Preamble: This post contains TALK about spiders, but NO PHOTOS of spiders. Just in case you need to brace yourself or anything (not mentioning any names)
The other morning as I sat quietly reading my book, I heard a woman in the apartment hallway exclaim ‘holy shit!’. I admit that I didn’t give it much thought until I heard the next part: ‘That thing is HUGE!’ Then my ears were pricked like a cat’s and I got a wave of goosebumps. I know that she could have been referring to almost anything-- technically (the neighbour’s Buick, Christmas wreaths, etc.), but my brain—for some reason—is hard-wired to eliminate pretty much every possibility automatically, except for one: spiders.
Growing up, although my mom and all of us daughters were petrified of spiders, at least we had my dad to run to when one showed up in the downstairs bathroom. As my young mind gradually developed an understanding of gender roles, then, a critical distinction between men and women—for me—ultimately rested on how they respectively reacted to spiders.
E.g. (excerpted from my very own gender role taxonomy, circa 1988):
Women: [Shriek!] [Flail arms!] [Run!] [Violently shake and thump arms/legs/torso/head/hair to toss any possible spider off of body!] [Yell for man to come!] or, if man is not available, [devise some ridiculous scheme, likely involving a toilet plunger, to trap and/or kill spider*] *optional
Men: [calmly take a tissue and gently lift spider onto it—send it lovingly back into the outdoors] or, in extreme situations [calmly take a tissue and kill spider—feel guilty for days, possibly weeks, afterward]
With this distinction firmly cemented in my mind, imagine my surprise when I married Marty and discovered that he is, in fact, more afraid of spiders than even I am! (i.e. He flails his arms and his legs when there’s a spider around! Whoa.) Now, I generally appreciate and applaud a good challenge of ‘ye olde’ gender roles, but to be honest, I was not prepared to have this particular gender role switcheroo’d. In fact, I was downright petrified at the thought of needing to confront a spider together, seeing as I’d likely have to be the ‘man’ of the house and actually do something about it…
This brings me back to reading my book quietly the other morning. Marty was still sleeping when the woman made her exclamation, but I was wide awake and alert to the very real possibility that there was a spider (worthy of a loud swear word, even!) right outside my door. My worst fears were confirmed when she told another neighbour who had come into the hall to see what the fuss was about, ‘There’s a huge spider here! Look at it!’ Yuck. I was relieved when I heard her say that she would take it outside (gender role REVOLUTION going on in Victoria, I tells ya!), and that—more importantly—I wouldn’t have to do anything about it.
Fast forward to tonight: Marty and I came home from a date and when I went into the washroom, I was greeted by a HUGE, ‘holy-shit’-worthy spider perched in the corner of the floor near my bathtub. The bastard had made it back inside! (Note: I refuse to even entertain the thought that there is more than one of them in the apartment building.) Upon seeing the spider, my womanly instincts kicked into full gear: ‘Shriek at it!’ they urged. ‘Flail your arms and run! Violently shake your body in case there is a spider on it! Quick!! Get the toilet plunger!’ And that’s when I remembered… oh yeah, we don’t have any furniture, let alone a plunger. Meh.
I killed it swiftly—some would even say skillfully, heartlessly—with a shoe and ate ice cream nonchalantly while Marty violently shook out his hair, clothes, and our bedding (which is on the floor, by the way- no bed, remember?). Guess somebody has to wear those eight-legged pants in the house.