Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer of Fear: Spiders

Let’s start with something easy and funny to talk about. Something universal. Arachnophobia is a very common fear, and I've suffered from it for as long as I can remember. Spiders are everywhere, both in real life and the media we consume. And they are horrid. I don’t even understand our need to create imaginary monsters, because we have them: nature gave them to us, free of charge.

This applies to everything from the lowliest jumping spider to the most heinous black widow, the gigantic spiders that live in parts of the world I’m likely to never see. Hell, I know Daddy-Long-Legs ain't a spider, but fuck that guy, he sucks too. Don’t even get me started on tarantulas.

Alright, so why am I afraid of them? I attribute something sinister and dangerous to any spider I see. Even if it’s just a little garden spider, which I know is not poisonous, my default assumption about all spiders is that they can’t wait to crawl all over me. Maybe they won’t kill me, but the thought of having one on me feels like the wrongest thing in Wrongington Town. The universe should implode, should that happen. It’s never happened as far as I know, but don’t worry, I've been assured by people who care about my psychological well-being that there are all sorts of creepy-crawling things that roam over me while I’m sleeping. Thanks, Dad.

The sick thing is, I’m also not-so-secretly fascinated with spiders. As I work up the nerve to kill one, I stare at it in awe. Horrified awe, but awe nonetheless. This is one of those weird things about the human psyche.

As you may or may not know, I watch a lot of horror movies. To this day, the only film that has ever made me audibly scream and hide my face was Arachnophobia. ...It’s a comedy. A sci-fi/horror comedy about spiders. I've only seen it once, and I will fight anyone who makes me watch it again. There’s a scene, at the end… I’m shuddering just thinking about it. Did I just feel a spider crawling on me?!?

Horrified awe aside, I have no conscious method for dealing with this. The reassurance that the spider is more afraid of me doesn’t help, because in my mind that means it absolutely will attack/crawl on me in order to enact a sort of kamikaze “Terrify or be killed” sort of action. It’s not true at all, but this is an irrational fear that has absolutely nothing to do with the truth.

I still have this torturous phobia, but there was one thing that took the edge off for me. One summer during college, my car happened to get infested with a ton of spiders. I always said they were garden spiders, but now looking at photos (SHUDDERSHUDDER) they were not. I don’t know what they were, in retrospect, but whatever they are, they're extremely common in the Chicagoland area. They mainly stayed outside, and only appeared at night, but it was one of the most horrifying real life experiences I've ever had. I have memories of killing several every time I got into my car. They were not the most scary spiders of all, they were light-colored and relatively small, but having a car infested with them every night over a summer gives you a new appreciation for spider-free living. It also makes you thankful for the typical one-spider-at-a-time encounters you will have over your life.

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