Most people have at least one thing that makes them feel uncomfortable. Speaking to a room full of strangers is the most common. While public speaking (glossophobia) tops the list, the five most common things that make men and women feel uncomfortable includes spiders (arachnophobia), heights (acrophobia), clowns (coulrophobia) and mice (musophobia).
A phobia is defined as an intense fear or anxiety of certain objects or situations. Phobias can cause the sufferer to sweat, have a racing heartbeat, or just plain “lose it” when confronted by the object or situation.
For a fun exercise, I recently asked my adult creative writing students to list five things that make them feel uncomfortable. The responses included spiders, mice, heights, clowns and talking in front of strangers. But we also had a few unusual entries including dripping fruit, bats, and mayonnaise.
I love heights. I have bungee jumped from a hot air balloon, parasailed in Mexico, strapped into a controlled hang-gliding attraction on the side of a road in Tennessee, walked across a swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, and climbed out onto scaffolding high up on the Empire State building on a date (romantic!).
Heights and speaking in public do not make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t like spiders or mice and usually scream as I am trying to capture these creatures when they find their way into my house. I have no problem with clowns, bats, dripping fruit or mayonnaise.
But I draw the line at spa treatments with strangers touching me. Just thinking about it gives me the shivers (and not in a good way). I don’t like it when people are talking to me and put their hand on my arm or shoulder either. Ick!
Years ago at the end of the school year, a smiling parent walked up to me and thanked me for tutoring her daughter. Then she handed me an envelope and proclaimed, “Thank you so much! Here’s a gift certificate for a full body massage, manicure and pedicure at the Red Door Spa in Manhattan!”
I tried not to recoil in horror. It felt like that well-meaning woman was handing me an envelope filled with kryptonite! Anyone else on the planet would have been thrilled. I was the complete opposite. That night I called a few friends and Jill gladly accepted the gift certificate.
So when I heard about the new beauty treatment called a “piranha pedicure,” I shivered, recoiled in horror and Googled it before adding another item to my list of things that make me feel uncomfortable.
Fish spa treatments date back hundreds of years. Savvy bathers in southern Turkey and across Asia realized that the tiny flesh-nibbling fish they encountered in rivers and streams actually helped to clean and exfoliate their skin.
Fast-forward to the present when absolutely everything is monetized. Salons are springing up throughout Europe, South Africa and the U.S. featuring tanks of tiny garra rufa fish which can nibble the dead crusty skin off heels, toes and feet in a 15-30 minute session. Instead of a loofah, this live-action pedicure involves 150-200 swimming creatures swarming over your feet in a water-filled tank. First-timers are cautioned not to splash or quickly raise their feet out of the tanks to prevent accidentally flinging the garra rufa fish across the salon floor. The nibbling fish are credited with leaving skin softer after a fish pedicure session.
My friend, Ellen, is the only person I know who actually tried a piranha pedicure. Ellen did not go to a fancy day spa or salon for her fish pedicure. She was on a sightseeing excursion during her rock n roll cruise vacation when she spotted vendors lined up with wooden benches and tanks filled with water and fish on her way back to the ship. When the tour guide informed the group that this was a piranha pedicure, Ellen kicked off her sandals and hopped right in!
Kim Kovach shivered a few times while writing this column. She also used the idea of a piranha pedicure for the basis of a fun short story. kimkovachwrites.com