Bugs in Beds and Heads
I happened to leave the movie theatre tonight just as a shift was ending, and I overheard the farewells of the counter staff as I wandered towards the exit. One individual chose to recite a series of platitudes to a colleague in an apparent attempt to send her off with high spirits.
"Good luck. Drive safe. Don't let the bedbugs bite."
That last phrase provoked sincere nervousness in the girl. She protested the very mention of bedbugs and expressed her vicious aversion to the mere consideration of the potential for bedbugs in her home.
I was struck by her reaction, which mirrored a stark sense of sober unease about bedbugs that seems increasingly pervasive in today's society. I'm 23, and I think that this girl might have been younger by a few years, which would fit with my casual observations of the prevalence of this attiude among people around her age. I suppose that these people are technically quite close to my age too, but I feel that the difference of a few years is somewhat significant in this case.
Working in the gay club scene in 2012, I'd often hear people hastily beseech each other for impromptu trysts around closing time. Such encounters could usually be arranged with little bother, for the night's chill can combine with inebriated passions to soothe any sparks of worry or reluctance that a potential lover might feel. However, some people went beyond the standard claims of their homes' warmth and proximity in these perfunctory invitations. One feature that seemed to recur in these discussions was an assurance of the destination's absolute freedom from bedbugs, and the people that included this addendum generally fell within the fairly narrow age bracket of that girl from the cinema.
As I am not exactly a man of the people, I'm reluctant to speak for everyone, but I can say that my ignorance of the bedbug scourge is strongly tied to the fact that my childhood fell near the end of the era in which these creatures scarcely had an existence outside lullabies. When I heard that rhyme, the subject bore no weight but that of a harmless hobgoblin. However, what fell beneath my notice was the very real renaissance of the bedbug plague in the years after I outgrew that facetious bedtime maxim. While the children whose births came shortly after mine grrew up in a world where bedbugs were a true concern, I'm unable to feel any kind of actual fear for the minuscule beasts because my conception of them is forever stuck in that childhood mode.
On the other hand, my mother, who holds a bit of contempt for my deep loathing of spiders, has become quite wary of the bedbug menace in the years since she jokingly whispered of their bite to my infant self. This implies that my inability to partake in this modern sentiment is partially due to my stubborn psyche, which makes a bit of sense too.
Worst part about this post? I lost the entire thing when my computer froze in the middle of the last sentence.