It’s right behind me…

It’s a little scary, my tiny new air plant, isn’t it? I hung it by the window in my office, and I keep glancing back over my shoulder to see if it’s creeping any closer while I’m not looking.

I have some kind of weird phobia that’s sort of like trypophobia, but not really. I feel sick when I look at clusters of things like certain kinds of plant roots (leeks are horrifying!) or rice stuck in a sink strainer. It’s impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t feel the same way, but trust me, it’s real—and my air plant is doing weird things to my mind. I can’t stop looking at it, but I also want to look away…

My air plant comes from Air Plant Supply Co., and it’s held in place by its roots and doesn’t need any soil. Every week, I have to give it a bath. In other words, I’ll probably kill it in no time! Heh. No, I’m really going to try to keep this thing alive.

The hanging pod it’s in comes from ceramacist Michael McDowell’s company Mudpuppy, who I wrote about previously in relation to one of my other nightmares, the one where all of my teeth fall out. This guy has quite a knack for honing right in on the things that make me feel uncomfortable, and I like it!


Photos from Mudpuppy

I can’t decide if putting the air plant in a ceramic baby head makes it more or less terrifying! Displaying it alongside a ceramic skull definitely adds something, but then you know how I feel about decorative skulls. The more the merrier!

OH, HEY! I just noticed that the Mudpuppy plant pods are actually on sale at Fab.com right now for 30% off regular price. Full disclosure: If you use this link to sign up for a Fab.com account, I will get a credit if you buy something within a month of joining. Ordinarily that’s not something I’d put here on the blog, but there’s no way to buy stuff from Fab.com without making an account first. It’s an invitation-based, design-focused shopping site, and quite honestly I’m a little addicted.

69 comments
  1. CristinaDec 14, 20113:39 pm

    Yes! I have something like this! I love Crunchie candy bars, but hate looking at the honeycomb-y inside. I also get all skin-crawl-y when I look at mushrooms growing out of the ground and various other things. My ex- thought I was completely insane and bought me a mushroom growing kit for my birthday. :/ I got all squicked out looking at a photo of that Guatemalan sinkhole from a few years back. I’m happy to see I’m not completely alone. :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yes, I understand completely, especially about the sinkhole!!

  2. LorenDec 14, 20113:45 pm

    Wow, those lotus seed pods have ALWAYS given me the willies. I never knew that was a common thing.
    I didn’t really have a problem with any other ‘cluster of hole’. But then I just looked through that slideshow and now I’m going to think about it every time I look at a sponge. Blergh.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    It’s funny, the lotus seed pod thing is really common, but they actually don’t bother me! I think it’s the same kind of feeling, though. Just icky!

  3. alexandra @ work & tumbleDec 14, 20113:50 pm

    TRYPOPHOBIA! I can’t stand looking at lotus pods, strawberries (the patterns the seeds form), and yes, things like rice in the bottom of the sink and even bubbles. And bone marrow. All sorts of semi-organic patterns make my skin crawl – literally. I never understood phobias until I figure out that I had this one. It’s totally irrational.

    Wow, you’re the first person I’ve encountered to describe the same thing – everyone always thinks I’m insane!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    YES YES YES YES!!! Semi-organic patterns, exactly. I think it’s our brains trying to make something perfect out of something that’s imperfect…

  4. JaycaDec 14, 20113:56 pm

    Ok so I’m a follower and kind of never comment, but now I feel the need to, due to a sort of kinship with that whole almost-trypophobia thing [yes, I wish I could comment on the super-neat pods, etc - but the it's the clusters that get me . . . ]

    I read the article attached and was a little squirmy, but then read a comment there about clusters of cracks or layers and literally started to itch both of my forearms – my shoulders are hunched and my nose is wrinkled right now.

    Honestly, I’m not this weird – but it’s nice to know others “aren’t,” too. :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I was SO excited when I learned about trypophobia and that there are other people who feel the same way about certain things. My mother had been teasing me for years for saying I don’t like looking at the roots of plants!!

    Serenity /

    Reading that last comment with the article also put me over the edge. Looking at all the pictures made me feel funny, but the the comment with all the perfectly descriptive words really did me in.

    This was really interesting!

  5. mommyDec 14, 20114:15 pm

    No wonder I don’t know what to give you for Christmas! Why don’t you just kill them off right away instead of forcing yourself to live with them?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I want help in my garden! That’s all I want! (Clearly I need it…)

  6. elizaDec 14, 20114:20 pm

    wow. it’s so lovecraftian and cthulu-esque… i’m not sure i could deal with it.

    but it’s really cool!

    [Reply]

  7. Pati NDec 14, 20115:26 pm

    Wow who knew? Trypophobia…My sister has it and yes I thought it was a bit strange. She gets so grossed out by Surinam toads and lotus seed pods!
    I think your plant looks like a jelly fish Anna…kind of cute.

    [Reply]

  8. KylieDec 14, 20115:57 pm

    Oh my I think I have that too. I never knew there was a name for it. I was saw a documentary on frogs that has these random holes etc on their skin and I had nightmares for months over it! (I feel sick just writing about it!)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I really don’t want to think about frogs with holes in them, ugggghhhhh!

  9. Anna (twelve22)Dec 14, 20117:54 pm

    I’ll chime in with the others and say YES! I share your phobia, clusters more than holes. Seeds really do it to me, especially if they’re wet/sticky, like tomato seeds and seeds in cooked eggplant. Erg.

    [Reply]

  10. ChristinaDec 14, 20119:15 pm

    Wow…so i never comment but i HAD to with this one…you have made me so happy to know i’m not alone!! Who cares if its not a real phobia…at least i’m not the only person who has an extreme aversion to this!!!! Wow!!!!

    [Reply]

  11. Anna @ D16Dec 14, 20119:31 pm

    This is wild!!! I’m amazed by how many of you have this same weirdo phobia! I’m oddly comforted…

    [Reply]

  12. EmilyDec 14, 20119:38 pm

    I diagnosed myself with trypophobia back in middle school. It started when my little brother suctioned his hand to the bathtub drain and it left all the little holey marks on his skin. Ugh! These days, overly large holes in crackers (like Wasas), too many potholes on the road, and those lotus pods all freak me out.

    [Reply]

  13. victoriaDec 14, 20119:38 pm

    i like it hanging there — it looks interesting against your view of metropolis. which is splendid, by the way.

    oh, and if you start watching ‘american horror story’ you will really be looking over your shoulder. :)

    [Reply]

  14. victoriaDec 14, 20119:39 pm

    p.s. if there is ANYTHING in my sink strainer at all, i cannot tolerate it. total freakout.

    [Reply]

  15. SuzanneDec 14, 20119:55 pm

    there’s a horrible internet meme where someone photoshopped an open seed pod onto a nipple. It is about 1000x more horrible than you might think, and now I can’t look at seed pods. I CANT DO IT.

    [Reply]

  16. jennifer_in_sfDec 14, 20119:58 pm

    Yeah, I don’t have this so much* but this post (DON’T CLICK THE LINKS IF YOU HAVE IT) made me realize how common it is!

    *although I spend a fair amount of brainspace trying not to think about those frogs. *la la la lalala la* don’t exist.

    [Reply]

  17. SamoneDec 14, 201110:22 pm

    Holy molasses, Anna, I really wish I hadn’t Googled ‘trypophobia’ to find out what it is.

    Sometimes I have a horrible vision of something similar and clustery and gruesome!!! There was a Star Trek character that made me want to hurl just looking at it because of this.

    HIDEOUS!!!

    From the responses here, perhaps this is a really super common aversion. I mean, look at it! NO WONDER!

    All that aside, cool freaky plant.

    [Reply]

    Elena /

    I just googled it too. OMG!!! I felt a scared feeling though, not sick. It frightened me.

  18. amy good houseDec 14, 201110:38 pm

    I am totally freaking out. As I was reading this I was literally thinking to myself “that must be like that feeling I have about little holes” and I clicked on the Trypophobia link and now I want to hurl.
    At the same time I’m glad I’m not the only one!

    [Reply]

  19. MoDec 14, 201110:50 pm

    I bought pods from mudpuppy at fab recently and they are adorable. One is for a gift and the rest are for me. I wanted the plants, but wasn’t sure about bringing them into Canada. I can’t wait to get them up.

    [Reply]

  20. AprilDec 15, 201112:41 am

    LOVE air plants. I’ve had such success with my 4 tiny ones (size matters in a tiny house) and I tend to kill most plants. Sent my sister a couple for her birthday, too. They’re all over etsy.

    [Reply]

  21. ileanaDec 15, 20116:58 am

    great post! beautiful photo of your plant. i have a bunch of these in my bathroom. they have survived for over 2 years now with their weekly bath. and thanks so much for letting us know about what looks to be like a great supplier of airplants – i’ll be shopping.

    [Reply]

  22. Angel YDec 15, 20119:02 am

    Ugh I have trypophobia myself. It drives me nuts. I totally can’t even say the “cl” word without shuddering.

    [Reply]

  23. TerriDec 15, 20119:46 am

    My goodness! It’s not only me then! Crazy random organic patterns and holes have always made me feel queezy. I can’t stand the sight of stray rice in the strainer either! eeww, just thinking about it has made me go all shivery.

    [Reply]

  24. AinsleyDec 15, 201110:28 am

    Hmm. I didn’t realize this was a “thing”. I googled trypophobia and looked at the images, and while some of them were inexplicably creepy (and some just gross), I don’t seem to be particularly freaked out. *whew* I can see how this would be a major inconvenience!

    Cool plant! It does seem to sort of *loom* there, though. o.o

    [Reply]

  25. BrightDec 15, 201110:37 am

    I really like the concept of giving a plant a bath.

    I have four or five succulents and they should probably be brought in for the winter, it’s getting really chilly. More importantly though, I can’t believe they haven’t died yet. I’m awful at keeping plants alive. I wish they would meow for water.

    [Reply]

    Bright /

    Also, yes, that plant is seriously creeping me out too. It has tentacles!

  26. SarahDec 15, 201112:01 pm

    My husband SWEARS he has trypophobia! Can’t believe so many people here say they have it as well.

    [Reply]

  27. ChristianDec 15, 201112:19 pm

    I have trypophobia!

    Also linking me to fab.com just ruined my bank account. Thank you. haha.

    I signed up yesterday under your referral! I plan on buying some stuff soon!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Haha, I’m here to ruin your life with clusters of holes and fancy designy stuff! :D

  28. LeeAnnDec 15, 20114:27 pm

    With a plant like that, I feel as if Sigourney Weaver has to be near. :)

    I had no idea that patterns/shapes could freak people out. Do you think this impacts how you design?

    I googled trypophobia, found a slide show of images and I have discovered I am quite the opposite. I find all those images interesting and intriguing. Though that species of toad has always grossed me out.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I don’t think it affects me as a designer at all, at least not consciously. In my case, it’s really only organic patterns and clusters that are skeeve-inducing!

  29. Lori E.Dec 15, 20118:14 pm

    Ok, wow. Wow. Things like that have always troubled me to a certain degree but I couldn’t NOT look, ya know? Like I couldn’t tear myself away and would just look and look and look. Tonight I just googled this whole thing and this link made me yell, my scalp itch and I just can’t UN-SEE it.
    http://trypophobia.net/
    Off to post the google link on FB so others can share the joy… Blech.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    MAKE IT STOP, LORI!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    Lori E. /

    I KNOW! I just looked a second time… Gah!!!

    Mary /

    eep. I know what you mean, because I’m so tempted to look, but I know if I do I will want to crawl right out of my skin. yuck.

  30. Adriane DuckworthDec 15, 20118:54 pm

    So…I find this plant a little creepy too, but also, awesome.

    [Reply]

  31. JanineDec 15, 20119:14 pm

    Hey Anna, I know at least three people who have clusterphobia. There are lots of triggers of it! It seems to run in families, mother to daughter. Ask your Mom or aunts if they also are squicked by groups of small things.

    Anyway, you’re not weird or anything.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Nope, no one else in my family has any idea what I’m talking about, believe me!

  32. NicoleDec 16, 20119:50 am

    I have wanted some air plants for a while! They are so interesting. And the idea of bathing a plant is inexplicably cute.

    I don’t have anything near a phobia–I actually find the types of patterns you are describing very appealing and paint/draw similar things all the time, and spend a lot of “art” time idly punching divots and holes into clay or stretching it out into root-like clusters–but the infamous Lotus Breast photoshop definitely scarred me on lotus pods, at least. Also I googled up the hole-y frogs and that’s just gross. But that’s the extent of it :)

    Whenever this comes up in a discussion thread online (this is two I’ve seen recently; the other was on a nail polish site of all places, in response to a pebbled manicure she’d done) I am always surprised by how common it is. I have a friend who gets visibly grossed out over natural sponges and loofahs, and until I started seeing comment threads about this I always thought she was just weird. I wonder what the evolutionary basis for this is, if any. It seems so widespread and hindbrain that I feel like it must have some deep-rooted purpose!

    On a tangential note related to the frog, there is a fascinating type of newt that can use its ribs as weapons. If it’s freaked out it expands them and they jut out like sharp blades through the skin on their sides to stab and tear. Newts being the regenerative creatures they are it’s not too much of a detriment to have their bones sticking out of their sides :) Not sure why I felt the need to share that, but there you go.

    [Reply]

  33. lindsey clareDec 16, 20115:44 pm

    Ohhhh another trypophobe here. I actually just heard of it the other day after randomly googling “freaked out by certain patterns”. Ha. I’ve always been just a little bit squeamish about fishbones, skeletons, weird skin things. My theory is that our brains don’t like seeing potentially “harmful” patterns because it reminds us of our organic bodies that are not immortal! Something like that.

    Cute plant though :)

    [Reply]

  34. lindsayDec 16, 20119:33 pm

    I think it’s pretty…looks like a jelly fish suspended in air! Also, just curious…how do you bathe it? Dipping, mist it, wipe it down?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Stick it in a bowl a water! :)

  35. NinaDec 16, 201110:48 pm

    The kid head with the plant reminds me of Medusa.

    [Reply]

  36. WhitneyDec 17, 20111:46 am

    That happened to me when I saw the “roots” of ivy growing through the screen on my bedroom window when I was a kid. The ivy was really pretty on the brick outside but I couldn’t handle it through the screen. I remember trying to cut it off with scissors and feeling nauseated! It makes my cheeks tingle. Humans are such fascinating creatures aren’t we?

    [Reply]

  37. JenDec 17, 20116:53 am

    Yes yes yes! I’m not posting the link, but that poor man who lives in Indonesia who has a skin condition that makes growths on his arms, legs, hands, face etc that look like …aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, roots of plants.
    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

    I thought it was just me!

    Also, the scars on trees when a branch is cut off…

    [Reply]

  38. JenDec 18, 20113:59 am

    PS there’s a trypophobia facebook page (of course) and some interesting links.
    http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=201012120311

    I’d also like to add… pecan nuts, sliced across the middle (not lengthways). Cringe!

    [Reply]

  39. StephanieDec 18, 20116:48 am

    I’d never heard of this but since this post and googling “trypophobia” I’ve come to realize that I’m the complete opposite of most everyone on here! I can’t look away from these images and I want to see more! The lotus pod is pretty weird but I still love looking at it. So funny

    [Reply]

  40. Sherisa DDec 18, 20114:48 pm

    OMG I have that exact same phobia too!! I didn’t know it was an actual phobia, though. Yikes.

    [Reply]

  41. TaniaDec 18, 20117:14 pm

    It makes think of a squid (in a good way). I like the skull version but I tend to be partial to skulls so it’s probably not a fair contest.

    I love fab.com too, they have unique items which you don’t see all over the place.

    [Reply]

  42. andreaDec 19, 20112:30 pm

    What about that Ethiopian bread called injera. Does that make you trypophobes squirm? Or how about crumpets?

    I’ve never heard of this phobia and am suddenly feeling a bit left out.

    [Reply]

    Mirmaid /

    Not tryptophobic, so the holes don’t make me squirm, but that bread is gross. I love most exotic food and went out of my way when visiting Washington D.C. to go eat Ethiopian on a website recommendation. Yuck.

  43. TinaDec 19, 20112:54 pm

    Wow, wow wow these are SO cool. I wouldnt normally have indoor plants, but these air plants in these planters look just amazing. And a little bit scary.

    [Reply]

  44. fritzdecatDec 19, 20113:11 pm

    It reminds me of that little probe that went into the guys belly button in The Matrix

    [Reply]

  45. TheChangingHouseDec 22, 201111:33 pm

    Oh wow! That plant does look a little scary but so unique! Nice!

    [Reply]

  46. IzabelleDec 24, 20111:27 am

    Just the thought of clusters has my heart racing and I’m now in a sweat. My fear isn’t limited to holes though, clusters of anything (round things like fish eggs, mushrooms, dots, whatever) has me in a state of panic. I’ve had multiple meltdowns at dinners when SURPRISE my Dad didn’t get to the fish row before me…

    [Reply]

  47. SeanDec 28, 20116:24 pm

    That is such a cool plant it looks like an Aloe Vera plant, its crazy how it can grow upside down, can all plants grow that way? How do you keep the dirt in the pot, would imagine there is not dirt right?? Crazy.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Nope, no dirt! And it’s only certain kinds of plants.

  48. Jodie ChapmanDec 30, 20115:36 am

    My name’s Jodie and I’m a trypophobe. For some reason I even belong to a Facebook group for it. I can’t look at those lotus seed pods, certain bubbles, enlarged cells or pores, brussel sprouts growing on the stalk, the end of steel tubes you see going past on the backs of lorries, and the word “cluster” makes me itch my face until it bleeds. It’s a very common phobia – my husband, my dad and my niece all suffer from it. Other people think we’re crazy, but that’s the beauty of it. Glad to know you are a fellow sufferer!

    [Reply]

  49. MaryJan 17, 20127:21 pm

    Oh my god! I’m 31 years old and had no idea other people had this issue. I have ALWAYS had this, but didn’t know it had a name! I just googled trypophobe & could barely stand to look at the results page. yuck.

    That plant is morbidly cool, though.

    [Reply]

    deeds /

    i looked at a few lotus pods and my chest got tight and my skin started to crawl.
    i actually broke out in tears later in the day because i couldnt get the imgage out of my head, full blown panic attack. but i still am obsessed with looking at them. i think i am a freak.

  50. johnJun 16, 20131:56 pm

    The first airplant photo is like something out of invasion of the bodysnatchers! but ya, airplants are strange but cool! low maintenence as well!

    [Reply]

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