I can’t face eggs, nor can Eddie Redmayne – what does your weird phobia say about you?

Hadley Freeman
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

I was enormously pleased last week to hear about Eddie Redmayne’s loathing of eggs – a loathing, incidentally, that I share. But we’ll get to me in a bit. First, I will graciously cede the floor to Redmayne, Oscar winner and egg hater (both being of equal importance in my book). “I hate eggs,” he said in a US television interview, a sudden show of passion bursting through his usual Etonian equanimity. He was talking about his children’s new pets, which are, alas, chickens. “So I’d have to carry the eggs in the morning, like this, but doing that thing you have to do with your children,” he said, holding his arms stiffly out in front of him, as if he were carrying plutonium.

I hate eggs, but I love people’s idiosyncrasies, whether they be full-on phobias or general revulsions. (As with food intolerances versus just disliking something, the line between actual pathology and simple subjectivity can be a little blurred at times, especially with celebrities.) I collect celebrities’ obsessive likes and dislikes to the point that it’s all I think about whenever I see them. Khloé Kardashian claims to have “a phobia with belly buttons”. According to court documents, Sharon Stone was so horrified by the smell of her eight-year-old son’s shoes that she wanted to inject his feet with botox to stop them sweating (his father, Stone’s ex-husband, made the radical alternative suggestion of making sure the little boy wears socks with his trainers). Sarah Jessica Parker hates parsley so much that she can say “no parsley” in six languages, and made her character Carrie, in Sex And The City, hate it, too. (Confirming my rather snarky theory about food intolerances, Carrie tells waiters she’s “allergic” to parsley, when, as she admits to her already bored boyfriend, she simply doesn’t like it.)

Martin Freeman has a fear of avocados because he worries about choking on the stone, even if he’s already taken it out. Last week, Claudia Winkleman stated “I don’t like water,” and added for good measure that she doesn’t even like it when her husband drinks water: “They give him a pint glass of water and he drinks the whole thing. Are you going to want to kiss this man, or more? No! A wet mouth with a big fleshy tongue that is covered in liquid.” I’ll be thinking about this on my deathbed.

Celebrities are, of course, known for their faddy eating. I once spent time with a celebrity who, every day, ate pineapple for breakfast, edamame for lunch and a small piece of white fish in the evening. But this kind of faddy eating isn’t the sort of thing I find interesting, because tailoring your eating to be skinny is just dull. By contrast, Richard Nixon’s obsession with ketchup, to the point that he put it on his breakfast cottage cheese and fruit every morning, is fascinating. Steve Jobs was so into carrot juice that he briefly turned orange. And speaking of orange, Donald Trump reportedly drinks twelve Diet Cokes a day. Imagine what he would look like if he swapped it for carrot juice.

Lord knows I have been prone to food faddiness in my time, but my detestation of eggs has endured since early childhood and has always been stronger than vanity. I know having an egg for breakfast would be far healthier than great wodges of toast, covered in Marmite, but I don’t care. Eggs are so clearly the wrongest thing on the planet (chicken periods! What are you people doing eating them, you absolute psychopaths!) that I refuse to eat anything they are in – yes, even cake – and, like Parker, I have been known to play the allergy card with waiters.

When I am Queen of the world, all egg consumption will be banned. Unfortunately, I am not even Queen of my own house, because my children are great fans of eggs, and on a regular basis I am forced to endure them being consumed across the table from me. The things you have to do for your children, right, Eddie?

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For a long time, I suspected my fascination with other people’s idiosyncrasies was merely a form of self-validation: “Sure, I might be a bit weird, but so are other people, and hey, at least I haven’t turned myself orange.” Weirdness loves company, and all that. But it’s also more than that. So often, especially now, people are reduced to sweeping statistics: how many hundreds of thousands have the virus, how many millions voted for Brexit. But when you read about Khloé Kardashian’s fear of belly buttons, or Nixon gripping on to his ketchup bottle, you get a real sense of people’s hilarious, deranged, endearing individuality. There really is no better way to learn about someone’s true character than finding out how they deal with what they hate, whether it’s selflessly allowing one’s children to enjoy it (saintly me and Redmayne) or snakeishly lying to innocent waiters (me in less saintly mode). It’s also a good way of knowing who you should bunker down with once the apocalypse finally hits. Eddie, my egg-free bunker is waiting for you.