(There should be a picture of a spider right here, but I couldn’t bring myself to google it)
Before you judge me, let’s get this out of the way. I’m a feminist. Some people might say
a “raving” feminist. I believe in equal pay, equal opportunities, men doing the washing up,
women being truck drivers, the lot. I believe in gender quotas and the right to remove or
leave on whatever body hair you fancy.
But I also have an awful fear of spiders, and feminism will not get in the way of me drafting
in whoever is nearest, male or female, to get rid of the invaders to my home that appear at
this time every year. It’s not a gender thing – I know plenty of men who are just as freaked
out by spiders as I am – they just won’t shout about it as much. They’re meant to be brave
about these things, whereas I couldn’t even begin to pretend.
Being afraid of spiders is something you’re meant to leave behind with your dolls, but this
is the kind of fear that has woken me, shaking, when in my sleep I heard a daddy longlegs
buzzing around the room.
Non-arachnophobes may not be aware that daddy longlegs – or one of their cousins, I tried
googling this, but I can’t bear to look at all the pictures – buzz. They buzz at a level only
dogs and phobics can hear. This obviously makes them even scarier because only I can
hear them calling me.
I have left my bedroom in the middle of the night and gone to sleep on the couch because
there was an immobile daddy long legs on the ceiling.
I don’t scream, either. When you are absolutely, genuinely, bone chillingly terrified, you
don’t scream. It’s like your vocal chords are paralysed. You whimper.
Moving out of home for college, I missed my dad more than any hot dinner or washing
machine. Who else could I wake up into the wee hours, whimpering, and hand a rolled up.
newspaper to dispatch my tormentor?
I quickly discovered one good thing about manky house shares – someone is always
awake, and can bribed, to remove the threat. Over the years, various housemates became
my ally in the fight against the eight legged ones.
The worst gamble was moving into a damp ground floor apartment,which turned out to be
the ideal habitat for mould, spiders and earwigs, with a lad in his thirties. My cunning plan
to make him my new protector failed miserably – he shared my fears to such an extent that
we drafted in the sinister cat next door, despite my enormous cat allergy
I dropped the notion of establishing a crack spider hunting battalion of cats when the
antihistamines wore off, and now have a dog and boyfriend, both of whom are seasoned
spider catchers. The dog was a little slow at first, but now he views a scuttling spider as a
sort of treat on legs.
Every autumn, before Halloween, they appear in their legions, lurking around windows, in
dusty corners, under beds, under the couch, in the car. This year, they’re poisonous.
The false widow spider, which reached Ireland from the Canary islands via the UK (I
knew global warming would turn out to mean more than one good summer) bites. Like
a vampire. Ok, probably not like a vampire. More like a flea. Or a wasp. But it’s a spider.
That bites you.
An arachnologist (which has now taken over from sewage treatment plant worker as the
worst job I can think of) told the Derek Mooney show that, at worst, a bite might give you
palpitations. I think that would be my starting point, followed by silent screaming and
possibly fainting. And I’m not generally the smelling salts type. Having what you know is an
irrational fear is one thing, but knowing now that these things can actually bite and hurt you
(ok, a tiny bit!) makes it a whole lot worse.
From The Herald 22/10/13.