Fish Begone

One of my most vivid childhood memories is not walking along the beach in Cape Cod when I was about four. I say not walking because I refused to allow my feet to touch the ground, after seeing the myriad little air holes that snails buried beneath the sand left in the wake of the receding tide.

Snails! Beneath the sand! Snails that could touch me!

I recall shrieking and raising my feet as high as I could away from the invisible sand monsters below me, while my parents each grabbed an arm and dangled me between them.

This post at Notes from the Trenches just shook free this and other memories tied to my fear of fish.

Yeah, I know.

Shut up.

Stop laughing.

Despite my uncharacteristic affection for spicy tuna rolls, I don’t much care for sea creatures. I don’t like looking at them, I don’t like smelling them, I don’t like being too close to them. To this day I am reluctant to jump in the lake across from my mother’s house, even on a sweltering day like today, for fear that something might touch me. Something cool and slimy. Something alive. Something with gills. Because if one touches me…well, then. You know what could happen.


I’ll go in, eventually, but I don’t enjoy it the same as if I were swimming in a nice, crystal clear, fish-free swimming pool.

Oddly though, I like the aquarium. There’s a lot to be said for plate glass.

The great irony of my life is that my mom had to go ahead and marry a fisherman years later. Christopher is a guy who catches crab and planks shad for a living. A guy who used to gut fish on our kitchen counter during my extra-squeamish teen years. He even once dumped a pile of fresh shad roe into my high school girlfriend’s mitten. Like ohmigooooood, like your mom’s boyfriend is like soooooo weird to put fish eggs in my MITTEN.

Last week at the beach, Chris returned from the shoreline with a small black mussel that he placed in my daughter’s hand.

Far from freaked out, she was smitten.

“Baby animal!” she squealed, with the same delight as if this button-sized shell contained a kitten or a bunny.

She pet it and she kissed it and then clutched it tightly in her palm so that she could bring it back to its home in the water.

In some ways, I am delighted that Thalia is not like me.


33 thoughts on “Fish Begone”

  1. I can relate. I’m afraid of frogs (and toads). Doesn’t matter how big or small. Completely irrational, but I don’t care.Large snakes scare me as well, but I think that it’s pretty reasonable to fear something that could eat my cat.My husband loves all thing creepy and crawly and has every intention of passing this along to our son. I’m all for it. Just so long as he never brings a frog near me, heh.

  2. I am taking my 2 (!) year old son to the beach this weekend for the first time, and can’t wait to see how he reacts. Ditto on the cold and slimy and alive. And on spicy roll…

  3. Bossy watched Jaws the other night on the old movie channel. She became nostalgic for Fear Of Fish, instead of the Fear Of Hypodermic Needles that prompted the invention of those silly ocean shoes.

  4. That post gave me the creeps too — and I wonder what happened to the child that used to not be afraid of all things slimy and scaly?Thank god Katie hasn’t become like that yet, she will pick up any insect, creature or slimy thing that comes her way!Carrie

  5. You couldn’t pay me to swim in a ‘natural’ body of water unless it is absolutely crystal clear. I’ll take a pool any day. I do like to be close to bodies of water, however. By the way, I don’t think you have to be a surly teen to think that it’s gross to have a mitten full of fish eggs.

  6. I have the same fear and that is why I dont enter the water unless I can see clearly what is down there. I much rather sit on the beach and watch the waves. And if I see a fin, any fin, I am a gone pecan.

  7. It’s wonderful your daughter is not afraid of the ocean animals or the beach itself. I am somewhat jealous….My daughter absolutely hates the sand, the ocean, anything to do with the beach.

  8. I’ve had to caution Tacy to pet roly-poly bugs more gently. The notion of petting a bug – for FUN – escapes me, but I’ll gladly encourage her.

  9. Laughing at fairly odd mother’s comment!And BOSSY, I saw Jaws the other night also. Seems so…tame now.That’s a beautiful photo, Liz.

  10. I read your post and had to contribute the post my good friend Beth(Bizzy) left on my site today.. I think you will be able to relate:HERE IT IS…Cali is an awesome place. I once went to Cali and, while playing in the beach down the street from my uncle’s mansion on the balboa penninsula, caught a little black skeleton fish. This little guy climbed all over my hand and, as a child, I thought this was neat-O. So i took this dude home in an orange bucket. Later on….my aunt’s architect stopped by the house and explained that was some sort of blood sucking miscreant of a fish. I emptied the bucket and stepped on him. 🙁

  11. That is completely sweet, especially with the photo.I am working very hard to make my gal unafraid of bugs and fish and assorted other creatures. Even when she wants to check out the slugs, I suck it up and go along. (and then when she’s not looking I squish the slugs, because they are still slugs after all)

  12. Happy belated birthday to Thalia! Loved hearing of her bravery concerning all things slimy. I used to hate swimming in lakes because my cousin once emerged from one covered in leeches. LEECHES! All OVER her! I could die just thinking about it.

  13. I’m right there with you. Love swimming in pools, LOVE LOVE LOVE the aquarium, but real water? Like in nature? God only knows what’s lurking in the depths…Funnily enough, I do better when I’m snorkeling and can actually *see* what’s there. I think it’s more of a fear of the unknown thing for me. I blame Jaws.

  14. Ew Ew Ew I hate slimy snails and see creatures that could … you know … touch me!I so get this. And I get even more that it is good she is her own girl. Happy belated birthday Thalia!

  15. Oh, I can so relate. I hate swimming with the fishes. My kids, however, all three of them, are total nature lovers. Even the girl. Beautiful picture, too!

  16. i have that same fear! slimy underwater things that are ALIVE. And I also am willing to put that aside for a spicey tuna roll. spicey CRUNCHY tuna roll even better.what a sweet moment in the photo. one to treasure.Lisa

  17. I love this, the fact of us being glad when our children don’t necessarily take after all aspects of our own personality.

  18. The first time I remember going to the beach my uncle let me watch Jaws. Needless to say I didn’t spend a lot of time in there nor do I now. My husband on the other hand loves swimming with the fishes! YUCK!!!

  19. A phobia doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter how often you try to explain it, it is what it is. That sucks that you hate the fish so much though, cuz the beach is fun. Can you handle the sand in water shoes or something?

  20. I lived in Hawaii for a few years and couldn’t step into the ocean without hearing the Jaws theme in my head. DAda. DAda. DAdaDAdaDAdaDA…. It was the same with the river in my hometown. I was also afraid of touching something slimy with my toes. Ick! Swimming pools are dreamy…

  21. So, I will fully admit that my fondness for sealife is for cute *plush* creatures. Not the slimy real ones.Thanks for the lovely etsy octopus and blowfish pictures at CoolMomPicks. Love them!

  22. Tracey, I love the beach! I would just love it more if the fish all went to another beach, further down the road while I was there. Wordgirl: Surely you jest. Spicy tuna rolls at sushi restaurants are like the french fries of McDonalds.

  23. My daughter, at age 3, brought in a slug from the garden and announced, “Mom, isn’t it cute?” She still loves creatures of all kinds. Well, not spiders. But heck, she’s 20 now.

  24. Sort of off topic, but please let me commend you on the correct useage of the word “myriad”. One of my pet peeves is the incorrect useage of “a” and “of” before and after “myriad”.kandle

  25. I love fish. The ocean. Snails. Mussels. Anything. Must be my land locked soul crying out for sanctuary…The picture got me all choked up Liz. Man, do I miss my gramps.

  26. Snicker, snort, giggle…I’m not sure which is funnier, this post or the comments. We went to Maui when I was about 10. My step-sister is terrified of fish. When we went snorkeling she jumped on my little brothers back and stayed there the entire time, screaming when ever a fish came within ten feet of her. Wordgirl, you should go out and eat a spicy tuna roll right now. Like Now. You have no idea what you’re missing.

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