Symptoms Of Sharkbite

I was a poor kid.

Not poor like some of the other people in my neighborhood. There were people there who were hungry. Or had a dirty blanket hanging up where their front door should have been.

We did, however, live in their neighborhood.

Even though we were poor, we always went on a vacation. Going to Florida was my father’s priority. He wanted to go. If something was important to him, then it was going to happen. We might have had to eat peanut butter crackers in the car for dinner on the way down, but we were goddamn well going to Florida. Usually, to the beach. A few times to Disney World. That was the pinnacle. To this day, there is no place my father would rather go than to Disney World.

When I was around 10 years old, we went to Clearwater Beach instead of Pompano Beach.

I remember the hotel that we always stayed at in Pomapano Beach. The inside of the pool was painted bright pink and with a big black dolphin painted on the floors shallow end.

On the trip to Clearwater Beach, I saw something so absurd that it’s stuck with me my whole life.

A sign at a public beach and titled: Symptoms Of Shark Bite.

I confess that I don’t remember any of the shark bite symptoms, but I’m fairly certain I could come up with some accurate guesses.

I remember looking at that sign and thinking, does it really matter what the symptoms are?

If you are standing in the water, have both of your legs, and then suddenly, you are down one leg…does it even matter that a shark bit you? At that point, your leg might as well have been removed by Jason and his chainsaw.

Or, what if it was a barracuda and not a shark?

I don’t think that would be as impressive.

Stranger: “Oh, you’re missing a leg! How did that happen? Shark bite? Were you aware of the symptoms”?

One legged person: “This? No, a barracuda bit it off”.

Stranger: “Pussy”.

In any case, I’ve never forgotten that sign and have been in love with absurdity ever since.

At least, I suspect that’s when it started. It might have been when it started.

I really have no idea when it started.

When I was in my early teens, I worshiped at the alter of Alfred E. Neuman. I couldn’t get enough of Mad Magazine, even though I always felt slightly seedy reading it. Something about Mad’s off-kilterness made me uneasy, but is also what attracted me. Also, off-kilterness is now a word.

Getting back to Symptoms of Shark bite..

Getting eaten by a shark is one of my irrational fears. The movie Jaws changed my life. I went from happily swimming in the ocean to staying on the beach. Because FUCK being lunch food.

Like shark bites, we all have pain in our lives..the really bad kind. It’s like a chunk is removed from you. Pain leaves marks, most of which no one else can see. Although, because some of us try to eat away our pain, shark bites end up on our hips for all to see. Or they end up as dead relationships because we try to fuck away the pain.

We all have them.

The bites leave dead tissue and scarring that can make us take a whole different direction in life…sometimes, those choices lead us down dark alleyways or abandoned buildings. Sometimes, it’s hard to find our way back.

What do we do?

The way I see it, as long as we are drawing breath, then we are alive. We can move on and keep living or we can give up and wait it out.

Let’s keep moving.

Fuck that shark.



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  • I’m right behind you, girl–even if it’s just on the one leg.

    And hey, we had a blanket for a door for like 3 months in 1977, but I’m hoping it was clean. That was after we upgraded from the tent. It made it easier to spit your toothpaste outside, though, but the goats kept coming IN. I kid you not. Someday I’ll write THAT story…

      • Yeah. Fortunately for me, that kind of lifestyle was normal for pretty much everyone I knew back then. I had sleepovers in TP’s and school buses…so, having a house with wooden walls put us in the Pretty Classy category.

        I’m working on the story for someday, but you know–the editing can be kind of a pain. (possible pun there)

  • Heh heh, yep I have an understanding with sharks, I won’t visit them in their dining room if they don’t visit me in mine.
    Some times I have to remember how to breathe but I’m still here!

    • Exactly! Like right now..not at ALL afraid of sharks..come and get me, motherfucker.

      One breath at a time, sister..that’s all we can do. 🙂

  • GIRL,

    I grew up in Hollywood, FL, not too far from Pompano. When I was in my early 30’s (I’m 42 going on 28 now), I lived in Fort Myers, FL, on the west coast. There was a sign there that said, “There is a $500 fine for feeding or agitating the alligators.” Well, good thing there was a fine. Otherwise, I would have just poked one with a stick. DUH!! 🙂
    I enjoy your blog. I reposted it on my FB. Check out mine, if you have a chance.

    • THank you for the FB love! I appreciate it. And I just commented on your blog..hubs and I have a deep understanding of the CPAP thing. 🙂

  • And here in Australia we just ask people to swim between the flags – no warning signs (that I know of but given I saw bits and pieces of Jaws when I was younger, there is no way I’m getting in the sea !!) re Symptoms of Shark Bites !
    I know what you mean about eating away the pain and having it end up on my hips.
    Have the best day you can !

    • I find Australia so fascinating and exotic. And we think everything there can kill us. I’m actually surprised you haven’t been bitten by a shark yet..I assumed they routinely showed up in your bathtubs.

  • I just about choked on my drink here => “If you are standing in the water, have both of your legs, and then suddenly, you are down one leg…”

    Suddenly down one leg!


    Made my night.

  • Symptoms of a shark bite, I love it. How many steps did that sign go through to be approved and then manufactured, and no one spoke up to question it? This is the world we live in.

    Your post reminded me of a painting I did a couple years ago. It’s super rudimentary but it had a figure handing it’s heart to a larger figure and there was a noticeable chunk missing from it’s torso. I have it hanging in my office and people are always like “aw, that’s so sweet!” but it was never meant to be sweet… it’s like you wrote– a big bite missing from us that others can see. *sigh*

    Great post, it’s giving me deep thoughts, which is about as frightening as Jaws.

    • Deep thoughts makes me think of Jack Handy..

      I avoid them..well, not the Jack Handy ones, because he’s hilarious. The other kind, though..they’re so damn hard sometimes. You should take a picture of your picture. I’d like to see it.

  • I’ve never swam in the ocean, so I have never been the recipient of any shark bites. I do, however, have a at least a couple shark bites from life which I’ve learned to deal with. I love a good metaphor, good job.

    PS–Nothing at all wrong with Mad Magazine. As a matter of fact, I have an autographed copy from Dick DeBartolo, Mad’s Maddest Writer.

    • Very nice…

      I know there is nothing wrong with it..but it was always met with an air of disapproval at my house…not at all dignified or something a girl should be reading..

  • Couple of years ago my son required thoracic surgery. It left him with quite an impressive scar. Before he started dating the girl he’s with now he’d tell girls at the bar that he’d survived a shark attack and had the scar to prove it. He’d get his buddies to back him up on the story wing man style. He said it was a great conversation starter.

  • You know…I think that once I had a sharkbite and didn’t even know it. Clearly the beach I was at didn’t care about my safety enough to have such a sign.

    • Even if you aren’t SURE…I would still tell people it’s a shark bite..that automatically makes you a bad ass. Like the queen of badassery.

  • You had me at “shark.” I am completely obsessed with sharks, and have been since I was little. I am pretty sure my fate is to be bitten by a shark one day. And I wouldn’t even blame the shark. But this is a big reason why I stay out of the ocean. So that hungry little fucker will just have to wait.

    But here’s the deal – if you need to know the symptoms of a shark bite, you are too stupid to continue living. My guess is seeing the shark chomp your leg off ought to be sign enough.

    But I love to analogy of the bites we all carry with us. Mine have led me into the looney bin for a quick visit (I had to fight to even be admitted because they thought I wasn’t crazy enough), and then a heart attack.

    I think I would rather be bitten by a shark.

    • I’m telling you…a lot of times…a shark bite (the non-fatal kind or the kind where you don’t lose any limbs..or be horribly disfigured) would be a lot easier.

  • Wow I go to Clearwater once or twice a year because my sisters live down there.. I’m going to have to check to see if that sign is still up. It seems so ridiculous! Great post, Fuck that Shark!

  • My kids definitely remember the alligator signs from our trips to Florida. There is so much crap in our world that we need to take the time to revel in the absurd with a big ole belly laugh. Thanks for a fun post!

  • Hello, fellow poor child! Also, fuck sharks. I agree. And bears. And bear sharks, if that’s a thing. Is that a thing? Welcome to tonight’s nightmares, bear shark!

  • Every time I swim in the ocean – every time – my brain runs an inner monologue that goes something like this:

    — Only 40 people die every year from being eaten by sharks
    — Those are just your odds!
    — Only 40! Shut up and enjoy this! This is incomparably majestic and beautiful!
    — Which is probably the last thought of 40 people per year.

    Then I go back to the beach and read a good book.

By Michelle


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