I am scared of sharks.
I know, I know, a person has a better chance of having their body cavities probed by aliens than being eaten by a shark. Fear is a powerful thing, though, especially when it forms during one’s impressionable years. The first time I saw the movie Jaws was the last time I entered the water without fear. And the drain in the deep end of the neighborhood pool…well, let’s just say that I knew long before my peers that the urine-revealing chemical that was allegedly added to pool water in those days was nothing but an urban myth, because that sharky looking drain scared the piss out of me more than once.
You know how lifeguards would blow their whistle at you if you didn’t exit the deep end fast enough after jumping off the diving board? Yeah, that shit never happened to me. I got out of the water so fast that my swimsuit was dry before my foot touched the top rung of the ladder.
Then there were my dad’s weekend water-skiing trips to the lake. Yes, it was fresh water, not the ocean; yes, those were snapping turtles, not sharks. But being stalked by any kind of species from the deep tends to kick your “fight or flight” response into high gear. Unfortunately, whipping out one’s mad ninja skills is a bit of a challenge when you’re in a life jacket in the open water, legs tucked into a set of water skis, your ass-cheeks bobbing around like a shark treat. Once I successfully stood up from a deep-water start, I transformed into the Youth Water-Skiing Champion of the Universe, bravely withstanding choppy waters, fallen skiers, and the telltale ripples of man-eating snapping turtle-sharks in order to thwart my dad’s sadistic attempts to turn me into chum.
Sure, self-preservation is a powerful thing, but after a while the constant terror tends to chip away at your psyche. Which is why I like to write fictional characters, like Alice Faye Dahl in Alice in Wonderland, who are brave enough to do what I won’t—namely, stride boldly into the ocean until the water’s up to her waist—and then mercilessly mock her for 300+ pages after the shark bites her in the ass.
As a grownup, I learned that an irrational fear of sharks has a fancy name, “galeophobia,” which is derived from the Greek words “galeos” (i.e. “shark with markings resembling those on a weasel”) and “phobos” (i.e. “scared shitless of sharks”). Later, I learned that galeophobia is also used as an alternate term to describe someone who is afraid of cats. On the face of it, this makes absolutely no sense, but remember that ancient Greeks sat around all day sipping crack-laced ambrosia and hallucinating all sorts of unnatural animal hybrids. But don’t worry; in 2005, Congress passed S659, preemptively thwarting any future attempts to unleash animal-human hybrids on an unsuspecting American public.
But I avoid cats now, too. You know, just to be extra-sure.
Because cat-sharks, bitches.
Read Chapters 1-3 of Alice in Wonderland (a Romantic Comedy).
Available on Amazon.