(Sorry for the delay in the last two posts, this weekend’s convention and the huge snowstorm surrounding it has set my blog schedule back a bit! Thanks for waiting!)
I love vermin.
There’s no other way to say that, really. I just love things that people often classify as vermin. I like mice, I like rats, I LOVE snakes, I even like lots of kinds of bugs. I won’t kill an insect if I can possibly avoid it. I hand-carry all insects in my office outside, even stink bugs. I once felt horribly guilty about putting a stink bug outside while it was snowing and I ended up leaning out of my window to rescue him from the gutter and keep him safe in a jar in my office, until the weather warmed up a bit and I could put him out again. I’m the only one in the house who will venture into the spider-infested basement, where active webs hang all over everything, including the fuse box. When a fuse blows, I have to go down, gingerly brush away the various sizes of spiders covering the box, and flip the switches.
I was idly pondering this the other day when I saw a screencap from Disney’s Enchanted, wherein Giselle parodies the stereotype of a singing princess surrounded by her animal friends, by singing with a group of what can only be classified as vermin: cockroaches, rats and pigeons. It’s funny because it’s so different from the usual princess friends, like cuddly chipmunks, bluebirds and rabbits.
It made me wonder about a lot of things, like why princesses get away with only chumming up to the cute animals…and more importantly, why people I’ve met who say they love animals and all living things will then turn around and step on something that they don’t like the looks of, regardless of its living or nonliving state.
I’m not a vegetarian or anything and I think it’s acceptable to eat other creatures to survive. It’s also acceptable to kill creatures if they’re one inch away from murdering you. But I think it’s wrong to kill something just because you don’t like its face, and somehow that makes me the weird one in certain circles.
Specifically, when I worked at a previous job on a jewelry assembly line, we sat outside at picnic tables during lunch break. I’d often find some really pretty shiny green beetles on certain plants, or an interesting stick bug, and the other people working there wouldn’t want anything to do with me while I was holding it. They wouldn’t even look at it, no matter how amazing it was. They also kind of laughed at me for rescuing bugs that wandered into the building and putting them outside…spiders, sugar ants, anything that might be killed for being pests. They thought I was gross for having owned mice as pets, a giant Norway rat named Robespierre, and a few little green snakes.
I don’t get why people think mice are adorable, but rats are gross. They carry basically the same amount of diseases in the wild. Yet more people are cool about my pet mice than they were about my pet rat (all of whom were from the pet store and totally clean). Mice are supposedly adorbs, like Mickey and Minnie, like Cinderella’s friends Gus-Gus and Jacques. Rats are often shown as horrible creatures, like the rat in Lady and the Tramp. I never understood that when I was young…The Rats of NIMH has always been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl, more so than any Disney animal movie. Rats are smarter than mice and can do more tricks. More importantly, they’re just as alive and they deserve our respect. I’m glad they eventually came out with Ratatouille, making creatures like rats a little more sympathetic.
Some people at my aforementioned job thought it was funny that I’m a professional princess and I feel so strongly about letting all things live, even if I find them inside. I was especially upset when I found some baby mice at my old apartment and rescued and fed them myself, before releasing them into the wild when they were bigger. I was talking about this at work once, when a co-worker made a sort of gagging noise at the mention of mice.
"I found a nest of baby mice once," she said nonchalantly. "I stomped them all to death so they wouldn’t get into the house."
I was…well, I tried really hard NOT to stare at her in horror, but I’m pretty sure I failed. I had no words for how horrifically cruel that was. And the odd thing was, I would have never pegged her for someone who would do such a thing. I can understand some people wanting to put something out of its misery if you know it will probably die anyway, but stomping baby anythings to death? Is it just me, or are other people upset by that idea as well? I’m genuinely asking, because they all made it seem like it was just me. And she was the nicest girl in the world, bought locally and cared about the environment and recycling and everything. But not about vermin, I guess.
I think that’s why I initially used the Mouse Princess vs. Rat Princess comparison on this blog, both as an allusion to Mickey Mouse and his “official” princesses, and to my love of under-respected creatures like rats. I don’t see why only pretty or useful animals get treated well in animated movies, especially insects. Sure, Wall-E had his little cockroach friend, but he wasn’t human and that little bug sure got flattened and run over a hell of a lot.
Insects don’t get a lot of respect, outside of bees, butterflies and fireflies and anything cute and colorful. I’ll admit I don’t like some insects…I used to be horribly afraid of spiders, until we moved to this new house. One day, the power went out and someone had to go down to Spideropolis to reset the fusebox. No one else wanted to do it and I was running late and needed my hair dryer. So I went down there, in the gross dark stone basement, and tiptoed over to the far wall, only to find the fusebox covered in spiders.
As I stood there looking at my worst fear, I realized that it was either gonna be me, or no one else at all. So I carefully put one hand on the box and wiped the spiders gently out of the way, then reset the switches. And you know what? I didn’t explode and die, like I thought I would. I was pretty sure touching spiders was going to kill me, but it didn’t. And after that, it was like a switch had been flipped inside me as well, and I stopped being scared of insects.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t automatically like all bugs now, but I respect them. Bugs do hard jobs and they get the short end of the stick. They keep the whole world running, they live for a very short time, everything in the world wants to eat them and if they stumble into the wrong house, no amount of web-building is going to keep them from starving to death anyway. Bugs never get birthday parties. I bet they’d like at least one.
Bugs can’t help it if they freak you out. They’re just trying to be the best bugs they can be.
Another story from my previous job: one day, I saw a really big spider in the corner of the kitchen area, by the wall next to the fridge. He was duking it out with a little tiny spider, who was fighting back, despite the big spider being about 10 times his size. I felt so bad for the little spider, who was clearly going to lose this match. I kept sneaking by on breaks throughout the day to see what was going on in this battle.
Right before lunch, I was AMAZED to find that the little spider actually won! He killed the huge spider and was totally lording it over him. I was pretty stoked for him, until I came back from lunch and found that someone had squashed them both and thrown them away on a tissue.
"Why did you kill the little one?!" I said to my co-worker culprit. "He EARNED the right to live, dammit! He was a gladiator among spiders!”
Now that I think back on it, I’m not surprised people thought I was weird.
My point, if there is in fact a point to any of this, is that if you want to be a princess, you can’t just love the cute animals, and not just because lots of cute animals still technically have as many diseases as non-cute ones. You can’t say you love animals and all living things, then get skeeved out by certain living things. You gotta take the vermin with the pets. And even if you have to put some outside, or even if you have to spray for them because otherwise they might invade your house, you should at least do it with the unspoken agreement that you still respect them and you only do it for your own protection. Don’t step on bugs just because you don’t feel like looking at them alive. Use humane mouse and rat traps when possible. Don’t be mean to snakes. Never kill crickets, because they are very lucky. Spiders may freak you out, but they catch other bugs that might be more harmful, so that’s always something.
And if you see a bug outside and it grosses you out, just wish it a happy day and let it get on with its buggy business.
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