“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.” —Nineteen Eighty-Four
Anyone familiar with George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel remembers Room 101 – the torture chamber in which a prisoner’s worst nightmare becomes his or her method of punishment. When Krystle Lilliestierna at Paper Fort Studio invited me to write a guest post about fear, I started a list: scorpions, cobras, scorpion/cobra hybrids, accidentally buying a blood diamond, etc., but those fears were hardly Room 101-worthy. It speaks to the depth of my worst fear that I have difficulty even writing it down:
I am afraid of barf.
I was surprised to learn emetophobia is fairly common. Not many people enjoy throwing up, but imagine spending a good part of your life avoiding it. Adding insult to injury, people think puking is hilarious, and once alerted to my weakness, they can’t wait to tell me all their barf-tastic stories.
I would rather French kiss a tarantula while wearing a meat suit in a shark tank than throw up or be near someone else who is. I’ve even been known to freak out when people say the “V” word. To illustrate how this phobia manifests itself in my daily life, here is a sampling of strategies I employ to create a barf-free environment.
Be proactive. To avoid the unique embarrassment of being tackled by an air marshal, get an aisle seat whenever possible. That way, if someone next to you gets airsick, you can freak out and run down the aisle with ease. If the flight attendants try giving you a hard time, tell them you have Ebola. That should work.
Be prepared. Always travel with anti-nausea wristbands, prescription anti-emetics, Dramamine and Xanax.
Be vigilant. When eating out, I’ve been known to feel the temperature of the butter or cream on the table, and if they’re not adequately chilled, request fresh replacements.
Avoid drunks. If you have a problem with the idea of being left in the gutter, don’t count on me to be your designated driver. I will dump your drunk ass on the side of the road, drive home and sleep like a baby. Guilt does not factor into this equation.
Plan well in advance. If my husband says he’s feeling queasy, I pack a bag and put it by the front door with my keys and a blanket just in case. If he ends up getting sick, I sleep outside in the truck. In retrospect, this might explain why he says I’m not a nurturer.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. I choose to believe that drinking alcohol protects me from raw egg cooties, so I do tequila shots whenever I bake. I realize this strategy is flawed, but there’s little point in baking if you can’t lick the beaters. Plus, I enjoy the buzz.
Always get it in writing. I’ve been known to make overnight guests promise not to throw up in my house.
An ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of hand sanitizer. If I had to choose the one strategy with the biggest payoff for a barf-free lifestyle, it would be my decision not to have children.
Don’t be stupid. Avoid roller coasters, raw chicken, small planes, deep sea fishing, unrefrigerated dairy products, spinning in circles, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and children’s birthday parties.
Acknowledging my phobia is strangely liberating. When people discover this part of me, my other quirks seem a little less glaring. Sure, I have hermit-like tendencies and an inability to eat tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich, but that’s nothing compared with the decontamination process I undergo after a visit with my nephews.
Unlike Orwell’s fictional version, my Room 101 is all too real. One look at my nauseated husband crawling to the kitchen for a glass of ginger ale while I shiver peacefully in the driveway should be enough to convince you of that. Now, will somebody please get that poor man a cool compress and some saltines? I hear his wife’s a real asshole.
“You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” —Nineteen Eighty-Four