The curious incident of the spider in the night-time (no actual pictures, I promise)

 

He was waiting for me at the front door at the stroke of midnight like the addendum to a Cinderella story that was intercepted by R.L. Stein.

This spider hovered on the silver panel that is below the front door. The internet tells me this can be called a threshold, a sill, or a door jamb, semantics that are probably dictated by region, but no matter the region, the whole world over would agree this spider was honking huge. Even by Amazonian standards. BEASTLY. For a fair compare, the spider was the size of my fist. If you don’t know how big that is, my fist is not so big but spiders should not be the size of human fists. Even newborn baby fists. Fists should always be far bigger than spiders.

This octopod fellow at my door was no gentleman. Gentlemen do not wait like lazy predators for Cinderella to stumble home after her carriage turns into pumpkin pie. Gentlemen tip their hats and say, No, please, allow me. Then they offer you a handkerchief and an Altoid (curiously strong). This spider was more like a frat boy who started drinking too early in the day and couldn’t remember whether he puked on his shirt or just left it on a bannister somewhere, so he just bumbled around familiar parts of campus looking for some sympathy or Gatorade, ideally both, but found neither so he just parked like the sorriest case all like HEYY, BAYYBAHHH on my threshold until he sobered up.aceo8Brdi

I saw him and realized it would be in vain to scream FIST-SIZED ARACHNID because everyone who could help was already asleep and I can never keep track of how many times I’ve already cried wolf re: night crawlers. The fable tells you you to save your cry-wolfs for when you may have to cry, “ACTUAL WOLF THIS TIME!!”, but in the event of a wolf, come on. I will go mute and tinkle myself.

I held my breathe and quickly opened the front door and even left my keys in the door as I swung it shut. This was still long enough for the spider to invite himself inside and ask for the wifi password, proving once again that spiders lack social graces and are of the devil.

The fist-sized spider was now in the inner sanctum which upped the ante. He could see where my children parked their Crocs, the sick jerk. Since I was going to have to tread back to the door and remove the keys from it, I decided this warranted calling for reinforcements. Paging the loverpants of my life, however, was very humbling because it took a few LOUD pleas to wake him from his beauty rest. Had this been a real home invasion…Let’s not even with that.

As is usually my course of action, I gave curt but polite instructions to Loverpants:

“Here, take this yearbook and drop it on that guy.”

“Woah. That’s big,” observed Loverpants, keenly.

He declined the freight of the yearbook in lieu of our daughter’s shoe which is the size of the thimble in Monopoly.

Fist-sized spider must have thought our daughter’s shoe was a mere instrument of flirtation because it scampered into a whole closet full of shoes. Heehee. You like to play footsie with me? I’ll just go galavanting among the shoewear in your home!

Oh.
My.
ARACHNAPHOBIA.

Husbands, listen to your wives when they give you a yearbook next time.

I spent the next 2 hours doing yoga in our son’s room, breathing deeply and getting little rest.

The next morning, our daughter pulled her uniform skirt out from a rumpled pile of clothes only to meet the morning acquaintance of Spidey Himself who somehow had moved into a whole different chamber of the house.

I was sorry to tell our daughter that she would be wearing pajamas to school that day because What Choice did she have? Going back into her room was completely out of the question. We would sooner burn the house down.

All throughout the day, I twitched while slapping the back of my neck. By evening, I decided to muster the courage of Kevin McAllister. That’s right. It was my house and I had to defend it. While the children showered, I started the excavation of Daughter’s room.

To my amazement, the first uniform skirt I pulled from the pile must have served as a velvet curtain for Spidee who came busting onto the carpeted stage. He was bigger than I remembered and oh-so-nimble. The children were toweling off and heard me scream. Son grabbed a flashlight and joined me in Daughter’s top bunk where we both bravely held the flashlight on Spidee like this was a prison break. Soon all three of us were on Daughter’s top bunk: I, still holding the flashlight; Son, providing ample commentary; Daughter, squealing incessantly. I asked Son to grab the Swiffer because Spidee was going down.

From the perch of the top bunk, I held the flashlight while Son held me and Daughter persisted in squealing and with my other hand I poked the Swiffer handle against Spidee. He wove his way through doll clothes and paperback books. It took a few pokes of the Swiffer end to nab Spidee and to compromise his strength enough to really make him vulnerable. The last time I had legitimately sweat this hard was when I was in labor.

I flipped the Swiffer over and held Spidee under the flat end for a good while. When we lifted it, it was like a large ball of dark brown yarn had become mangled on the carpet.

I don’t know where the crowd came from that was cheering me on but I know now what it’s like to win American Ninja Warrior.

P.S. Do not google wolf spider. Do not, I say.

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The least funny thing on the internet

I had not met the acquaintance of Angelina Belle until this morning, and maybe I’ve just encountered her internet alterego, but I’ve been feeling a certain way for the rest of the day.

Ms. Belle posted a video to Facebook called “A list of instructions for all you men out there who want to understand women (;” She adds a disclaimer, “This only really works if you two are talking / dating… if she no like you and you a creep, these don’t apply to you!” which only marginally qualifies her message as less offensive.

In a sampling of things women often say, which roll in back-to-back flash spurts, Ms. Belle offers a part/counterpart of “When she says…” versus “What she really means.” Examples include, “When she says, ‘Leave me alone,’ Ms. Belle counters, ‘What do you do? Yes, that’s right! You stay!'”

Having been a woman who speaks for herself for the better part of 35 years (which apparently makes me eligible to run for president) I can say with some measure of confidence that I do not need an Angelina Belle anger translator. I have never ever wanted someone to stay whom I’ve just told to leave me alone. Not a harassing guy on the subway, not a megalomaniac boss, not a lover who is driving me all kinds of crazy. President Obama may appear to need the anger translator of Key & Peele, but should the presidency fall into my hands, I’d hope an internet entertainer wouldn’t flip my script just because I am a woman.

Ms. Belle goes on to clarify that only when a woman calls the police should you really leave her alone because, “Damn! This girl actually means what she says…which is really rare.”

Let that settle in your mind for a minute. We should expect that women will rarely say what they mean, and only when armed authorities are called in should we take them seriously.

Perhaps the most harmful thing that Ms. Belle espouses is a belief that women’s “‘NO’ can mean yes and her ‘yes’ can mean no…the last two can be a little tricky so you have to watch for her tone.”

Here is what I say to that. See if you can watch for my tone.

This.
Is.
Why.
Rape Culture.
Is a Thing.

When the lines of no and yes are so blurred that we are supposed to be tone monitors, we have a problem. When women are painted as incapable of meaning what they say when they say NO, we’ve got a communication crisis.

On her Facebook page, Ms. Belle offers a signpost that says, “Please do not take my jokes and sarcasm the wrong way. I exaggerate to create humor. I just want to make people laugh :)”

If people had not found Ms. Belle’s video funny, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stumbled upon it. Obviously, there is humor to be found in the chronic double-speak women are inclined to use. As Ms. Belle points out, when she says, “If you want,” she really means, “No.” I suspect every woman knows what this is like. We don’t want to be painted a diva who must always get her way. And why is this? Why do we as women resort to passive-aggressive speech patterns, to relinquishing control, to living a life fearful of being branded the bitch?

Here are a couple of places we might start to look:
Are strong women who speak their minds celebrated in the media or are they often vilified, portrayed as shrew-like, unmanageable?

Are there enough arenas where women show strength of character and competition other than so-called reality programs where women are belligerently fighting over a potential husband?

Are young girls encouraged to speak their minds in school, rather than prefacing what they say with, “I might be wrong but…” or “This might sound kinda crazy but…”

Are we training up young men to remember their privilege can be used to empower those whose voices are often marginalized, whose strength is often compromised? That they are at their strongest when they are lifting up another?

In her parting thoughts, Angelina Belle recommends that men “just be” a mindreader.

In one of Christ’s parting thoughts, he said, “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Mt 5:37) I’m going to trust that the reader of hearts was on to something.

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Conquest Cupcake

I read the Yelp reviews and decided after the fourth 5 star rating to pick up my mat and go, find, seize the Salted Cupcake.

I had some unclaimed time at the conference, and who knew when I would make it back to these parts. With the brazen confidence that Siri inspires, I set out with a heavy bag on my journey. The spring sunshine of western Michigan beat down on me as I traversed subdivision after 1960s-era subdivision. This was not quite the Grand Rapids I had expected.  Did an indie cupcake shop not imply that this was to be the cool hipster zone of commerce? Where were the bike couriers with ill-fitting pants? Where was the independent coffee house? Where were the artisanal everythings?

I finally came to the main drag which was like one of those repeating cartoon backgrounds where the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote keep passing the same set of cacti and canyons. Only instead of cacti and canyons, this backdrop was a neverending concourse of plazas. Generic, segmented plazas full of big box chains where you have to drive and park and drive and park and consume. Everything wrong with America.

I walked past an Infiniti dealership for crying out loud. When does one ever walk past an Infiniti dealership?

I was into the second hour of my journey, feeling all kinds of guilt that a pastry had derailed me this far. I came upon the street where I was to find the oft-desired cupcake of all of my sugar-coated dreams, except something was awry. This street was decidedly residential. I neared the location that GPS had confirmed. This was the house that would have made Hansel and Gretel stumble and fall hard.

A sign outside of a little white boutique in the midst of a line of bungalows read:

Salted cupcake

I went in, expecting a cozy cottage with some tables and chairs where a grandmother in a gingham apron would pour me some milk with the famed Salted Cupcake upon which her Midwestern fame rested.

Instead, there was no bakery case. There was a chalkboard wall with displays of individual cupcakes. There was a table but it was covered in the accoutrements of a cupcake caterer working on a huge order on a frantic deadline. There was a cashier who did not know of my unlikely pedestrian-hood and how far I had come for my Salted Cupcake.

“That’ll be $3.50,” she said, boxing up my cupcake.

Salted cupcake

I waited for my Uber which would take me to the decidedly more hipster den of Grand Rapids where I would sit in a public space with homeless people and tourists and happy corporate lunch-eaters and I would devour my cupcake sans fork or napkin. And I would do so with relish. It was easily one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life: cake was moist, icing was thick, fluffy, flavorful. Nearly divine.

***

There is no grand metaphor at work here. Maybe Antoine de Saint Exupery would say that it was the time I had wasted for my cupcake that made my cupcake so important. Maybe Bob Goff would say that I should have shared the cupcake with the homeless, maybe Anne Lamott would say that the cupcake was like my spiritual WD-40, loosening up some of the stiffness about schedules and gotta-dos in order to enjoy the serendipity of a sweet confection.

But they didn’t taste this cupcake. Nor did they walk the hour and a half (I hope they didn’t) through suburban wasteland to the cupcake cottage. There was not much joy in my journey nor in the sunburn I earned en route. The destination wasn’t what I expected, but the cupcake exceeded all of them.

Sometimes it’s just about the cupcake, the reward, the trophy, the oversized teddy bear at the fair. Sometimes you just have to carpe the cupcake and have no regrets.

 

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