Thursday, July 16, 2009


I've given you warm and fuzzy for the last several days. I hope you enjoyed it. Warm and Fuzzy is over, though. Steel yourself.

I spent my childhood and much of my young adulthood petrified of sharks. I saw JAWS too young. I had a pool in my backyard where my older sister insisted on playing Sharks and Minnows. I hated it.

When I was 9, my mother and I went to St. Croix with her new husband and my new step-sisters. We paddled on a raft out past the surf and the sandbars to look for conch shells for which the Virgin Islands are famous. My mother and her demon swam away from me and Brooke who was one year older, leaving us with the raft and responsible for kicking/riding into shore. It's the first memory I have of being quite sure that I was going to die. I was going to be attacked and eaten. I was sure of it, and I hyperventilated and prayed and kicked to make Michael Phelps proud. We made it. But I never really trusted my mother again.

I didn't realize until I got married that I was in the grasps of full-blown phobia. Jack would come home and have to empty the tub because I would plug it, turn the water on, take the bath but be terrified to reach in and pull the chain to let the water out because I had hallucinations of sharks swimming up the drain and into the tub.

I had debilitating anxiety about rainy days and the possibility of having to walk through puddles.

I had bowel problems from hovering over the toilet and pushing too hard and too fast because I was so scared to get my ass too close to the water which was surely teeming with sharks.

I understand now that this is ridiculous. But it was very, very real to me for a very long time.

What I did to try and heal myself was educate myself. I read every non-fiction book, saw every documentary, researched, searched again and again.

I learned that sharks are perfect. They have been on this planet with very little change for 400 million years. There are over 300 species and only 12 have been known to bite humans.

Humans kill sharks at a staggering rate. Up to 73 million a year. Every Year. That's more than double the 6 million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust, 15 Million Native Americans massacred in the assault on their land, 1 million systematically murdered in Rwanda, half a million to date raped, assaulted and killed in Darfur, and the quarter million killed in Bosnia. Every Year.

What these perfect creatures are killed for is their fins. The fins are used to make Shark Fin Soup, a delicacy in Chinese cultures. The irony is that the soup causes health problems when eaten in abundance. Sterility in men, most notably.

The sharks are caught on longlines. They are hauled on board. Their fins are cut from their bodies which are then thrown back into the water. The sharks are still alive but unable to swim. They sink and drown.

It is a most barbaric practice.

There is a documentary called Sharkwater that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in this.

Go here to sign a petition and send a letter to your senator encouraging them to vote yes on S. 850, the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 which will outlaw finning in US waters.



  1. Wow! That is a crazy fear you described! I could relate, at least to the toliet part. I remember hearing once about a snake that some how lived in some families septic tank and crawled up into their toliet. Some family member, unaware, came in to do their business and got an ass full of snake bite.

    I heard this when I was probably around 5 and it haunts me to this day. I cannot sit on the toliet with the lights out. I have to be able to check for snakes!!

    I'm glad that you took the education route. This is some really sad shit about sharks. Thanks for enlightening me.

  2. I've heard of shark fin soup, but never gave a second thought about how its main ingredient is acquired..that is seriously horrible. I'll sign that petition, I really hope that whomever is in charge listens to this plea. Thanks for bringing our attention to this...

  3. I understand your fear though, my fear of spiders is so silly but I can't get past it. Something in my brain is triggered and that is it not matter what.

  4. I totally get the part about being petrified of sharks.. I too saw Jaws at a young age, we had that gawd-awful Jaws inspired game where there was this plastic shark and you had to 'fish' things out of it's mouth before it snapped shut randomly.. *shudder* I still will not go out into the ocean beyond waist deep water... It's my own phobia I know... But I NEVER wanted them to be killed -- I just choose to stay out of their environment!

  5. That's horrible! Petition signed.

  6. Strong lady to go from such fear to taking steps to protect sharks. Yea, yea, I know you were never actually HURT by a shark... still... most folks would get over their phobia and then just walk away. Or maybe not even have the strength to confront their fear at all. VERY strong lady.

  7. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition! They really are such amazing creatures and vitally important to our oceans and so to our entire planet. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. wow!
    that's amazing that you've overcome your fear and are now fighting for their lives.
    i shall sign that petition asap!

  9. I totally relate... after seeing Jaws at the drive-in (yes I'm dating myself again), our parents decided it would be cool to buy me and my brother little rubber sharks. We had a 3 ft pool, and would toss them in, supposedly to retrieve them... but I couldn't! I didn't get over it for years... but also felt saddened at their abuse - no, brutality - which led to my first major, wildlife conservation. I still want to see one in the wild... and live!!