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A bit of explanation about this post….I wrote this on another website about a year ago.  There was a person on the site that went by the name of What Nonsense.  What Nonsense’s avatar was a big, ugly, scary praying mantis.  He (she?) was my inspiration for this rambling. 

I have this thing about praying mantises. They scare the hell out of me.

My mother has a similar fear of snakes. My brother detests snails. My son carries on the tradition–he screams like a girl whenever he sees a spider.

“What nonsense,” Mr. Rizzuto tells me. He‘s a biology teacher. “It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to be afraid of snakes. A snake could kill you. But a praying mantis? That’s just silly.”

It all started when I was about 6 or 7 years old. A big brown praying mantis attached itself to a screen window in my grandparents’ house. My grandfather, who was the smartest person I ever knew, saw everything as a potential learning experience. This was a perfect opportunity.

“Look Kevin, look Wanda,” he said. “It’s a praying mantis.”

Oh dear Lord what the hell is that horrible alien looking monster thing….“They call it a praying mantis because of the way it holds its front legs, as if in prayer.”

Good God please get me out of here kill it kill me something quickly…“It’s against the law to kill a praying mantis. They eat garden pests.”

Oh God Oh God Oh God MOMMIEEEE!!!!For the rest of the day my stupid brother kept telling me that the praying mantis was gone and it was OK to come back into the room. Since I was just a little kid I fell for it about 400 times. My grandfather finally came and told me that it finished its prayers and left. I’ve hated them ever since.

You don’t run into too many praying mantises when you grow up in New York City. The one time I do remember seeing one I stayed awake for hours waiting for it to come and get me. I figured that, theoretically at least, it could have followed me down the street, through the doors of my building, up the elevator, into my apartment and into my bedroom where it would be rubbing its little praying legs together waiting to pounce on me. I was a morbid child.

Now that I’m all grown up I realize what nonsense it is for me to be afraid of the damn things. But that’s what a phobia is after all, an irrational fear. When I was in college I studied animal behavior and I had to learn a lot about insects. I learned some really cool things about praying mantises. Did you know that it’s the only insect that can turn its head all the way around? Here’s another interesting piece of trivia: a praying mantis has an ear in its abdomen. Neat, huh? Yeah. Right.

Who am I kidding? I’ll never get over it. I had a co-worker once that told me a really creepy story about them. She had a friend that had some patio furniture. A praying mantis laid its eggs in the leg of one of the chairs. She moved the chair into the house. Mantises everywhere. And, of course, she couldn’t kill them because they‘re protected. Now if that were me I’d have to be carried out, foaming at the mouth, in a straight jacket. Then I’d have to sell the house.

Say it with me now. What nonsense.

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