in Matrix when the guy's mouth disappears or in Brothers Grimm when the girl's facial features fall off and go on the gingerbread man ... CREEPY! It gives me the shivers. Now my family warns me if they know something like that will happen in a movie.

    Another thing that bothers me is the excessive use of the F-word or similar expletives. I was raised not using that or any swear/expletives/toilet words, so it hurts my eyes to see them used multiple times on multiple pages in a book.

  7. Mine has always been vomiting. I get queasy thinking about it, reading about it, and most awfully - seeing or hearing it on TV (which makes me dizzy, weak and feel hot all over). I hate, hate, hate that comedy writers think that it is a comedy must for TV shows and movies. And I've stopped watching most reality shows entirely (especially survivor). The worst is when I'm watching a sitcom I really love and then it happens out of the blue. I'm usually pretty good and spotting when it's coming though and my husband is sweet about changing the channel or skipping scenes in movies if we know it's coming.


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