I am more afraid of ticks than bears

May 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

I recently discovered that I am more afraid of ticks than bears. As FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…and some arachnids.

When you type “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into Google image search, the first batch of images are t-shirts and cartoon pictures of FDR’s face that read “The only thing we have to fear is FEAR ITSELF…and spiders.” I’d substitute “ticks” for “spiders,” but my best friend S is mad arachnophobic, so let’s just say arachnids are no picnic in general (and yes, ticks are arachnids–at least according to Wikipedia. I checked.)
You can buy this t-shirt at zazzle.com and wear it to your next AA (Arachnophobics Anonymous) meeting.

My mom and aunt came to visit me in Virginia for a week earlier this month, after I finished my first round of grad school finals (Woo hoo! Now my stress is adult!)., and we spent a few days hiking and nature-ing around. One afternoon we were in Shenandoah National Park. We’d already done a fairly strenuous hike (at least to our legs, which were tired from basically climbing a mountain the day before) in the morning/early afternoon, so for our second hike of the day we wanted something short and manageable. Just a few miles. And FLAT.

We ended up on a trail that was less than 2-miles roundtrip–ostensibly very manageable–but that, despite the guidebook’s difficulty rating of “easy,” was all uphill. Through the grass. And weeds. And various other flora. Now, for a while this was quite lovely–tons of bluets and little white flowers and butterflies up the wazoo–until my mom mentioned ticks. She’d read about them in some of our guide literature to the park and another hiker we’d talked to earlier that day had warned her that the area we were in had tons of ticks and that they were particularly prevalent in this type of weather. I don’t know anything about ticks’ weather preferences, but I do know Ew! Ick! Oh my gods get it AWAY from me!!! 

Now, I’m not a particularly scaredy person when it comes to bugs. I find silver-fish terrifying for some reason (loved that recent episode of Up All Night that had Maya Rudolph calling Will Arnett, her best friend’s husband, to come kill a silverfish in her house), and I hate things with lots of legs (like centipedes, shudder), but I deal with even these fine. Spiders don’t especially bother me, or I’ve at least learned to be strong because my best friend S is terrified of them and someone needs to get the things out of the house. Also, since the warm weather started, these ants have shown up in my house here in Virginia and these suckers are like half an inch long. Since I’m used to California ants you practically look at through a microscope, the size of these Giant Ant Beings does make them seem like some kind of demon ants, but I still squish them with my bare fingers no problem. Point: I’m not usually too squeamish.

However, I hate anything that bites. Mosquitos $%*&ing love me for some reason; if there are mosquitos out, I will always get bit. If I’m with my family, usually I’ll have as many bites as the three of them combined, or more. It’s like I’m the Bella Swan to these bitches’ Edward Cullen: I’ve never smelled blood like yours in all my liiiiife.

My body is really sensitive, so as soon as an insect bites me, the area around the bite will turn red and swell up and itch like mad, like normal people’s mosquito bites on steroids (remember the whole steroids-gave-Barry-Bonds-bobble-head-proportions thing? Your mosquito bites are a normal head; mine are Barry Bonds’ head, post ‘roids.) After a few days, the swelling will go down and the general redness will darken to a patchy purple that looks like a cross between a bruise and a really strange, abstract tattoo. Recently, I was sitting at a friend’s place with my legs propped up on something when he pointed to my outstretched calf and said, “Oh, you have a birthmark on your leg!” Nope. No I do not. That is a mosquito bite from two days ago; it only looks like there’s a hickey on my leg.

Oh! And when I was like ten I got bit by a bunch of stone flies while I was in Florida on vacation and the bites swelled up so intensely it looked like I had half a softball shoved under my skin every place I’d been bitten. They itched like mad and it was about 100 degrees with approximately 500% humidity, so I was miserable (which probably means my family was miserable too–sorry, family, usually you’re okay as long as you keep me fed). That may be the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve been in more pain, but in terms of pure discomfort–ugh.

Suffice it to say I don’t like to have any kind of biting insect or arachnid anywhere near my skin, and something that fucking burrows into your flesh? When is the next plane/train/bus/camel out of this hellscape?

Also, I had a friend in college who got lyme disease and that shit is no joke. She had to take our sophomore year off and when she came back, she walked with a gorram cane. Stay the fuck away from ticks.

So we’re hiking. Then my mom mentions ticks. I get a little nervous but am distracted by the fact that the trail is still going uphill and only getting more overgrown and this is not what I signed up for. If this is going to be an Amazon-style adventure, I would like to know in advance so that I am emotionally prepared–and armed with a machete. But anyway, ticks are mentioned and it’s like the foreshadowing in a movie: dun dun dunnn!! If this is an arty drama, you know someone is going to die from lyme disease in the next 45 minutes. I don’t want to be that person.

The ominous music ratchets up when my mom notices a tick on my aunt’s pants. My aunt is totally calm (probs cause my mom is freaking out a tad bit) and able to pick the tick off with a stick, but it takes her a minute because the thing is clamped on for dear life–the way it wanted to be clamped onto her flesh. Oh my gods AAAHH!

Cue the footage of me running. I basically ran for the next mile or so.

Luckily we’d finally reached the downhill portion of the trail, and I took that opportunity to run like the wind, Bullseye. Whilst running I also would shake my arms and legs in what looked like the Hokey Pokey crossed with sheer panic. Or maybe some kind of seizure-related spasm. Regardless, I left my mom and aunt to fend for their own damn selves and hightailed it the fuck out of there, not stopping until I reached the ocean of asphalt that made up the rest stop parking lot, where we’d left our car. Praise Jesus. I never knew I could be so grateful to see a football field’s worth of asphalt. Sometimes they pave paradise to get me the fuck away from ticks.

So now I’m in the parking lot. I run to our car, but as my mom had been driving and it was her rental SUV, not my Acura, I didn’t have the keys. Luckily, Mom wasn’t far behind me because I’d started peeling off my clothes for the benefit of some deer and a trucker fueling his semi across the parking lot. She clicked the SUV open and I sat down on the open back, taking off my shoes and socks and rolling my yoga pants up to my thighs, turning everything inside out and feeling all surfaces to check for ticks. I also stripped off my REI fleece hoodie and a long-sleeved Stanford-emblazoned shirt (basically all my clothing that is vaguely workout apparel says Stanford on it somewhere–when I’m going to the gym I feel like an admissions brochure), so that I was standing in my untied hiking boots–newly verified to be tick free–and a sports bra, pants rolled up past my knees. A some point my mom or someone pointed out that there were bathrooms fifty or so yards away–and that there were strangers next to a car not thirty yards away that were staring at me–so I took that opportunity to 1) pee and 2) make sure every last inch of my body was tick-free beyond the prying eyes of truckers and tourists.

Even though I’d checked my every bodily surface, I still felt like things were crawling on me–ick ick ick–but by the time I returned from the bathroom I felt mostly better.

My mom and aunt verified their own tick-free status–in a much more sedate manner–and we got back in the car. We decided to drive the 50 or so miles to the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park, as the sun was going down and we could watch the sunset from various lookouts and just generally scope things out. I was amenable to this idea, especially once separated from the tick-laden grasses and presented with a bag of dried apple slices. Thus, we drove.

We stopped ten minutes or so later to watch the sun sink below the Blue Ridge Mountains, and yeah, it was pretty spectacular. All three of us we in a good mood once we’d recommenced the drive, so long as my aunt stayed away from grasses and foliage when we stopped at overlooks. She’s a birder and is more interested in getting a picture of or getting a good look at some interesting bird than she is in preventing ticks from clinging to her clothes and entering our tick-free-car-sanctuary–or god/dess forbid, my house. If you bring a tick into my house I will end your life. Unless you are a cute dog, in which case I will help get the tick off you with the tweezers and match and whatnot, but I will say “Ew! Ew! Ew!” the whole time and probably wear rubber dishwashing gloves. This is why I need a real rather than imaginary boyfriend (sorry, Darren Criss) or girlfriend (Lindsay…): so someone else can deal with ticks and I don’t have to!

My mom, aunt, and I managed, however, to return to our SUV asylum without bringing any tiny, horrifying passengers with us. After the sun had set, we set off to finish the last stretch of park before we totally lost the light, and after driving for maybe twenty minutes, we saw something a hundred or so yards ahead of us in the road. It was dark and appeared to be an animal, and then holy hellfires it’s a BEAR. 

No, it’s two bears! It’s a mama bear and a cub!! OH MY GODS STOP THE CAR!!!

My mom hit the brakes car and we inched toward them, staring agog through the windshield (or at least I was agog, mouth open–potentially with high pitched screeches of “It’s a baby bear!!” emanating from it). As we got closer my aunt recovered her senses a bit and was like, “Sweet fuck, BACK UP!” so my mom did so, eventually turning around, pulling off to the side of the road, and stopping the car. My aunt, apparently having used up all of her good sense in the “Back up!” moment, threw open her side door and jumped out with her camera, quiet-running (you know, when you pick up your feet really quickly and look like cartoon mouse Jerry trying not to wake a sleeping Tom) toward the bears. My mom, excited/panicked, whisper-yelled to her to be careful.

Not one to jump off bridges, I would, however, apparently have to say “Yes” to the question “If all your friends ran toward a bear, would you run too?” because I also jumped out of the car and walked/quiet-ran towards my aunt and the bears.

(We were at least 50 yards from them at our closest. We’re not complete morons. Only partial morons.)

My aunt had climbed a bit up the hill at the side of the road to get a better angle on the bears in hopes of seeing them and taking their picture. At some point in all this we realized that there was a mother and not one but two bear cubsHyperventilating with excitement/cuteness overload.

I wanted to see the bears as well as possible, not ever having even glimpsed a bear outside of a zoo, but I also did not want to get mauled/killed/eaten/etc. I knew I shouldn’t get any closer on the road, where the bears still sat, so my only choice was to climb the hill where my aunt was and hope for a better view.

I glanced over at my aunt and saw her standing in knee-high grass snapping photos. Grass = ticks = over my dead body. Evidently I take this last part seriously: since I couldn’t go up the hill, I took a step forward on the road, closer to the bears.

At this point my mom, still manning the car and staying prepared to warn any potential oncoming traffic, whisper-screamed at me, “Do. Not. Get. Any. Closer. Moron.” (The “moron” was implied.)

My body halted and my brain did a quick reality check: in hopes of getting a better view of some wildlife that could eat me, I was more willing to approach bears than to risk getting a tick on me.

Bear, tick. Bear, tick. Potentially angry mother bear desperate to protect her cubs, tick. Apparently, the answer was  “potentially angry bear” because there was no way I was getting anyway near that grass.

I conceded the backwards-ness of this preference. I backed up. A little. And stared open-jawed a bit more before the bears began to walk down the hill on the opposite side of the road and my mom whisper-screamed at us to get our asses back in the car.

Not a half-hour later we saw another mama bear and baby amongst the trees and brush at the roadside. Though we turned the car around once again to get a better look, this time we watched from the (relative) safety of our SUV.

Come to think of it, the SUV was probably a safer bet all along. Faced with plastic and metal and doors, those ticks didn’t stand a chance. They may have pinchers that grab on like a motherfucker, but they don’t have any opposable thumbs.

In Support of Beards

April 3, 2012 § 5 Comments

No, not the fake girlfriends gay men have to keep their sexuality secret (I just accidentally typed “sexcret.” This should be a new word.) I’m talking about the hair that grows on your face, if “you” are a man with the consistent ability to grow face hair.

This is not a beard:

If the mustache, soul patch, and chin-strap bit don’t connect, it’s not a beard. It’s unfortunate furry patches that are obscuring your face.

And I gotta say, I hate the term “soul patch.” I also hate actual soul patches. It’s like having toothbrush bristles sprouting from your chin cleft.

Anyway, my last post (from a long-ass time ago…sorry about that) focused on pretty men who hide their pretty with heinous facial hair and my annoyance/outrage at said hiding. After writing the post, however, I thought that it perhaps gave the impression that I don’t like facial hair. This is untrue; I simply don’t like ugly facial hair.

A recent conversation with some girlfriends started out focusing on what type of men we each like, which soon morphed into debate over beards, with the question being yay or nay (or yay with a caveat <= that last one’s me). Friend #1 likes outdoorsy men that tend to have bushy-ish beards, wear flannel, drive beat-up pickups, and work for environmental causes. Friend #2 likes clean-shaven men that have their shit together. I tend to go for artsy types with close-cropped beards, and I like beards that are kept in check and regularly trimmed.

In fact, in many cases, a good beard makes me more likely to be attracted to someone.

I think a big part of that is that facial hair is a fashion statement, and the way you trim it, or fail to trim it, works to communicate what identity you want the world to recognize in you. So a guy with a close cropped beard that I’d be checking out is communicating, “I’m an arty hipster-type who probably likes Neutral Milk Hotel and whiskey, and who has more than four pairs of shoes and an apartment with a lot of books.”

When I tried to think of examples of this type of beardy man, the first name that came to mind was Matt Berninger, the singer for The National. He’s the frontman for one of my favorite bands; he has a gorgeous, gravelly baritone (I like Justin Timberlake as much as the next person, but why does every current male singer have to be a tenor?); and when I saw him perform, he was drinking from a tumbler that he periodically replenished with a bottle of white wine (I really like it when performers drink onstage; I don’t know why, especially since, as I singer, I wouldn’t want to drink anything other than water or maybe tea during a performance; maybe I just like that they’re less tight-ass than I am).

Also, Matt Berninger’s face looks like this:

Sign. Me. Up. I’m also a fan of this picture of him holding his daughter:

It's a child! What do I do with it?! HELP. ME.

I love the look of sadness combined with sheer panic.

Okay, so the daughter here (and the wife I also know he has) means this one’s off the market.

Well, there’s always George Clooney, a perpetual bachelor. Though the man has skin so flawless that he doesn’t have to wear makeup on camera (What kind of devilry is this?! )he also can pull off a nicely trimmed beard.

Oh, I'm sorry, does this beard make me look even more handome and distinguished?

While the above photo from the 2012 BAFTAs is obviously lovely, I’m particularly partial to the below shot, which is more candid and taken while The Cloonester, his father, and some former senators led a protest in Washington D.C. to draw attention to the ongoing violence in Sudan, calling on alleged war criminal Omar-Al Bashir to stop said violence and allow humanitarian aid workers into the country.

Your humanitarian aid workers can enter my country any time. I mean, what? Wow...that was in incredibly bad taste.

Jon Hamm also looks damn handsome with a beard, but I’m starting to think Jon Hamm would look damn handsome with squirrels stapled to his face and a traffic pylon as a hat.

The man is brilliant comic actor as well as a dramatic actor, and he looks like that. Let’s pray to God he can’t sing…

I wonder if Jon Hamm and John Slattery hang around the Mad Men set talking about how they could have a sexy beard competition if it weren't for the show they're in the middle of taping.

Depending on the man, I can sometimes get behind the “bald head but with a beard” look. Black guys have a better chance of pulling this off; in second place, hipster-y white dudes.

My personal favorite example is Common. Holy hell.

THAT MAN. HIS FACE. HOW IS HE THAT BEAUTIFUL?!

I’m also often greatly in favor of the scruffy look, in which a man doesn’t go full grizzly but rather seems to have lost his razor for the past few days.

Mr. Miley Cyrus (ick), a.k.a. Gale Hawthorne (okay fine, his actual name is Liam Hemsworth) is greatly benefited by this look. 

As a side note, I think this is the prettiest and the classiest Miley Cyrus has ever looked. At least she takes the Oscars seriously.

Hemsworth is very pretty (I prefer him with his Hunger Games dark hair rather than the blondish he’s usually got going on), but there’s something about his prettiness that is too smooth, that makes him look manufactured, a la Chace Crawford, although significantly less so (and even Chace’s alien “good” looks aren’t enough to keep his character from becoming totally superflous on Gossip Girl). Some stubble makes Hemsworth’s face look less like it sculpted from plastic by some overworked peasants in China. He looks so good here; keep it up, Gale.

Of course, some men with faces so pretty they seem unreal should definitely not have scruff.

Matt Bomer is unnaturally handsome. My dad started watching White Collar when it first came on (great fluff show — lots of fun), and the first few times I saw it, and thus Matt Bomer, I kept saying, “Why is the Rolex model talking?”

Matt Bomer’s face can handle only the bare minimum of scruff. I think even this might be too much.

John Cho is another example of someone who should always go sans stubble.

I've chosen this photo from People's Sexiest Man issue because well, hello, he certainly is, and also because I think the photo inset at right of him as a kid is super adorable. I had those same bangs until I was 12. True story.

Some, though, really do look good in scruff.

Jake Gyllenhaal

ON THEIR FACES.

Penn "I dressed like this on purpose" Badgley

Pardon me while I go throw up.

Okay, so I have become much more amenable to chest hair as of late. When I was a teenager, I didn’t like it. I think was largely due to the fact that I was raised with the shiny chests of young Hollywood males, specifically Hayden Christensen. (I was obsessed with him after the second Star Wars prequel. I know; it horrifies me too. Some of my early crushes, like Ewan McGregor at age 10, also due to Star Wars, I still think were spot on. Others, like Hayden, not so much…)

At age 13 or whatever, my girlfriends and I were a big fan of the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin wakes up from a nightmare (shirtless!! teehee!!).

My mother found my attraction to guys with shiny, shaved chests appalling. Choice quotation from our discussions of this issue: “I don’t like bald-chested men!”

Since Hayden briefly pulled me to the dark side, however, I’ve come to prefer chests in their natural state, hair and all. Or rather, I’ve come to find chest hair itself attractive. Assuming his torso doesn’t look like a shag carpet.

Now, when a guy’s chest is all smooth and shiny, my thoughts tend to run as follows:

1) What are you, twelve?

2) You probably had to get that waxed. You chose to get your chest waxed and then went through all the trouble to do it. Yeah…we’re not gonna work out.

That said, I’m not a fan of the deep-v trend and all the man-cleavage, especially when it comes with bonus chest hair. I mean, is this joke:

And we get a mini snapshot of Jessica Szohr trying to tame her ratty extensions. These two were a hirsute hurricane as a couple.

So to sum up the post thus far: beards, yes, depending on the man. Scruff, almost always yes. Chest hair, yes; hairy man cleavage, no.

One final tip on how to pull of the “I’m a scruffy rake” look. Just look to Bradley Cooper. He knows his look is working…

SO FLUFFY! Until recently, Cooper had two rescue dogs that he'd named Samson and Charlotte (good names, I approve), but recently Samson died. Luckily, Bradley and Charlotte can have each other when they need consoling.

…but even a face like his can use a little help. Let’s take that scruffy man and add a scruffy dog. Perfect.

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