Thursday, July 23, 2009

Arachnophobia and chivalry go hand in hand.

There are five things that I know about myself for sure.

1.) Spiders scare the ever-living crap out of me.

Whoops. I probably didn’t want to lead with that. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Okay. Let’s start over.

1.) My name is Clare.
2.) I am married to Bill.
3.) I am the mother of four children: Charlie, Henry, George and Annabel.
4.) I live in a house that I love.
5.) Aaaand…spiders scare the ever-living crap out of me.

I hate that spiders scare the ever-living crap out of me. I hate that I look like Alice from one of the old “Brady Bunch” episodes when she would get scared of something. She was the typical hysterical female. You know, when she would see a spider, (although Alice used to scream for mice, so just substitute spiders for mice in this scenario) she would shriek, jump up on the counter, and swing her broom until Sam the Butcher saved her sorry self from something that was about the size of a quarter.

I am embarrassed to admit that occasionally I am hysterical Alice, and Bill is my Sam the Butcher. Only he’s much hunkier. And he’s about 30 pounds lighter. And he doesn’t wear a meat-stained apron. But he’s like Sam with his spider-killing abilities.

Did I lose you yet?

Back to spiders and me being afraid of them. Actually, I’m not afraid of all spiders. I’m not really afraid of those hair-like pieces-of-dust spiders that one finds throughout the house, and are quickly snuffed out with a paper towel. Of course, I’m also afraid of rats and mice and other vermin, but they don’t live in my house, (yet, God forbid) so those are out of sight, out of mind.

However, I am afraid of the spiders that live in my garage. Although I’m not sure I can legally call them “spiders” because I don’t think they actually belong in the arachnid family. I think they belong in the small dog family. Or the rodent family. They are big and hairy, and totally unafraid of humans. Yes, I swear I overheard one of them barking like a dog and then using my phone to call the spa for a bikini wax. Did you read the part where I said they are hairy? Did you get that? They have actual perms on their heads. And apparently they don’t read “In Style” magazine because the perm is SO last millennium.

Enough of my rambling. My house is only a year old, but I’m convinced that it was built on top of a portal to large-spider hell.

We live in the midwest, and our last house had the same spider-in-the-garage problem, even though it is two states away. So maybe it’s not the houses. Maybe it’s me. Maybe they know I hate their guts so much that they followed me. They hid inside the moving boxes and said, “This lady is so terrified of us that we are going to exist only to continually scare the crap out of her.” And then they all high-fived with their hairy spider legs that have actual paws on the end of them.

I have tried so hard to be tough about it, especially in front of the kids. I never want to pass any of my fears on to any of them. I’ve tried being nonchalant, like, “Oh, hey, there’s that cool spider hanging out by my garage door opener that I have to touch in about two seconds. That’s cool. I’ll just shoo it away. No problemo.” But it’s no use. Everytime I see one, I scream and do this uncontrollable “dance” that involves me bouncing up and down on my tiptoes, pulling my arms up close to my body and flapping them around like I’m a T-Rex.

Seriously. I’m such a total wuss. And I’m not proud of it. I didn’t even scream or get this upset during childbirth.

I pride myself on my composure. I try to be that mom that doesn’t lose it in public, even though one of my kids just threw up in the parking lot. Even when my kids were babies and they had a “blowout” of yellow mustard poop up the back of their onesie while sitting in their carseat, I was just like, “It’s all good. I can handle this.”

But a spider? A spider is what shreds my composure?

We moved into this house last June, and for the first month, I saw no sign of the scary spiders that existed like they did in our last garage. Phew. Until one day I spotted them coming out of the woodwork. No really. They live in the wood in our garage. And we now have a 3-car garage at this house. So do the math. Bigger garage means more wood, and more wood equals more spiders. Bigger isn’t always better, people.

I googled “big spider in my garage in the midwest” (only the most sophisticated scientific terms for this gal) and then I saw it on the screen: a wolf spider. Doesn’t the name imply enough?

As I mentioned earlier, these spiders are not afraid of humans. That’s why I think they scare me so much. How am I supposed to smash it with a paper towel, when in all likelihood it will use its super-spidey strength and probably rip right through the paper towel and lunge for my face, bite me, and then I'll accidentally swallow it while I'm screaming? That could totally happen too. I also do not relish the potential big “crunch” sound and feel that it would make between my fingers.

In addition to their huge-ness and hairy-ness, they don’t respond at all to spider spray. I can almost hear them barking, "Bring it on, lady. Bring it on." I once used up half a bottle just spraying and spraying a little bugger who would not die.

Sorry, PETA.

We are Catholic, so I strive to teach my kids the differences between wrong and right, and good and evil and I tell them that they should always treat all living things with respect. But that doesn’t always mesh with the sight of me wielding a bottle of spider killer and screaming, “DIE!” to something the size of my thumb (okay, maybe I exaggerated about their size earlier for a little dramatic flourish) that just happened to take up residence on a slab of drywall in my garage.

It’s a good thing they only live in my garage, huh? I don’t sleep or live in my garage, so I can easily avoid encounters with said spiders, right? WRONG-O.

I had a false sense of security a few months ago thinking that these suckers were safely snuggled away in my garage, living in mini apartments, setting up little stores and playing poker with each other. That’s why I was so shocked when I got out of the shower one morning last fall. My towel was hanging over the bathtub, which is next to the shower. I was getting out of the shower and I reached over and picked up my towel. As I was about to wrap the towel around my body, one of THOSE spiders fell out of the towel and dropped down to the bathroom floor.

Sorry, my heart just stopped there for a minute as I was recalling this.

It was 6:00 in the morning and I screamed and then screamed again, children sleeping be damned. Bill burst through the bathroom door, groggily awoken from his peaceful slumber, and found me hysterically screaming and standing on top of the tile surround of our bathtub, totally naked. (And not a good naked either. Let’s just say the “T-Rex Spider Dance” would not work as a dance of seduction.)


He was simultaneously cracking up and telling me to calm down. As far as I’m concerned, however, there is no calming down as long as those spiders are in my house. They invaded my sanctuary. Yes, that would be my spider-free sanctuary. Those suckers infiltrated my plumbing system, and probably came up through a drain.

I’m convinced they have it in for me.

Okay, okay. We get it. Clare is afraid of big spiders. Yadda yadda yadda. Where is she going with this?

Well something I’ve learned through my fear of these creatures is that I think Bill actually likes “disposing” of the spiders for me. (Alright, “dispose” is just a nice way to say crush them to death, but I don’t want PETA on my back, people. I’m trying to be PC in my blog.) We women are so self-sufficient nowadays aren’t we? I have painted rooms, hung pictures, fixed the garbage disposal, repaired the washing machine, and installed a new flush valve on the toilet, among many other things. So I don’t necessarily need a man to always rescue me. But don’t you think spider-killing speaks to mens’ innate need to protect and save the damsel in distress? They get to flex their muscles for once and be that guy who gets to slay the dragon for the fair lady.

And I was the fair lady in this scenario, in case you were wondering. Yes, the unclothed, bathtub-climbing, T-Rex dancing, fair lady. With a flair for the dramatic.

Now that I have children, and especially three young boys, my goal has been to teach them from a young age to always treat everyone, and especially women, with the utmost respect. Call me old-fashioned, but I want them to hold open doors, pull out chairs, let women enter rooms first, be good listeners, shake hands firmly, speak decisively, and in general just be polite. Of course, I know I can kill my own spiders, (only if absolutely necessary though) pull out my own chair and open my own doors, but who wants to believe that chivalry is dead? I don’t. Women deserve to be treated like ladies, and I’m going to raise my boys to think so too.

And it doesn't mean that women are the weaker sex if we occasionally let a man rescue us. My little guys know I'm a strong woman, even if Daddy is the resident Spider Slayer.

I was outside with the kids the other day and Charlie said, “Mom, Henry and I just shooed away one of those spiders you hate. We shooed it out of the garage.”

“You did?” (Shocked but pleased that they "shooed" instead of "killed." Unlike their mom would have.)

“Yeah, I didn’t want you to see it and be scared.”

Aww...heartstrings, tug tug.

I praised them and said they were “my heroes.”

They were beaming, and I was so proud of them for feeling like they wanted to protect me.

Who says men don’t like their ego stroked a little bit? Even if the “men” in question are only 7 and 8-years old? Everyone was happy.

But there's one more thing that occurred to me: how the heck am I going to explain "Charlotte's Web" (one of my favorite childhood books) to them some day?

Now that should be an interesting conversation.


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