Vinegar's Venom
Monday, August 24, 2009

My friend had a Facebook status the other day, detailing her painful sting from a stingray.
She said she wailed like a baby.

I wailed like a baby one time. The Hubby and I were college kids, trying to find a cheap 


That didn't sound too kosher. You know what I mean. I mean we had no cash and we were 
always looking for free things to do. Like Happy Hour, at the local Mexican cantina, was the 
best cheap dinner in town. For the price of a margarita, you could have all the little mini tacos, 
chips and Queso you could eat.

And we also had Nature. Nature's always free, unless it's in a museum. I'd bought My Hubby 
who was still The Boyfriend, a canoe for his birthday and we spent many a lazy afternoon 
floating down the river.

One sunny afternoon,  The Boyfriend decided we would debark from his back yard where 
he kept the canoe tied up against the pilings.

The problem with his plan was the river that ran behind his apartment was at the bottom of a 
twelve-foot drop off.

He assured me this would be easy.

He nimbly hopped and clambered down into the canoe, balancing it with a steadiness while 
keeping his arms out for me. It looked so effortless. I had every confidence I could leap right in.

I forgot one thing. He was a fit and able-bodied, sure-footed twenty-something year old while 
I was an uncoordinated twenty-something year old with the grace of an elephant. I tried to 
clamber down like he did with his coaching, but my feet didn't do the right thing and the next 
thing I knew I was sliding down the side of that wooden wall, trying to grab onto anything to 
stop my fall. By the time, my bottom hit the canoe, I had about 40 trillion wooden splinters 
underneath the skin of my fingers, my hands, my arms, and my legs. I even had one in my 

I sat in that boat, thick chunks of wood embedded in my skin, throbbing, hot and tortuous and 
bawled like a baby calf. The Boyfriend tried to shush me as he worked on my splinters. He was 
worried someone would call the cops on him, my wailing was so loud. But, I didn't care. Slivers 
hurt. One little sliver can cause an immense amount of pain. Hundreds are akin to what I'm sure 
water board torture is like.

But even with countless splinters of wood throbbing under my skin, I know stingray stings are 
far worse. So, I can just imagine how hard she must have had to cry to get through that kind 
of pain.

My family had a recent run-in with a stingray. One, that I am none too proud of, so that is 
exactly why I'll broadcast my story here on the Internet.

My large family, (meaning there are a lot of us, not that we ourselves are large) were staying
at my sister-in-law's friend's gorgeous beach house. Now that is a fabulous friend!  I wish I 
had a friend like that. Or even better, I wish I had a friend who could get me backstage passes 
for U2 concerts. That friend would be my best friend. I would love that friend until the end 
of time, taking care of our friendship like it was liquid gold. 

One can dream, you know.

So, we were enjoying our beautiful Gulf of Mexico at this treasured friend's beach house, 
when my sister-in-law mentioned she'd seen a couple rays in the water. This is not a big deal 
to us Florida Folk. It's a fact of life, just like the fact that no matter how much time and product 
you put into your hair, the minute you step out of your AC'd home into the wall of humidity 
that is our state symbol, your hair will frizz up, go flat or boing up in curls depending on your 
natural bad hair habits.

We, Florida Folk, have perfected the Stingray Shuffle—sliding your feet across the sandy 
bottom of the sea.

So, there I was, reclining on a beach chair, swaddled in my manger clothing, from head to toe. 
I'm the most ironic person to live in this state, with my chalk-white skin and my history of skin 
and mole cancer. When I'm at the beach, I can relax knowing the Taliban won't be coming after 
me anytime soon for showing skin. 

As I was sunning in my burqa, I kept an eye on all the kids in the water. My oldest bro was out 
there with all the little people, when suddenly I saw him jerk violently, go under the water and 
then bob back up holding his foot up with one hand.

I knew it was a stingray.

Since, I am genetically predisposed to drama, I began to scream, "STINGRAY! STINGRAY! 

The onshore team scrambled while I stood there, only able to scream. It's what I do best in times of emergency.

My brother's wife swam out with a paddleboard to rescue him. He was writhing in desperate pain 
but there was no crying, not even a tear.

And here's another reason I just don't get men. Besides their instinctual need to control the TV 
remote, I also don't get the fact that they refuse to cry.

Don't they get it? Everything feels better with some tears. Pain ebbs with a good cry. Tough 
days become a little less with a good weepfest. Sad movies are even better if you sob. Kids 
start behaving when you burst into tears. 

Crying is the bomb. So, I just don't get the "I'm not gonna cry" mojo they've all got going on.

My twisted siblings and I all offered to pee on it, because we've seen Friends and we've all 
always wanted to do that to someone. But, he was all "no, No, NO!" because he was annoyed 
that we were trying to pee on him while he was trying not to cry.

As he was moaning and writhing— but not crying— in pain, I decided I could be of some use.

My niece and I ran inside to Google stingray stings. I typed as fast as my trembling hands could 
muster and immediately came across this super-informative site that told us to soak the affected 
body part in a tub of vinegar. My niece and I raced to the kitchen, ransacked the fabulous 
friend's cabinets, located the vinegar and raced back outside with a tub full of the stuff.

My still-writhing brother put his foot in the tub and at that moment, I thought not only was there 
a chance he was going to cry, but he might just wail like a newborn baby. He didn't, but it was a 
pretty scary/close moment for all of manhood. He was not only moaning wildly, he was now 
shaking, he'd lost all color and he was gritting his teeth, saying, "I don't know, but this is hurting 
20 times worse than before I put my foot in this stuff."

And I was acting all wise, like I was some sort of Stingray expert as I said, "That's what it's 
SUPPOSED to feel like. It's drawing out the venom."

I don't even know if there is any venom. I don't know crap about stingrays. But, I did know 
that his moaning and shaking was rapidly intensifying and he now felt he might faint or throw 
up from the pain, but not cry.

Something in the back of my mind whispered to me as he was about to go into a catatonic state
 that I might just want to reverify my info. So, as everyone was grouped around him, trying to 
help—the most ruthless ones still offering up their urine—I tucked back in the house and snuck 
a peek at the website, again.

It was a site detailing all kinds of sea creature stings and as my eyes flitted through the list, I 
realized I just might have given him the treatment for a jellyfish sting.

The stingray sting was just underneath it and it said to treat the sting with hot water, as hot as 
the victim can stand and it also said, whatever you do, do not pee on the affected limb or treat it 
with anything vinegary because vinegar will just magnify to an intensity so severe that a man 
might just cry from the pain.

So, what did I do? 

Well, here's the thing. He will always be my oldest brother and even though I know he's grown 
out of hurting me, those memories of our childhood are as vivid as the days we lived them. 
He used to say, "Put your hands up higher, higher. No, as high as you can. Yeah, just like that." 
And then wham! Punch me right in the gut, knocking every bit of oxygen out of me. So even 
though he's no longer that 8-year old, I still suffer from a little post traumatic, if you get what 
I'm sayin'. 

I went back outside and as calmly and quickly as I could, I whisked that bowl of vinegar away. 
He was now screaming. I guess screaming's OK in the man book of etiquette.

I said all expertly, "All right, now that we've soaked your foot in vinegar for the allotted time, 
it's now time for the second half of the sting-ray treatment—the steaming hot water part of things."

I nodded confidently and ran inside to fill up the kettle.

As soon as we put his foot in the scalding water, he almost collapsed from the reduction of pain.

He said, "That's a million times better. I thought I was going to die from that vinegar soak."

And I was all, "Yes, well, that's what it takes to get the venom out. The poison, it creates a 
searing painful effect as it drains from the wound. "

To this day he doesn't know the truth and since he doesn't read things, especially my blog, I am confident that you, Internet, can keep a secret.

I could so be one of those imposter doctors who wander around hospitals for years, treating 
random patients, until they're finally discovered, and everyone is like, "I had no idea! They 
were really professional with their doctor speak. Had me completely fooled!"

That would be me.

Today's Terrific Download: Tears for Fears, "Break it Down Again." I love this song. Such a fantabulous song. And these men are obviously confident enough in their manhood to name their 
band after crying. Might want to take note, Mr. Got Stung By A Stingray and My Imbecilic Sister Busted Me Up with Vinegar, But By Gosh, I'm Not Going To Cry.

I'm just sayin'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! My first mention in a blog, even though you and I are the only ones who would know that the mentioned niece is me. I'm still really excited!! :)


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