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July 20, 2008 / Maleesha Kovnesky

How I Got Over My Fear of Spiders

With summer, bugs seem to be on a lot of people’s minds.  Talea’s recent post about not being cut out for country living had me in stiches, mostly because I can so relate to the paragraph about hating bugs.  And TwoLazyDogs had a recent mishap with a beetle.  I used to be the squealy girl in the corner, waving my hands up and down in little mini-circles, yelling for a nearby tall man to come squish the “totally huge” spider that was taking up residence on my ceiling.  Bugs of all kinds would send me right into a tailspin.  My personal list of pure bug evility:

  • Spiders – because nothing should have eight legs
  • Ticks – because nothing should be flat and alive at the same time
  • Ticks – because I hate ’em so much, they get to be on here twice
  • Mosquitoes – my parents say that God made mosquitoes so people would keep their clothes on
  • Ants – because given a chance and the right person in office, they will quietly take over the galaxy

My husband still gets the pleasure of squashing my bugs for me, but now it’s more for convenience rather than fear.  Here’s how I got over my fear of bugs, in only three little months…

‘Twas the eve before I was getting shipped off to boot camp.  My boyfriend and I went to see a movie.  The hometown movie theater then was a lot like it is today: completely sucky, and without a good selection.  The best movie we had to pick from was Joe’s Apartment, the first movie produced by MTV. 

If you’ll recall, Joe’s Apartment was about singing cockroaches.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of viewing Joe’s Apartment, and this post is getting you thinking about putting it on your Netflix list, stop what you are doing and go put your hands in the garbage disposal.  Now turn the garbage disposal on (ask your Mom for help, since your hands should be in the hole)…there.  Continue reading. 

As bad as Joe’s Apartment was, it served a purpose in my universe.  The very next night, I found myself donning camouflage and holding a flashlight in a warehouse in South Carolina.  I was the unlucky lady who was picked for “firewatch” on my first night of boot camp.  Firewatch is what the Joker was doing in Full Metal Jacket when he happened upon Private Pyle in the bathroom.  Instead of seeing Private Pyle blow his brains out, I just saw a bunch of cockroaches. 

Growing up in Montana, I had never seen a single, real, live cockroach.  And now lookee! here were a bunch, skittering to and fro underneath the bunks of all the sleeping recruits.  They were friggin’ ginormous too, like if you weren’t careful, you might mistake them for someone’s combat boots.  But thanks to Joe’s Apartment the night before, I was very nonchalant, like the little buggers were going to join arms and start doing a little Broadway number…maybe something from Cats?

The real insect hardiness training came well into the middle of boot camp.  It was Land Navigation week.  We spent a couple of days sitting through training on how to read a compass, a military map, and how to use them together to find your way down the yellow brick road, to the gently sloping meadow that looked pretty, but was actually full of landmines.  The final test came in the form of “Day” Land Navigation, which took place during the day, and “Night” Land Navigation which took place not during the day.  Each Marine wanna-be was handed a card with three list items on it.  The list items consisted of coordinates and paces.  We had to use our compasses to find each point somewhere on Parris Island and count paces to put us somewhere in the general area of an ammo box.  Each box would have a set of dog tags on it…we were to get proof that we were there by getting a pencil rub of the tags at each box.  The only rule was that this was an individual activity: we were not to help each other, talk to each other, or even acknowledge that anyone else was in South Carolina during Land Navigation. 

I managed to get all of my dog tag rubs during the Day Land Navigation course.  I will tell you that it was pretty freaking unnerving running around in the swamp, alone, during this exercise.  Those silly combat engineers designed the courses to cross water at least once, too.  So in addition to being alone in the hot, humid solitude of this place, we had to get into the neck-deep water here and there.  God only knows what creatures were swimming in there.  But no one joined the Marines for their excellent skin-care regimen.

The worst part:  hanging all around the pseudo-jungle of coastal South Carolina are these:

Giant freaky spider

Giant freaky spider

People there called them “banana spiders.”  Their webs were huge, and they liked to build them across paths.  (Do you know where this is going yet?)  Besides these lovely hand-sized arachnids, I also came across a few poisonous snakes, other bugs of unknown origin, birds that made creepy sounds, and plants that caused rashes and itchiness…but nothing bothered me as much as the banana spiders.  During the day, a person could avoid them. 

Then there was “Night” Land Nav.  It was a repeat of the day course, with different coordinates to find…but still the same sticky jungle fun.  And bonus:  we were not allowed to use our flashlights unless it was an emergency.  Now a lot of you gals are thinking but it’s already an emergency if those spiders are everywhere and I would agree with you, but the drill instructors mumbled something about “shut the eff up and MOVE.” 

And here is where you can imagine the cat-herding magnificence of seventy five eighteen year old chicks running around in the bug-filled swamp in the dark.

So there I was in the dark, in the swamp, in the hot August awfulness, roaming around, reading my stupid coordinates by the glow of my compass, thinking “what was I thinking, I could have gone to college” when my entire body walked into one of those webs I had seeing all throughout the day.  Now I knew the snakes and the creepizoids I had seen earlier were still there; but in the dark, it’s easy to imagine they are all cooped up in little hotel rooms watching I Love Lucy reruns, waiting to come out and terrorize people in the AM.  But those huge, sticky, awful webs you can feel, and they feel terrible when they stretch across your face in the dark. 

Major bug evility
Major bug evility

By the third or fourth time you walk into one of these webs you kind of become mentally numb to them.  And you get a whole new appreciation for jungle-based wars.  Mainly though, you can never take the little black spider in the corner seriously again. 

I’m still completely wimpy about ticks, though.  *Shudder*

E-Mail the pure creepiness to a friend


Leave a Comment
  1. lin / Jul 26 2010 10:44 pm

    When I see bugs i cry and scream and go into panic attacks its really scary for me.

  2. Matt / Jul 24 2008 10:25 pm

    Great post, but I still reject the premise that one can overcome a fear of spiders. I mean, what the hell are you talking about??

    Yeah…I really don’t know what I’m talking about. They’re spiders.

  3. kaylee / Jul 22 2008 9:38 pm

    OMG I hate spiders to!!!!!!!

  4. 2lazydogs / Jul 22 2008 11:51 am

    Ick, ick, ick. If I EVER encounter one of those webs I will surely freak out. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

    Cockroaches still bother me…even though I had them running across my sleeping body while living in a shabby apartment long, long ago. They are just nasty. No amount of ‘Joe’s Apartment’ viewing will ever convince me otherwise.

    Thanks so much for the linky-love!

    But they are so cute when they sing.

  5. cherikooka / Jul 22 2008 11:13 am

    I don’t like bugs either, especially ants because they crawl in your nose while you are sleeping and they eat your brain.

    Oh, and I think AJ might think that killing spiders in your house is bad. Something to do with “bringing death into your home.” I swear he didn’t get it from me.

    Don’t worry, we’ll have him squishing bugs again in no time…

  6. Pammy Girl / Jul 22 2008 10:32 am

    Spiders: EWWW. But let me also share your hatred of ticks, too. Last summer I was working out at a ghetto gym. Not only were there 3 Black Widow nests outside the front doors (staff didn’t give a rip when I informed them about their new residents). I remember doing my ab work on the floor (mats were provided) and then running on the treadmill. The treadmills are stationed in front of mirrored walls and who doesn’t love to check themselves out when they’re all sweaty?

    I forgot to take a towel so I used my shirt to wipe sweat off my face. In the mirror I noticed something black on my stomach and I knew I didn’t have a mole or a scar near by belly button. After further investigation, I realized there was a tick burrowing in my stomach and I got that tick on the gym floor.

    Did I mention that the gym staff shrugged their shoulders and said, “Huh”? I eventually went to the doctor because I couldn’t get the damn thing to fall off. And yes, I burned it, used Vasoline AND fingernail polish. *SHUDDER*

    That is simply awful. I bet you didn’t do ab work on that floor again. Gross. I hate ticks. Snakes on a plane, ticks in a gym.

  7. morethananelectrician / Jul 21 2008 8:20 pm

    I remember those roaches from SC (Ft. Jackson). As hard as it may be to believe, Augusta, GA is the home to the largest roaches that I have ever seen.

    Don’t ask me where the AquaNet hair spray came from, but armed with a can of it, and a lighter, we still couldn’t kill these things. They would walk along the wall, on fire and disappear out of the room smoking.

    After those nine months at Ft. Gordon, I actually left there more afraid of bugs than when I arrived.

    Well you know what they say, after the nuclear war, cockroaches and twinkies will be all that survived.

  8. steppingoverthejunk / Jul 21 2008 6:06 pm

    we have bugs here. greenheads on some of the beaches bite chunks out of our skin. and so forth. being from Cali, though, we just had flies and nothing much else. maybe a few spiders. the east coast is filled with bugs. I no likey.

    Ahh yes I forgot about sandfleas, too. The east coast is definitely a haven for bugs of all sizes…

  9. talea / Jul 21 2008 3:50 pm

    LOL, ‘because nothing should be flat and alive at the same time’…truer words have never been spoken!
    Ticks are the creepiest cuz they can get inside of you. That ain’t right. Stay out of my body!
    I never saw a cockroach til I moved to Toronto (I grew up in Saskatchewan, right above Montana) and when I did, I did the whole girly freakout. Blech.
    Walking through spiderwebs always forces me into the whole ‘get if off me! get it off me!’ dance.

    I wonder why I never saw a cockroach in Montana. I know they are here. Aren’t they like, everywhere?!?

  10. bluesuit12 / Jul 21 2008 7:45 am

    I used to work landscape and came across plenty of insects/spiders and by the grace of some miracle, I somehow managed not to yell out too much. But to walk into one of those webs you mentioned and have that thing on my face?? No thanks. I would have screamed bloody murder all the while running and hitting myself while my body would have immediately produced tears and snot. And I would probably dry heave too.

    I’m pretty sure I dry heaved, now that you mention it.

  11. megan / Jul 21 2008 5:23 am

    Congratulations on conquering your fear. Personally, although I’ve never been in a boot-camp situation, I’ve had my fair share of “immersion therapy” experiences, the majority of which have only increased my fear, rather than quelled them. Don’t feel bad about the ticks; we all need *something* about which to be a total wimp.

    I’m a big wimp about flying too…I tried immersion therapy in various forms to get over that…and like you, it only resulted in more fear.


  1. Too True…

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