After having a kitchen heart-to-heart with my “not that drunk” housemate, Elle (name changed for “anaminity”), this post is going to be about ladybugs. Because, as Elle so astutely commented, “Ladybugs are not sexy.”
Too true, Elle, too true.
Here’s the backstory…
I’m in thesis crunch time. I’ve got less than a week until a major assessment and for days upon end I’ve been attached to my laptop like there’s an umbilical cord between us. I haven’t been sleeping much, anxiety is at an all-time high, and I decide it’s time to get out and do something else.
At this time, I was using OkCupid to meet guys. I think it’s a great site. Honestly I think it’s superior to its competition because match percentages are based on the questions you care about, rather than things like “rate your sense of humor on a scale of 1 to 10.” OkCupid match questions are made by the users, and feature queries like, “What’s bigger, the moon or the sun?” and you bet I care a lot more about your actual answer to that, rather than your arbitrary assessment of your own personality.
“Do you think spanking is kinky?”
“Would you kick a man who kicked his dog?”
“How often do you brush your teeth?” these are the things I need to know!
I made a match and made a date. We were to have an after-dinner meeting at a local cafe, easy peasy, low commitment and low stress.
Prior to his arrival, I was chowing down and Netflixing nature documentaries. (Is that what you actually do in your free time? you ask. I’m a PhD student, so for the next few years ‘cool’ is out the window, mmk?). The one I wound up watching was about ladybugs* (or the ‘ladybird beetle’ if you’re not from around here). Specifically, the orange variety are completely enigmatic because they predict the upcoming winter’s severity with flawless accuracy 6 months ahead of time. I mean, come on, how does that work?! Nobody knows. The documentary had no answers, it only left me with more questions and a newfound respect for our little beetle friends.
Mouth full, laptop on, headphones in- this was the state in which my date found me. Have you seen Miss Congeniality? In the beginning, there’s a scene with Sandra Bullock (pre-makeover) and Michael Caine- they’re at dinner, she’s barely socially tolerable, and he says, “I’m sorry, what was the question? I was distracted by the half-masticated cow rolling around in your wide-open trap.” That was me. Social grace was not with me on this day. My dating angels had vacated their posts, probably face-palming in shame at the state in which I was. I should note here also that my feet were up on what would be his chair, I hadn’t showered in at least 24 hours, and I wasn’t wearing makeup but I figured, “Hey, who cares? Today I’ll be one of those girls who doesn’t wear makeup, it’s totally fine.”
Well, yes, that is totally fine, when you still project a sense of overall hygiene and propriety, which I did not.
My overall appearance had seen better days.
But still, I live in a nerdy, academic town and you have to expect that the factor of “normalcy” is somewhat nebulous here. I confidently thought that even in my state, I was still safely within the “still normal, for here” zone of social interaction.
My date approached, I swallowed hastily and greeted him, jerkily wiping the chair of any potential shoe residue. We had the preliminary conversation starters- where are you from, how long have you been here, what do you do, etc. And then we had a lull.
I’m okay with silence, I really am. I’m comfortable with it, but I’m also a blurter. If something’s on my mind, I’ll rarely wait for the appropriate time to voice it, and if it’s interesting on top of that- oh man, look out. When something’s interesting, I’m a linebacker pursuing that beautiful football of knowledge (I actually know nothing about football and am pretty bad at metaphors, for the record).
We sat in polite silence for a few moments, smiling nervously at one another.
“Hey,” I began, “Did you know that ladybugs can predict the weather?”
“Uh, no… No, I can’t say I knew that.”
“Yeah! Well, not all ladybugs, I guess, just the orange ones. I’m not really sure what the difference is actually, you know, between the orange and the red ones, but the orange ones can predict the weather.”
He made a really admirable attempt at humoring me, “How’s that?”
Any socially aware person would have recognized that this was something that could be described as ‘feigned interest’ but I was not socially aware at this point in time. I was going to doggedly pursue this topic of conversation until I had some answers, and his feigned interest was all the impetus I needed to go full-blown nerd.
“Nobody knows!” I was so excitable, “Scientists have been studying them for years and nobody knows why or how they know, but they really seem to know! They huddle together and hibernate and make themselves super safe if it’s going to be a rough winter, which it always is if they do that, but they hibernate in more accessible areas if it’s going to be an easy one. That way they can get out super fast and do, I don’t know, like, ladybug things when spring comes.”
He nodded silently, glancing around at the other patrons of the cafe, some of whom were curiously peering our way probably because of the animated gesticulation that accompanied my spiel. You would probably stare, too, if you ever saw an unkempt woman in an upscale cafe miming ‘ladybugs hibernating and doing ladybug things.’
I can’t really blame him for non-verbal response at this point. This wasn’t one of our match questions, my apparent enthusiasm for colorful beetles wasn’t listed on my dating profile. He was understandably lost.
“That’s, uh, cool.”
I nodded and smiled encouragingly, no less enthused.
I’m not sure what conversation we got onto after that, but it wasn’t long before he excused himself and we went our separate ways.
A few days later I had my stressful assessment over and done with, and I realized I never heard from the guy. Having returned to the showered, socially presentable sect of civilization, life was mostly once again normal for me. I was walking past the cafe where we’d met when I glanced in and saw the table where we had sat that evening and I had a sharp and sudden pang of remembrance that stopped me dead in my tracks.
“How do they do that?!”
*The documentary was on Animal Planet: Most Extreme, Series 5, Episode 73. “Psychics: Species that seem to predict the future; ladybird beetle.” Aired 19 June 2007.
P.S. I still don’t understand how it works. If you do then please tell me, unless the ladybug mafia swore you to secrecy.