So… I got crabs over Memorial Day Weekend. Or, as I was telling everyone while I spent my holiday bent over a hand mirror picking bugs out of my crotch, I finally joined the deepest camaraderie of human-kind.
Connected Claws of Consciousness
Because even though “getting crabs” feels, to me, like such a 1970s thing— something that goes with macramé, fondue parties, and talking to your houseplants with naught but a sungoddess-print tulle caftan to cover your big untrimmed bush— crabs are, in fact, one of the first ailments. Louse, the word, is one of the oldest words in language. Not one of the oldest words in the English language, mind you, but one of the oldest of words in ANY language. Way way back, somewhere between 80,000 and 1.8 million years ago (there’s still some debate as to when language first appeared… some anthropological and linguistic nits to pick), when the ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors first turned grunts into words, they talked about light/dark, come/go, this/that, one/many, mama, and the humble louse.
I have joined the crab-collective and I am in good company. Oscar Wilde may have had crabs. Nella Larsen may have had crabs. Willa Cather, Samuel Delany, Sandra Cisneros, William S Burroughs and Augusten Burroughs all may have had crabs. Both Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, may have had crabs. We can rest assured that Coleridge almost certainly had crabs, and very likely more than once. And on and on and on, all the way back. Shakespeare couldn’t talk about the penis (the word doesn’t appear until the 1670s), or vagina (1680s)[note-1], or two dicks rubbing against one another (dick meaning “penis” isn’t attested until 1891!), but he could talk about crabs (…crab, meaning the specific kind of louse found in your pillicock house, is from the 1540s, after all). Sappho was a right-on woman, and it’s very possible that even she suffered the scourge of pubic lice at some point.
To get crabs, therefore, is not simply a way to live my 70s Swinger Dream Realness, but to connect with the history of our species as I scratch an itch that transcends time. As I shave my balls I shrive my brethren, joining with the mind of that First Thinker, as they also had their “oh, for fuck’s sake…” moment on a long-before Sunday evening, long before Sunday even was.
The little nutsack spiders were a gift.
The Woo of You
And I’m trying to be more woo[note-2] this year, so I’m looking for patterns, searching for symbols, allowing the universe to guide me with its hidden meanings. And I’m pondering the meaning of crabs. Crabs, Cancer, claws… scratching, carving, complaining, kvetching… shuffling along the beach, a sideways movement, an old grump.
Cancer the Crab!—ruled by the Moon, a cardinal water sign, the first sign of summer and herald of the solstice! The longest day of the year will be owned by the Crab, and I don’t mean the ten hours I spent straining my back to check the hair on my taint for nits, just in case, just last week. I mean the Great Arthropod of Stars above us, the carefree summer’s answer to the dark mysteries of That Other Arthropod of late October. Maybe crabs are what happen when a Scorpio hexes a Capricorn? Or maybe crabs are a sex-hex from Universe itself, when the universe thinks you’ve been too moody, too suspicious, wearing a shade of insecurity for so long that all you can do now is shave it clean off and start fresh. Tabula rasa from an electric razor, and even if you did nick your nuts and end the day with a Band-Aid on you ballsack, it all means something, right?
I try—Universe, I try!—but I’m having trouble. The signs are there but I don’t know what they mean, and trying to understand why fate’s fickle finger felled me after mere fellatio and frottage feels like reading French. I see the parts, but not the whole. What are you trying to tell me, Stars? What are you saying, Nature? What’s the fuckin’ deal, Fortune? I’m here, I’m open, I’m listening—
Shorn and shriven, I present myself to the woo, a blank mound of clay, ready for shaping.
NOTE-1: pussy, btw, in the vaginal sense, is first attested in 1879, but it’s likely very older than that. It always came from the word for “cat” in the sense of the “soft effeminate grace of felines”. A pussy was a kitty, a nancy boy, and eventually a vagina. It never meant “weak”—unless you think of the effeminate as weak—and it has never been related to pusillanimous. Don’t spread lies about spreading thighs!
NOTE-2: woo in the sense of “woowoo mysticism” is only from the 1980s, and is likely unrelated to woo meaning “court” though that woo itself may be related to a word that means “bent” or “inclination” and what is woowoo if not an inclination towards the unexplained?
Semi-NOTE-Also: “slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea” — that line is from Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but go re-read Kubla Khan if you haven’t lately.