I suspect I was an entirely different person yesterday: First, a wasp stung me on my pinkie toe. Then, my son’s swimming instructor mistook me for my own daughter.
Not once in my life have I ever been stung by a bee or a wasp. This, despite my pasture-wandering childhood on a prairie farm. It was something a little special about me, I thought. Like still having a baby tooth. It was a sign of my affinity with nature. The bees knew me and I knew them.
I even had a special story to prove it. In my twenties, I decided to live rough in Montana for a few weeks with a very odd guy I had met just before leaving Taiwan. He never spoke, only looked at people sideways and kind of skulked along with his hands in his pockets. But one night I was unlucky enough (I thought) to sit next to him at an expat pub and no matter how bored I tried to look, he told me story after story of buying horses in Mongolia and riding the rails to Alaska. Eventually, I stopped grunting Hmmm at the wall of booze behind the bar and turned agog on my stool for the rest of the story. I began to think he was some kind of Clark Kent mystery man. Perhaps he had the secret power of camouflage.
It all contributed to the secret impression I had of myself, as a wonderful faeirie-touched being, trapped in my own awkward manner and speech. Perhaps I was the only one who could see his true value because of my special sight! (Yes, I see how the Twilight saga became so popular amongst awkward teen girls.)
Back in Montana, where I’d driven down from Alberta to meet him, we went camping in the woods. It was a game to me, living wild and off the grid. Totally not the same as all those people collecting paycheques for boring jobs in the city. And one day, in the height of my love delirium a butterfly landed on my toe and stayed there for five minutes, even as I walked slowly around the campsite. Then bees began buzzing around me. One even landed on my thumb, walking its tickly feet over my knuckles, even as I unpacked our picnic at a river beach. I was like Snow White or Cinderella I thought, singing with the forest creatures. Or perhaps, I was giving off some kind of delicious love pheromones irresistible to insects. Whatever “it” was, it kept me safe through jumping on and off moving freight trains. I can’t believe I actually did that. I could have lost a foot or worse! Dumb love pheromones.
But yesterday, I was on a concrete city block, looking into a dance studio window, waiting for Mountain Equipment Coop to open so I could buy my husband a birthday gift, when a wasp stung me twice on my pinkie toe. I had to shake my foot and brush the bugger off with my hand.
So now I know how it feels – like a mild burn – and my whole foot is now swollen and itchy. But even worse, I’m really heartbroken about the end of my insect fantasy. I’m not special to wasps after all. (Though I still never get bitten by mosquitos.) And so, setting random chance and luck aside, what could this possibly mean metaphorically? Why would a wasp sting me now and never before? I’m trying to think of a good story to end this and I’m hoping its not menopause. (Mosquitos stopped biting me when I was about 12, so there’s the hormones to consider.)
My other identity issue is with the swimsuit business. Though this doesn’t fit with the menopause theory. After swimming at Kits pool we bumped into R’s teacher, and I said, again, how delighted we were that R was actually swimming and bravely jumping in the deep end, after refusing to get his face wet up until a few weeks ago.
And she said, “Oh yes, I think your Mom was telling me that last week.”
But it wasn’t my Mom! It was me!! It’s always me.
I guess I should feel better that, as she was speaking to me, she thought I was my younger self that day. Maybe it was because I was wearing my old bikini from before kids. Every other day I’ve been wearing what I thought was a cool one-piece because it had a picture of trees silhouetted against a sunset, and because I bought it on hipster Main Street. I’ve been trying to conceal my rubbery tummy and just thought, I’m dressing for action, not impressing cute boys with my tan.
My face couldn’t look that much younger this week than last, could it? It’s got to be the bikini. Unless….it’s something else, something apparent only to wasps. Perhaps I’ve sold out LOVE for a hot body, eternal youth and vulnerability to stinging insects.
The Sting that outnumbers them all
And finally, I have a bee in my bonnet about this utter ridiculousness – banning “burkinis” from French beaches. WTF!!! As writer Remona Aly says, “Is full-piece swimwear really more offensive than seeing a middle-aged bum crack?”
As if what women wear to the beach is the issue. Some people are comfortable topless, some are comfortable in wetsuits. So what?
As if insisting Muslim women bare more skin at the sea might prevent angry lorry drivers from plowing into crowds in Nice, or setting off bombs in nightclubs.
It’s like a magician’s illusion of focusing our attention on pretty girls while the real tricks are up his own sleeves.
As if women don’t already wring their hands enough in swim-store changerooms without old white dudes weighing in on what’s appropriate.
Can we just agree that what women wear is not the issue?