Today is Friday, January the thirteenth.

The minute you hear those words, the temptation to cover your head with a pillow and hold it there seems overwhelming. Of course, if you held it too tightly, your fear would became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

According to Asheville, North Carolina’s Stress Management and Phobia Institute, almost 21 million people in the United States alone suffer from the fear of Friday the thirteenth. It even has a name: friggatriskaidekaphobia in Norse or paraskevidekatriaphobia in Greek. They both mean Friday the thirteenth scares the bejeezus out of you.

It also makes me wonder if the French refer to it as vendrediletreiziemephobia and the Italians as venerditrediciphobia, but that’s just my feeble wanderings.

But why all the drama about Fridays and the number thirteen?

Numerology is to blame (or credit – depending on your point of view) for this stigma on poor old number thirteen. Apparently, its sibling – the number twelve – is perfect. Sound familiar to anybody?

Twelve represents completeness, wholeness. There are twelve hours on a clock, twelve months in a year, twelve Apostles, twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve people dining together is ideal – add one more and someone must die. Go back to friggatriskaidekaphobia or the Norse fear for that superstition.

And the Knights Templar weren’t fans of Friday 13th either as they were imprisoned on this day. I can commiserate as I was hit in the eye with a rubber band on Friday 13th.

I hear you snickering. Stop it! Ever had a scratched cornea? Not so funny now is it? Swollen, puffy, requiring a trip to eye doctor and numbing drops.

Of course, hoteliers understand this whole phobia business. Get on an elevator and try to find the thirteenth floor. It’s bizarrely missing. I used to think there was a huge gap between the twelfth floor and the fourteenth – like stilts holding the top of the hotel apart from the bottom. I asked often why there was no thirteenth floor. As a kid, I assumed if I knew how to count, the people who designed the entire structure I was staying in should be at least equally as smart as me. I don’t think my parents knew how to answer.

Mother, “Go ask your father.”
Father, “How the bleep am I supposed to know why people don’t want a thirteenth floor?”

He was an engineer.

He also had trouble answering my Etch-a-sketch question. It was simple really. I just asked, “Dad, how does this work?”

He didn’t have time for me then, and by then, I mean there were probably thirty people in our house and it was Christmas. He was trying to help my mother – rarity as that was.

Dad: “Try to figure it out for yourself.”

To this day I don’t know why I got punished. I was only doing as I was told. I was just trying to figure it out. So what if I took a hammer to the Etch-a-sketch? So what if it wasn’t mine? I don’t understand. You probably don’t understand how I ended up talking about toys and Christmas. Here’s the beauty of it. It’s Friday the thirteenth. I can do anything and blame it on Frigga – the Norse name for Friday.

So there you have it, my explanation for Friday the thirteenth phobia – that’s the English version. But don’t worry if you forgot to stress out about this one. In thirteen weeks, you’ll have another chance to be frightened over Friday the thirteenth. And in another thirteen, you’ll have another chance still. How odd is that?

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