Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
Summer is over. Kind of. Maybe. Honestly, who knows when summer ends anymore? As I write this it’s 90 fucking degrees out but feels like 103, so maybe summer just won’t end this year.
I hope, however, that the seasons change soon because I’ve had a bad summer. They say things happen in threes, and I hope that’s true because I’ve been through three very difficult experiences in the last few months, the last of which was bedbugs. And by was bedbugs I mean is bedbugs because I’m getting my second (and hopefully final!) round of fumigation on Monday. After that, I have to keep all my clothes in sealed plastic bags for another month so this experience is far from over, but since I’m currently between fumigations I feel like I’m on vacation!
I just realized I wrote “hope” three times in the last paragraph because, after all these trials and tribulations hope is what I am, finally, full of. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see the end of this terrible summer fast approaching. Yes it’s still hot, but the first leaves are starting to turn. Fall is coming, and with it the promise of a new beginning — and, hopefully, no more fucking bugs biting me in the middle of the night.
For years I’ve heard people talk about the trauma of dealing with bedbugs, and now I know they weren’t exaggerating. A few months ago, my now ex-boyfriend found one in my bed. I wanted to pretend it was some other kind of bug but he made me face reality and take it seriously. I called an inspector who brought in a little Dachshund/Beagle mix (that I was allowed to pet only after the inspection) to sniff around my apartment. When the dog only detected bedbugs in my box spring, his human companion told me if I just covered it, I’d be fine.
So I did that and for nearly two months, there were no signs of bedbugs and I thought I’d survived it. Then I got a bite on my leg which swelled up into a huge, infected bullseye (see pics here!). I thought it was a tick bite, but a week or so later, I got two more bites, and the week after that another, and each time they swelled into huge, itchy red hives. One overtook nearly my entire upper arm. I realize now that this had been happening since February, but for months I thought I was getting ringworm. When it started up again this summer, the hives looked more noticeably like bites. I showed a couple of doctors, both of whom said they didn’t know what bug was attacking me but “at least they’re not bedbug bites.”
Though it seems obvious now, I remained in denial about my bedbugs until I found another one in my bed about a month ago. A different inspector came, and though he insisted I didn’t have a big problem, he used the word “infestation” more than once. As soon as he left, the work began. I’ve spent the past month cleaning and packing everything in my apartment. My apartment got fumigated two weeks ago and will again next week so everything’s still in airtight containers and sealed plastic bags. All the photos and paintings that are normally hanging on the walls are wrapped in plastic and stacked in a corner. They say to make your bed an island, which I’ve attempted to do even though my room is barely the size of a kiddie pool, so there’s almost no room to swim around it.
When you’re diagnosed with bedbugs, the first and most immediate instruction you’re given is to wash all your clothes and bedding. Here’s the worst part: everything must be dried on high heat for at least 40 minutes to kill any eggs the bugs may have laid. Fortunately, I’ve been so depressed this summer that I’ve barely eaten, so even my smallest jeans still fit, though it took me a full 30 minutes to get them on after taking them out of the dryer. One bonus: they shrunk up about an inch so now they’re almost the right length for me! I have to continue to dry my clothes on high heat for another month or two so you know what that means: I can’t eat a goddamn thing until Thanksgiving!
Another good side effect of this dark summer is that I no longer give a flying fuck about much of anything. As soon as I found the second bedbug, it got hot, and I decided I no longer needed to bother searching through plastic bags to find both a shirt and a bra to wear when one would suffice. Thus I’ve spent the last month walking around with either my tits or my stomach out — sometimes both! When you spend $4,000 on bedbug eradication (which will be taken out of my rent over the course of the next few months but yes my bank account is empty and yes I’m panicking!), you can no longer afford to be self-conscious.
Not giving a fuck is incredibly liberating. I’ve been walking dogs all over my neighborhood in decade-old sports bras that are so stretched out they cover my entire ribcage and allow my tits to flop around like fish on dry land. In an act of true optimism, I threw both of those ancient bras in the trash yesterday in the hopes that it was our last 90 degree day.
This past month, my uniform has been an old pair of black short overalls (shorteralls?) with either just a bra underneath or a crop top or bodysuit and no bra. It’s comfortable as hell, keeps me cool and, most importantly, creates very little laundry. Here’s the good thing about having bedbugs in the summer: you wear less clothing. Here’s the bad thing: you sweat constantly (or at least I do) so you have to (or at least should) wash you clothes after one wear. As soon as you take off your clothing, you have to seal it in plastic bags, so if you don’t wash something, it’s going to be damp and smelly when you take it out of the bag. Drying t-shirts and shorts on high heat is one thing, but putting bras through the dryer too many times will destroy them. I have a lot of clothing I usually wash on the delicate cycle and don’t put in the dryer, but now I’m blasting everything with high heat because EVERYTHING WILL BURN JK but it will shrink!
I’ve gone rogue, at least when it comes to how I do laundry and dress, and I’ve got to say it feels pretty good. I keep telling myself that in a month, when I can finally unpack, I’ll feel like this was all worth it. Because I have purged. I’ve gotten rid of so much shit. All my life, I’ve been a collector or, as my mom used to say, a pack rat. While cleaning a couple of weeks ago, I found a stack of CDs which included a DVD set of “Sex and the City” a guy who lived down the hall burned for me freshman year of college for $5. Why did I still have that, especially when I have HBO Now? Great question! But I threw it straight in the trash and have barely regretted it since.
I’m what I call a consumer and others may call a materialistic piece of shit, so having a very, very important reason to get rid of things has been good for me. I also hold onto way too much stuff for sentimental reasons (including, I think, that SATC “box set”), so this experience has been a good cure for that. The first time I found an unworn article of my dead mother’s clothing with the tags still on, I tore them off, threw it in my laundry pile and cried. The third time, I threw it in the trash. The sixth time, I lit it on fire and imagined I could hear the bugs scream! Why, you may ask, do I have so much of my mom’s clothing with the tags still on? Because she had buyer’s remorse and I have regular remorse.
I didn’t actually burn my mom’s clothing. While I know a white denim jacket she bought at Talbots but thought was too daring too actually wear will never bring her back, it’s a tiny piece of her. I remember, shortly after my mother died, I was talking to a friend who’d lost his mother a few years earlier. He told me he had been the one to clean out her closet, and that the hardest part was finding items with the tags still on because it left him wondering when she bought it and why she had never worn it, if it was because she decided she didn’t like it or because she never had the chance. My mom never got the chance to wear that jacket, and while I may never wear it, I still want to give myself the opportunity. So I washed it and dried it (on high heat!) and sealed it up in a plastic bag. Maybe one day I’ll throw it out, but not yet. Maybe one day I’ll wear it, but right now I’ve got on a pair of shorts and a sports bra, and that’s all I can bear to sweat into today.
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares that I have bedbugs even though I can’t stop talking about it. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, shrunken item of clothing or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!