Defenestraphobia Moves in Next Door
(Satirical references to certain phobias; indelicate treatment of the subject of "plus- size" people.) The day after the “For Sale” sign came down, a crew was at the two-story colonial boarding up all the windows. Kenny, the keen-eyed neighbor next door, couldn’t help but notice.
“Margie, take a look-see on what’s going on next door. The new owner is having all the windows boarded up.”
“What? Oh, my God, that is strange. Maybe they just want their privacy, or they worry about peeping toms hiding in the bushes. I always make sure the shades are drawn when I’m changing. Women like me can’t be too careful. I don’t want some weirdo violating me with his eyes.”
Kenny knew that the odds of anyone deriving any sort of erotic pleasure by feasting their eyes on his, to be kind, “full figure” wife, were zero to none. Even he tried not to be in the room, or at least averted his eyes, at such moments. But prudence suggested he refrain from comment.
“Of course, dear. But they are boarding up every window in the house, first floor, second floor, even the attic. Very strange.”
Move-in day. A small, frail-looking, middle-aged man was in and out of the house directing traffic as Kenny tried to comprehend the mystery behind “Two Men and a Truck” working with a crew of three. As soon as the truck left, Kenny headed next door to welcome the new neighbor.
“Good afternoon! I’m Kenny. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Kenny extended his hand, but his new neighbor quickly took a step back.
“Oh, sorry, I don’t mean to offend you, but I have a slight case of haphephobia. My name is Herb.”
“No offense taken. That hapa… whatever you call it, it’s contagious?”
“Oh no, it’s not a disease. It’s a thing I have, a fear of touching people.”
Kenny had never heard of such a thing. Already puzzled about the boarding up of all the windows, he was beginning to have serious concerns about his new neighbor. They exchanged pleasantries and provided brief biographies, and as they were parting, Kenny got to the elephant in the room.
“Say, Herb, my wife and I couldn’t help but notice that you had all your windows boarded up. Are you planning on having new windows put in, or…?”
“Oh, that. I have a touch of defenestraphobia.”
“Uh…I’m not sure what that is.”
“Really? It’s the fear of being thrown out of a window. It’s not uncommon.”
“Well, nice meeting you, Kenny. I need to get organized. Talk to you later.”
As Herb turned to leave, Margie approached carrying a plate of treats for the new neighbor.
“Wait, Herb, my wife has a dozen of her famous chocolate chip cookies for you!”
“Well, that’s awfully neighborly of you. Thank you, I…”
Herb saw Margie and the plate of cookies, and he took off running.
“Gotta go! Sorry, you can just leave the cookies!”
“Herb! What’s wrong?”
Margie set the plate of cookies on the hood of Herb’s car, and they returned to their house, but not before Kenny noticed the dozen cookies had been reduced to nine somewhere along the way.
“What’s with that guy, Kenny, and what the heck is a cacomorphobia?”
“No idea. I’ll Google it.”
Kenny looked it up- Cacomorphobia: the fear of fat people. Oh, no.
“Did you find it, honey?”
“No, dear. There is no such word. I think he made it up.”
“Good morning, Doctor Foggy.”
“Good morning, Herb. Have you moved into your new house yet?”
“Yep, it’s very nice. I’m sure I’ll be happy there.”
“And, what have you done about your fear of being thrown out of a window?”
“They’re all boarded up, just like you suggested.”
“Good, good. And then pick a window, I’d say on the first floor for starters, and remove a little of the covering each day. And be sure to have that rope tied around your waist and anchored to something solid so you’ll feel safe. Little baby steps, but we’ll get you there.”
“And how are we doing with your anatidaephobia?”
“I forget. Which one is that?”
“That’s your fear of ducks.”
“Oh, yes, ducks. I think I’m doing pretty good. I watched ten minutes of Donald Duck cartoons last night and a full hour of Duck Dynasty. I think it helps to see the darn things getting blasted out of the sky.”
“Good, good. And I’ve got another good idea.”
“What’s that, Doc?”
“I’m getting you a couple of styrofoam duck decoys that you can do a little of that voodoo stuff on.”
“I like it. You’re the best. I wish I would have thought of that.”
“Well, that’s why I’m the doctor, and you’re not.”
“Oh, hey, Herb What’s up?”
“Well, Kenny, I was wondering if you could keep your dog inside when I’m out in my yard.”
Mittens the multipoo stood 11” tall and weighed in at 9 pounds.
“Mittens doesn’t bite. She’s harmless.”
“I’m sure she’s a good dog. It’s just that my cynophobia has been flaring up lately.”
“Fear of dogs. I’ve been doing a lot better, but I don’t want to have a relapse. That can get pretty ugly.”
“Sorry to hear that. I’ll talk to Margie. We’ll try to be careful with Mittens.”
“Speaking of your wife, could you keep her inside with the dog when I’m out in my yard?”
Oh, no. A “full figure” wife and a neighbor suffering from cacomorphobia!
“I’ll see what I can do. Say, Herb, I see you’re wearing those ankle-weight things. You been workin’ out?”
“No, that’s for my barophobia, you know, just a little added protection.”
“Uh, I’m not sure what barophobia is.”
“That’s surprising. It’s been going around lately. It’s the fear of gravity. I’ve got the strain of it where I fear there won’t be any, and someday I’ll float off into the universe. I think these will help. You should get some for you and your…oh, never mind. You should get some for yourself.”
“The house is great, Doc, but the neighbors are a real problem. They’ve got a killer dog, and the lady is, well, quite large.”
“I can see where that would be a problem for you.”
“And flowers! Damn near everywhere.”
“And don’t tell me, they’re not…”
“Yes! They are purple!”
“Oh, no, and we were doing so well with your porphyrophobia. That fear of the color purple is a tough one, and you were doing so well.”
“Damn, what are the odds I’d end up living next door to a dog, a fat lady, and purple flowers. That’s like a hundred billion zillion to one. Life isn’t fair, Doc.”
“Well, you could move again, Herb.”
“ I don’t want to do that. Let’s take it all head-on! I’m going to conquer my fears once and for all!”
The good Doctor was a little concerned about the concept of a cured Herb as he’d lose at least half of his billable hours, but he took an oath.
“I’m with you, partner! We can do it!”
“The guy is a complete nut job, Margie. He’s afraid of everything.”
“Oh, I don’t know. He seems nice. He’s a cute little guy. I feel for him, you know, being afraid of just about everything. I think I’ll bring him one of my chocolate cakes.”
This struck Kenny as peculiar as he couldn’t recall Margie ever saying anything nice about anyone. The woman was a real shrew whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to make Kenny’s life miserable. It seemed like a crazy comment. Margie saying something nice about someone was as shocking as her missing a meal, and her giving up one of her double-frosted chocolate cakes was akin to Wimpy giving away hamburgers. Neurons were cross-firing in Kenny’s brain.
A fortunate intersection of coincidences: 1) Kenny had taken an introductory psychology college class that included a cursory coverage of phobias. 2) As a sports enthusiast, he recalled the story of a coach working with a runner who managed to get the athlete to love competing in a distance event that he previously hated. 3) The mystery on an episode of Columbo he had seen was solved through the use of subliminal messaging. 4) Just two weeks ago, he caught the movie “Shallow Hal” on Net Flix- the story of a man whose perceptions of the world were so reconfigured that he saw an extremely overweight, unattractive woman as a trim, fit, ravishing beauty. Those were the building blocks; Kenny just needed to put them together.
His college textbook cited a psychiatrist who not only sought to get his patients to overcome their fears, but he tried to persuade them to crave the things that had so frightened them. The movie told him that malleable minds can be altered, and as Kenny knew that Herb was at least ten steps passed woo-woo, he figured his mind provided fertile ground for an adjustment. The coach used the simple techniques of repetition and positive reinforcement, and Colombo infiltrated the suspect’s mind with subconscious messaging. It seemed like a long shot, but one look at Margie told him he had to try.
“Nice evening, isn’t it, Herb?”
“It sure is, Kenny, but I have to get inside pretty soon. I can feel a little nyctophobia coming on.”
“Nyctophobia? What’s that?”
“Fear of darkness. I just read about it yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, now I’ve got the damn stuff.”
“That’s too bad. I have to get back in the house now too. I never want to be away from my beautiful bride too long. I’ve only been out here for ten minutes, and I miss her already.”
Herb looked puzzled.
“Oh, yes! She’s the most beautiful, loving, kindest, caring woman in the world. And, I probably shouldn’t say this, but she’s also one sexy lady.”
Now Herb looked really puzzled.
“Uh, Kenny, I don’t quite know how to say this, but…well, not a lot of men I know like their woman so…large.”
“Let me tell you, they are missing out, Herb. You wouldn’t believe what she does with it in the bedroom. Oh, I damn near popped a woody just thinking about it. In fact, I have to go right now! Fat’s where it’s at, Herb! See ya’.”
Kenny sprinted off to his house, taking one quick glance back to see a questioning look on Herb’s face. He could only hope phase one was off to a good start.
As Herb made nearly daily trips seeking help with his countless phobias, it wasn’t hard for Kenny to figure out who his psychiatrist was. Dr. Foggy received an anonymous letter:
Dear Dr. Foggy,
I believe you know a gentleman named Herb Hankey. You must also know the guy is off his rocker. I’m sure most of his phobia stuff is harmless, but I have recently become aware of something you too should be aware of. This morning I heard him say something about how all fat people should be killed. I think it would be a good idea if you tried to get him to stop hating fat people so much. In fact, you should try to get him to like fat people.
A Concerned Citizen
“Herb, I think we should try a new approach. You have so many bats in your belfry that I’d like to focus on just one rather than address your general…condition.”
“You’re the doctor. Which one? How about the darkness thing? I’d like to be able to go outside at night. Or how about my ornithophobia. I’m tired of wearing all that protective headgear to keep the birds from attacking me.”
“In good time, Herb. I was thinking of taking on your greatest fear right out of the gate- cacomorphobia, your fear of fat people. They’re everywhere nowadays. Let’s start with that one.”
“You’re the doctor. What do we do?”
“I’ve prepared a video presentation. I think it will help.”
Dr. Foggy had put together an impressive array of film clips and slides showing loved, successful, plus-size people from all walks of life:
- Mama Cass dreamin’ a little dream, Chubby Checker twistin’ and shoutin’, and Kate Smith belting out “God Bless Amercica” before a Flyers’ Hockey Game.
- Melissa McCarthy, John Candy, and Chris Farley bringing smiles and laughter to the multitudes.
- Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria, and Henry VIII leading their nations.
- Minnesota Fats performing magic with his pool cue as he takes on Fast Eddie, and the Soviet Union legend Tamara Press winning the 1964 Olympic Gold in the women’s shot put.
“See, Herb, fat people have made tremendous contributions to the world. They are wonderful. We should like them…and not want to kill them.”
“I think Herb really likes my double fudge chocolate cakes. I’ll put one out on his front porch, and two days later the empty plate is there.”
Her smile was telling Kenny that this was about more than Herb liking her baking skills.
“I’m sure he appreciates it. I don’t know why he doesn’t come out when you ring his doorbell. Why don’t you try one of your triple fudge chocolate cakes?”
“I think I will.”
Herb started to find sticky notes in his mailbox, on the trees in his yard, on his front door, and on the windshield of his car, all bearing the same message: I LOVE FAT PEOPLE. When all the lights were out in Herb’s house, Kenny placed a tape recorder under his bedroom window which played soft music along with the looped message “I love fat people.” After just three weeks. It started to pay dividends.
Margie, holding a triple fudge chocolate cake, missing just one (large) piece, rang the doorbell, leaving a substantial wad of chocolate from her finger on the device. To her surprise, the door slowly opened. Then closed. Open then closed. Open then closed.
“Herb, you don’t have to be afraid. It’s just little old me, Margie from next door.”
The combined efforts of Kenny and Dr. Foggy seemed to be paying off. Herb opened the door wide and stepped out onto the porch. He smiled broadly, and Margie giggled like a schoolgirl.
“Thank you, Margie. Listen, if you have time, I could get a knife, and a couple of forks and plates, and we could sit on the porch swing and have our cake…and eat it too!”
They both broke out in boisterous laughter, the porch swing held up to its greatest challenge, and Margie and Herb downed what was left of the entire cake. Kenny looked down on the scene from his 2nd floor bedroom, smiled, and congratulated himself for a job well done. It was all heading in the right direction, but Kenny knew he had more to do.
“You look a little down today. You ok, Kenny?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, Herb, just the normal pressures of financial stuff. That will all change when Margie’s dad kicks the bucket.”
“The guy is loaded. With Margie being an only child and her mother already dead and buried, when the old goat finally dies she’ll inherit a bundle.”
“Yes, the old geezer is loaded, gold mines, oil wells, paper mills. He got most of his money from some computer stuff he invented. When he dies, she’ll get millions, and I’ll have my hands all over it. I can hardly wait.”
“And we sit and eat chocolate cake together. It’s great, Doc.”
“And she’s a big one?”
“Oh, yeah, real big.”
“Well, I’m proud of you, Herb. You are making wonderful progress. But it looks like you’re putting on a few pounds. Let’s not get your mind on the right track and then have your physical health suffer.”
“I know, but I just love those times sitting out my front porch in the evening eating chocolate cake with Margie.”
And so it continued, sticky notes extolling the virtues of plus-size people every time Herb turned around; sweet subliminal messaging wafting through Herb’s open window manipulating his mind to see the beauty in plump figures; continuing positive reinforcement from Dr. Foggy; and chocolate cakes with Margie on the porch every evening. It seemed that love was in the air, or so Kenny hoped…and prayed.
One evening, Kenny was looking out his window, again relishing the sight of Herb and Margie enjoying their chocolate cake. To his surprise, when the last crumb was feverishly licked off the plate, they both walked over to his house. Kenny met them at the door.
“Kenny, I know this will come as quite a shock, but I’ve fallen in love with Herb. We want to leave for Vegas tonight for a quickie divorce, and then I’m going to marry Herb. I just need you to sign off on it. I’m sorry, but Herb is my soul mate.”
Kenny struggled to conceal his glee.
“Gee, that’s too bad. Where do I sign?”
Margie went off to pack a few things, leaving Kenny alone with Herb.
“I’m sorry, Kenny. I hope you’ll be ok.”
Kenny wanted to know which of his brilliant schemes brought about the change in Herb and opened the door to a new and better life.
“I’ll get through it. Can I just ask you something?”
“I know you had this fear of…large people. How did you get over it? Were you picking up on some subtle messaging maybe, or a little extra help from your shrink…or, and you can tell me, was it her dad’s money?”
“No, none of those.”
“Well, what was it then?”
“I just really like chocolate cake.”