Origin Stories: Writhing Crawdads

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Intrusive thoughts center around morality. As discussed in “What is OCD Really,” intrusions range from contaminating oneself to accidentally killing someone to forming incestuous relationships. Many OCD sufferers share similar fears due to widespread commonalities in moral codes (for a discussion on common fears, read “The Diversity of OCD“). Anecdotally and interestingly, obsessional fears begin when an experience points out how a situation or act compromises ones values, i.e., common obsessions still have unique geneses. This is the first installment of the Origin Stories anthology. In it, I will detail my fears’ origins.

Seagull calls pierce the air as a gentle wind ripples over the waterfront. The troop of Boy Scouts laugh over something certainly stupid as we march towards a patch of large, half-submerged rocks. Scout leaders follow with lines, a large pot, seasonings, and a bag of Tyson chicken wings. One of the adults pulls out a leg, ties it to a line, and gently lowers it to a recess in the rock. He recalls the line a minute later with near half-a-dozen bronze-backed crustaceans. It was time for a crawdad boil!

Our troop had a blast catching many dozens of freshwater lobsters and putting them in a large plastic container. An hour or more later, we were called to foldable table fit with a pot, trash bag, and the container of living crawdads.

“To fit as many crawdads into the pot as possible, we’re going only to put the tails in,” said our leader. “You grab them by their body and tail, then break the two apart.” He grabbed a larger crayfish, placed it on the table, and tore it in two. The poor creature’s legs scampered in the air while its claws clasped at nothing. He callously tossed it into the garbage bag, then placed the tail on the table—it curled tightly into a ball. “Now you have to hold the tail down so you can remove the poop vein. While pinning it, grab the middle teslon scale, twist, and yank.” A disgustingly brown tube slithered out of the flesh that he tossed into the trash. “Now drop the tail into the boiling water.”

Lobster Tail Moving
In case the video starts at the beginning, jump to 3:25. Note that the tail doesn’t move much here, but the crayfish tails wrapped together tightly.

The entire process disgusted and mortified me. I refused to rip the animals in half, so they made me clean all the tails. Despite my protests, they did force me to kill one freshwater lobster before resigning me to poop vein duty. Every time they handed me a tail, I had to fight its convulsions to access the poop vein. Time after time after time, I felt the slick exoskeleton of crawdads writhe beneath my fingers. Perhaps worse still, other scouts began hurling the bodies at seagulls who picked their defenseless halves into shreds. Slick. Gull. Crunch. Dismember. Repeat.

Since that day, exoskeletons terrify me. Even the thought of touching one causes my skin to feel filthy. Eventually, this fear of touching exoskeletons generalized to insects as a whole (I know a crawdad is not an insect, but my fear applied to the entirety of an insect). Since all insects have exoskeletons, I already feared touching them, but soon the very being of insects scared me. Any surface they so much as touched became infected in my eyes. A lifelong fear formed ina single “recreational” afternoon.

Have a great day and always practice self-compassion!

A Fantastic Friend of Mine

One thought on “Origin Stories: Writhing Crawdads

  1. Wow. I remember you and Cameron both going with the scouts. I had no idea what was involved in crawdad fishing.

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