Surely being terrified of bananas—nature’s sweet cure for depression, PMS, hangovers, mosquito bites and ulcers, carefully wrapped in the warm, cheery color of the sun—would be madness, right?
But apparently banaphobia is a real thing. Apparently it's a condition so severe that sufferers can't even walk through the fruit sections of grocery stores without screaming out in panic. This puzzled us, so we called up a bananalyst, and she explained that, like all other phobias, bananaphobia is triggered by a bad experience involving the item of dread. Like, for example, being force-fed a succession of bananas by a drunk uncle as a kid, or being one of the 300 hundred Britons a year who are taken to the emergency ward after momentarily entering the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and slipping on a banana peel.
To increase our understanding of this very serious anti-nana condition, we chatted with a bunch of bananaphobics. All of them were granted anonymity due to the seriousness of this life-wrecking affliction.
When did your phobia start?
Madeleine, 22: It all began during a sports day one year in primary school. I remember being really excited when I woke up that day, because we would be given a packed lunch, which usually came with some kind of chocolate candy. This time, however, I got the shock of my life when I opened mine and noticed a rotten banana. I sat there in panic, not touching my food, surrounded by hundreds of banana chomping children. The skins were splayed out on the grass like yellow tarantulas. I didn't join in the sack race because I couldn't bring myself to pick my way across the banana skin-littered field to the start line. The next day lots of kids were off school with a stomach bug. I think it was the rotten bananas that did it.
How do you feel when you see someone eating a banana?
It makes me feel sick! Like someone poking you in the belly button kind of sick.
What would you do if you caught your girlfriend/boyfriend eating one?
Seriously, I couldn't be with someone who ate them in front of me. My flatmate and I had an agreement that she couldn't keep them in the house. Once, she hid a bunch in a tucked away cupboard. I picked up the smell and we had a fight. But the worst time was at a house party when two so-called friends started pelting me with bananas. There was nowhere to run. I was trapped.
Hi Charlie, when did you first start fearing bananas?
Charlie, 38, recovered bananaphobic: I was phobic of bananas from as early as I can remember up until the age of 30. During the worst period of my phobia, when I would be in a room with a banana, I would feel as if it had complete control over me.
What do you think triggered it?
I have early traumatic memories of my older brother eating mashed banana. He may have even thrown a plate of it at me. Presented in this form, I still find the fruit to have a disgusting, slimy texture, and although I cannot remember a specific incident, I fear I may have been forced to eat it when I was little and never really recovered.
Did you ever catch one of your girlfriends eating one?
No, but an ex-girlfriend once put a banana in my bag as joke. I didn’t speak to her for a week.
Have you ever eaten a banana?
I was encouraged by a group of friends to eat a banana on a skiing holiday in 2003, after having revealed to them I’d never eaten one. I forced it down but gagged on it more than once. Since then, however, I have reconciled with bananas. Although, to this day, a mashed or even just over-ripe banana makes me feel nauseous. It’s actually making me feel sick to type this.
When did your phobia start?
Lela, 59, recovered bananaphobic: I was 13. At first, the smell would make me gag. Then, just the sight of a banana would trigger a gag reflex. Eventually, that escalated to panic attacks whenever I saw a banana.
How did seeing someone munch on a nana make you feel?
I would immediately leave the room. Sometimes, if I had a feeling that there would be bananas around, I wouldn’t even enter a room. I had to know ahead of time where the fruit and vegetable section of a store would be before I would enter, so that I could avoid it. During my hypnosis treatment for this phobia, I could see bananas turning into pearl-handled pistols that were all pointing at me, like they wanted to kill me.
What’s your worst banana memory?
One day at work, a co-worker came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder, holding a peeled banana. It was right in my face! I jumped up, tried to scream and couldn't, so I ran out. The co-worker followed me with the banana still in her hand. I couldn’t get the breath to tell her to get away from me. I eventually crumpled into a blathering lump on the floor and this person was still trying to "comfort" me with the stupid banana in her hand.
Hi Dan, do you know the origin of your fear of bananas?
Dan, 37: All I know is that it started sometime between the ages of three and ten. I recently found an old photo of me eating a banana as a toddler, so there's proof that I haven't hated them since birth. I think my first concrete memory is discovering that my cousin hated them, too—it turns out that there are lots of us who do. I think there's something peculiar about bananas that makes people feel strange.
Why do you fear nanas?
They don't taste or smell like food. Even the skin can put me off.
What’s your worst banana memory?
I shared an office with another banana hater and one day someone left a banana on one of our shelves. Neither of us could face dealing with it, so, of course, it had become really black and manky by the time we faced up to it. Inevitably, it fell apart when I tried to clear it up; making for a much more laborious and stomach-churning experience than if one of us had just gotten rid of it on day one.
Hi Bill, I hear you only fear bananas with blemishes.
Bill, 52: Yes. I’ve coined a term for it: “Bananarashophobia.” Seeing bananas that have "rashes" or people eating them makes me nauseous. Starbucks coffee shops here in the States generally have dozens of bananas sitting on the counter for people to purchase and enjoy with their coffee drinks. Most times, the ones on the bottom of the pile are laced with a brownish-red rash, thus preventing me from buying one for fear it has spread to the bananas on top.
Does the Chiquita Banana song make you cringe?
No, I love it and can recite it by heart. The bananas in that video are beautiful. Unmarked. Marketing types know better than to show a bruised banana on TV, thank goodness.
Illustrations: Sam Taylor.