11 October 2008

Something's Fishy

My name is Jill, and I am afraid of fish. (“Hi, Jill!”)

I read somewhere that most animal phobias have their root in childhood trauma, and mine is probably no different, although I can’t be sure what did it for me. I think it goes back to my first vacation. My family took a trip to Sea World when I was 2½. I was wandering down a hallway, the walls of which were actually large aquariums. I stopped to look at a small, plain-looking fish. My sister was with me. She tapped on the glass or something, I don’t remember. Maybe she just pissed the thing off. All I know is that one minute the fish was this big, the next, it was THISBIG. It was a puffer fish. And it scared the tar out of me. I don’t remember looking at any more fish there, but I do remember the penguins, and thinking that they were magic for some reason. I don’t know. I was two.

I still sort of think that about penguins, though. I love penguins.

In any case, I’ve always hated/feared the slimy little Satan-spawn. They creep me out and make me nauseas. Most of the time it’s not a problem, since people don’t exactly walk their pet fish, or put fish pictures up on their living room walls or wear fish t-shirts. But every now and then my phobia would become a problem.

My parents wouldn’t let us have a cat or dog, and thanks to me a pet fish wasn’t going to happen either. When our neighbors asked us to watch their pet goldfish while they went out of town, my parents had to prop open books and magazines up around the bowl so I couldn’t see it. Aquariums were off-limits. Nature shows were a no-no. Forget about serving tuna. And when I went shopping with my mother, we had to carefully detour around the seafood in the meat department.

But still, we all adjusted, and it was just one of those cute little quirky things about me, the same as my compulsion to correct the grammar of others, or my habit of memorizing the disturbing facts I learned in “Reader’s Digest” or my penchant for dramatics or my night terrors. And as I grew up, I learned to adjust. I simply avoided the fishing report in the local newspaper; I stayed away from the hunting and fishing area of Wal-Mart. I didn’t think much about it anymore.

However, in recent years, the health-conscious have begun promoting fish as a good way to increase one’s omega-3 fatty acid intake. I’m cool with that. But it’s not enough, apparently, for magazines and newspapers to suggest eating fish. Oh, no. They have to accompany this recommendation with photographs. Of fish – more specifically, dead fish, in threes and fours, piled on plates, their cold, soulless eyes staring up at the reader, wispy little tails and fins in place and everything.

Ugh. I’m getting sick just writing this. Pardon me while I vomit.

Okay. But honestly, there has to be a better way to convince me to eat something. If pork was suddenly found to be highly nutritious, would photo editors suddenly start accompanying their pictures of broccoli and asparagus with shots of lifeless porcine carcasses? I think not. Showing a dead animal, as is, is not very appetizing. What’s wrong with showing a fillet of some sort, all cooked and pretty with a little garnish? Why show me slimy black fish bodies? It didn’t used to be this way. But lately I have noticed more and more and more of it. Every article about health and diet has a picture of the little dead devil-things on a platter. And I’m here to say enough. I’m tired of having to ask my mother to pre-screen my periodicals for me with a sharpie and scissors so she can make things safe for me. I had to stop subscribing to “Martha Stewart Living” for just this reason (well, also, it sort of sucked).

I’d rant more, but I feel another good sick coming on. Let me just conclude by saying that when I read an article about how the ocean’s fish were in danger of dying out by 2040, my first thought was hallelujah, followed by the thought that it’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near the ocean. All those dead SOBs have to go somewhere, and it’s best if where ever it is, is far, far away from me.

And by the way, the irony of the fact that penguins EAT fish is not lost on me. I try not to think about it. It’s easier to like them that way.

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