All Hail: Sciurophobia, revisited

According to www.dictionary.com, squirrels are, “a kind of arboreal rodent having a long bushy tail.”

According to me, squirrels are stupid, spastic animals with intense Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which the world could do without. Everything about squirrels terrifies me, from the squirrels with super flying skills to their black, beady eyes. The mere thought of their short brown fur brushing my bare skin makes me shudder from head to toe.

I was not always this crazy.

Thirteen years ago, I actually took joy in feeding squirrels. I thought they were adorable. I was in San Francisco visiting my great aunt. She took me to one of those squirrel-infested parks where I scattered jelly beans for them to devour. It was amusing to me that they even liked the jelly beans that I would not dare put in my mouth, like black licorice. I kept tossing candy and the squirrels kept on chomping away.

Now, as an adult I have transformed into a full-fledged sciurophoic, a person who has an intense phobia of squirrels. Apparently, I am not the only one. There are Web sites, www.scarysquirel.com or <a href="http://www.deadsquirrel.com“>www.deadsquirrel.com, whose “mission is to rid the world of all squirrels.” According to deadsquirrel.com, “the only good squirrel is a dead squirrel.”

Yes, my sentiments exactly.

Even when feeding them, I always had this vision that I would be attacked by a squirrel, or – even worse – by a whole army of squirrels. Watching “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and witnessing Veruca Salt get picked up by hundreds of squirrels and thrown God-knows-where only proves that it is a possibility.

The chances of a squirrel confrontation are increased when I walk home through the Fens in squirrel territory. They dart every which-way. I never know if they are going for my leg or the wrinkled tree trunk next to me. And I always hear them rustling in the trash cans. Sure, they are searching for food, trying to survive like me, but when I walk home all alone, any noise startles me.

What if the squirrel does not find its dinner in the garbage and decides my neck is a lot more appealing? The squirrel will wait and pounce out of the trash onto me. Its sharp teeth will gnaw through my thin layer of flesh. That will be the end of my life, either through rabies or just bleeding to death by the jugular.

As a kid enters adolescence and then into adulthood, he or she becomes less carefree. They realize there is a lot to fear. Sometimes the fears are valid like pteromerhanophobia, the fear of flying, or belonephobia, the fear of needles – having a syringe poke into the skin hurts like hell.

Yes, my fear of squirrels is not reasonable, but so what? I like my fear of squirrels. It provides for some funny jokes, humorous discussions and great tales for story time. It makes me unique. When people ask me how this started, I shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, just look at them.” Or when people tease me, I am not embarrassed, but proud that I added a chuckle to their day.

I do not like to be told that I need to get over my fear, because it only pushes me more. An online Web site that helps people with their phobias, said, “Make a list of your irrational fears. Name them and describe them. Doing this in writing helps to bring them under conscious, voluntary control.” I just wrote them all down in this All Hail, but the beads of sweat are still starting to form.

– Jessica Man is a middler journalism major.

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