Bill and I recently spent two weeks on the East Coast. We toured Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and New York. We’ve done variations of this trip before, mostly in warm weather so we’ve got prime conditions to visit the family lakehouse.
I know how that sounds. “Ooh, a lakehouse! That sounds nice!” Largely, it is. I love family time at the lakehouse.
I also dread hanging out at the lakehouse. Swimming in the fresh standing water is fun. Being outside of the water – on the shore, on a picnic bench, in a hammock, using the bathroom – no matter what I do, mosquitoes get me. I’m the bait.
Being the bait.
When I tell people, “I’m that person who gets bitten all the time,” I am not exaggerating. Hanging out by a campfire, where, theoretically, mosquitoes prefer to avoid the smoke, I acquired twenty-two bites. (We were at an outdoor wedding where the bride played frisbee in her dress. I ended up hiding in the car for the last twenty minutes, the bun in my hair loose and fallen apart from shaking my head so hard because two mosquitoes were buzzing in my ears. The bobby pins went flying and I never got them back.) One night lying covered head-to-toe in clothing, wrapped in a blanket, with only my eyes peeking out of my hoodie, we watched a meteor shower. I felt a prick in my back pocket and said, “I think a mosquito just bit my butt.” Everyone said, “Really? No, no way,” and they were all wrong. A mosquito bit me while I was lying in the ground, through a blanket and the two layers of denim covering the cheek of my ass. MOSQUITOES BITE ME THROUGH THREE LAYERS OF FABRIC.
When I tell people, “I’m that person who gets bitten all the time,” they often reply the best way they know how, which is by dispensing advice for someone who doesn’t have a fucking clue what a mosquito is. They tell me the remedies I “should try”:
- You should try wearing repellant.
- You should try Avon Skin So Soft.
- You should wear long sleeves.
- You should not eat bananas.
- You should light a citronella candle.
- You should take garlic pills.
- You should take lots of vitamin B before your trip.
When I tell people, “I’m that person who gets bitten all the time,” I am saving them the defeatist attitude I have toward my condition. I have tried all these things.
- You should try wearing repellant. Repellant, you say? Why, I have never heard of such a solution! Wow, you must have a degree in Being a Genius, because clearly my nincumpoop being is totally incapable of taking care of itself. At this point, I have DEET running through my fucking veins. I drink AfterBite as a chaser. You should try not assuming I am a complete dumbass.
- You should try Avon Skin So Soft. Skin So Soft, huh? You mean that beauty oil that was discovered to allegedly repel insects? The one that smells like eucalyptus, moistens my flesh, and makes me a dewy, flavored dessert for all bugs who shall land on me? I just told you I am “the bait.” Why would I further season myself for bloodsucking bugs?
- You should wear long sleeves. I. Wear. Everything. I. Buy. Everything. Did you know that you can buy a wide-brimmed hat at Wal-Mart for less than eight dollars? Do you know why I know that? BECAUSE THE HAT NET I BOUGHT WORKS BEST WITH A WIDE-BRIMMED HAT. I bought a wide-brimmed hat to accommodate my major loser hat net. Believe me. I wear long sleeves. In 90-degree weather. I wear long sleeves.
- You should not eat bananas. Someone told me that bananas make my blood smell sweet. Really now? Side eye.
- You should light a citronella candle. Citronella candles smell delicious. Citronella candles signal to the Mosquito World that Mayka the Lemonade Stand is handing out free samples. Lemme light a citronella candle and pour the hot drippings into your belly button while you’re sleeping. I hear some people like that, thus elucidating the true value of citronella candles.
- You should take garlic pills. Again with the aromatic food remedies. Disguising myself as a salad is not going to protect me.
- You should take lots of vitamin B before your trip. First people try to tell me I smell too much like bananas (IT’S CAUSE I’M ASIAN, ISN’T IT?), now people say I’ve got a vitamin deficiency that makes me attractive to mosquitoes. That is some impressive conspiracy theory ish. Please tell me what it’s like to live in a cabin in the woods, weaving through your cobweb of yarn connecting Biblical sites, assassinated public figures, and number patterns in the The New York Times.
Here is the truth.
Buckle up, Katniss, because you’re about to become the hunter. – is what I say to myself when I prep for the outdoors. I’ve come upon a few learnings in my days of being a Very Rare cut of steak to mosquitoes:
- Mosquitoes like women, and mosquitoes like body heat. Are you a woman who typically runs warm in body temp? Fist bump in solidarity, sister. We are not in luck.
- You can be allergic to mosquito bites. It’s not as simple as turning red and getting itchy. I get symptoms of blistering, and I have multiple friends who get faint and dizzy, or suddenly feel dehydrated. Do not blame us if we choose not to go hiking with you.
- Prescription creams don’t always work. My dermatologist gave me a steroidal cream to apply to bugbites after they happen. It did very little. The skin around the bite became super sensitive, even transparent, I’d say. The bites themselves became brighter, redder, than the bites to which I didn’t apply topical cream. In fact, wherever the cream touched my skin, I turned a luminescent red. You could literally trace the finger around each outline. All that, and I’m not convinced the itchiness subsided.
- When in doubt, do DEET. I’m all for the cause, trying to live an ecologically conscientious and sustainable life, but when it comes to bug repellant, I’m hungry like a vixen: GIMME THAT DEET!
- Ammonia is a magical alcohol. AfterBite is the other must in my toolkit. Otherwise, I wake myself up scratching my skin to shreds.
- Live in Northern California.
I hope this works.
This week I heard about Kite, which, if there was a G-d, should have been given to me as part of an “It’s a Tasty Girl!” welcome package to the world. This tiny patch claims to confuse mosquitoes’ detection of carbon dioxide, making the wearer “invisible” to bugs for up to forty-eight hours.
This sounds more science-y than the citronella/garlic ointments people try to rub on me, and that makes me hopeful. It’s also FDA-approved, which makes me less scared to try it. I’m so eager to be a guinea pig that I backed it on IndieGoGo (apparently it’s the #1 on IndieGoGo right now!), signing up for a perk package that promises to test ten Kites where mosquito bites are deadly, plus send me a delivery of ten Kites in the mail (and a sticker, but honestly I don’t care about the sticker). Here I was, wanting a pack of Kites to get me through a life of adventure and exploration, and actually I’m also potentially helping prevent the spread of malaria in Uganda. Thanks, Olfactor Laboratories!
At this point, the Kite IndieGoGo campaign doesn’t need any more money. They’ve raised $260,626 out of the initial $75,000 requested, and they still have thirty-five days to go. But if this works, if Kite protects Ugandans from the threats of malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus, then I’m all for being a pest to the repellant market.
If my Kites work, I will eat my hat net.* Seasoned in citronella, garlic, and banana.
*Or at least sacrifice it in a Pagan ritual of thanks.
I’m not stupid. I’ve been bug bait for twenty-nine years. I know that my blood tastes good. I know that repellant exists. I know that DEET is bad for me. I know that lots of places in the world have mosquitoes, and many of those mosquito bites prove deadly and fatal.
If I tell you “I’m that person who gets bitten all the time,” all I’m really saying is:
No, I won’t go on that nature walk with you because I’ll be eaten alive.
Gimme a minute. I need to get my wide-brimmed hat, hat net, long-sleeve shirt, hoodie, denim bottoms, socks, and sneakers.
Be a pal and shower me in that bucket of repellant, will you?