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I don’t even eat strawberry jelly anymore, I’m too traumatized.

Last night, I came home from work to my husband doing dishes without a shirt.

Men, if you want to instantly turn on your lady, affect a Chippendale dancer look while doing the housework.

The only downfall was that I couldn’t act on my state of mind for fear that he’d stop doing the dishes. (You could have sexed me up WHILE I was doing the dishes, I wouldn’t have objected’Esteban)

But it was a turn on, let me tell you.

If you’re wondering why he was doing the dishes without a shirt on, it was because he was wearing a sweatshirt yesterday and he didn’t want to push the sleeves up to do the dishes. He hates baggy, stretched-out sleeves.

I’m thinking of getting him a little black bow and white cuff links. Maybe playing ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ while doing our fall cleaning.

Had another nightmare last night. This time, I was back in Key West, about to go snorkeling again. We were going to snorkel off this pier or something and just as I was about to jump into the water, someone pointed out that there was a giant squid in the water and I shouldn’t jump in that spot. Then the squid’s tentacles began to search the surface of the water. The snorkeling guide walked me ten feet up the pier and said, ‘Here it’s ok to jump’ while the squid churned the water a couple of yards away.

The nasty thing about remembering lots of trivia is that my subconscious suddenly turns into the godamned Discovery channel during my nightmares. I started reciting all of these facts about giant squids in my dream. They have a big beak that can snap a six-inch solid wood plank. They have claw things at the ends of their tentacles. My friend Eric gets sick if he drinks alcohol and eats calamari. A giant squid has never been captured alive.

This is not my first ‘scary snorkeling’ dream. I think I was traumatized by my snorkeling misadventures in Key West. I think I promised that I would write about it, so here it is:

Last January, we spent a week in Key West when Esteban’s company held its quarterly meeting there. He spent every day in meetings and I was on my own for the day. I’m all cool with being on my own, so this wasn’t a problem. Sucked for him, though. I had originally made plans to go on a dolphin swim, but tanked on it when I realized it cost four times more than a normal reef snorkeling excursion and there was no guarantee that any dolphins would be around during the three hour tour’ a three hour tour.

So I instead opted for a guy who swore that their reef boat was the best snorkeling trip on the island. His big pitch was that the boat had been featured in the James Bond movie ‘The Living Daylights’ and was the fastest boat of that size on the island. He guaranteed that we would get out to the reef in far less time than the other boats, allowing for more time snorkeling. I was down with that, so gave him $30 and signed up.

I’ve been snorkeling in Lake Michigan since I was a wee Weetabix, so I had no fear of the snorkeling experience. I had my own snorkels and fins, although I never use the actual fins. I’m also a very strong swimmer. However, the salesman assured me that they had stairs in which you would be able to walk down into the water up to your neck and then take off swimming from there. He assured me that it was a very easy, lackadaisical adventure with little stress. He even said that they would be wet suits to protect our tender tourist skin from the cold January waters. I was a little dubious about this. Not only did I doubt that they would have a Size Voluptuous wetsuit, I doubted that black rubber would be very flattering on my many curves. But that was ok. I’m accustomed to cold waters, so I wasn’t too worried.

Cool. I truck on over to the pier, which was four blocks away from the sales booth (which was located in a prime tourist spot on Duval Street) and there sits this garbage scow looking thing, with paint peeling off the rails and plenty of evidence that the boat was only being held together by the grace of God and generous use of duct tape. My first thought was “Oh my god, did James Bond BLOW UP this boat?”

I was a little nervous about the whole boating experience. After all, this would involve me wearing a bathing suit in front of complete strangers, but I had decided before hand that I was never going to see these people again so who cares if they remembered me as the cherubic sassy lady with legs whiter than the Before part of a Coppertone ad? But it was a little harder to put forth that brattitude when faced with the ConTiki and a bunch of sunburned locals.

I hustled into a bar and put my bathing suit on and then my clothing back on over it. I was dumb enough to wear white pants and a pale pink t-shirt so my black swimming suit was fairly obvious. I had only my snorkel and mask and a beach towel that turned into a bag (which held my bra and underwear). I was freaked. I hadn’t had any lunch (which later turned out to be a good thing) and didn’t know anyone on the boat. The others had brought along lunches, beer and snacks. I hungrily watched a girl chow on hummus and bagel chips. Oh well, maybe next time.

Immediately, I made friends with two guys who were there on their honeymoon. Something about chubby chicks’. We seem to be a magnet for gay men. I’m not complaining. I love men. Bring ’em on, baby. Plus, David very kindly put sunscreen on my back for me, which totally endeared him to my heart.

Neither of them had ever snorkeled before, so I was giving them lots of pointers on the way to the reef. Because, you know, I was the big veteran and all that stuff. I was acting very macho.

We got to the reef and found five to eight feet waves waiting for us. There were wetsuits for the people who were diving, but we snorkelers got to rough it. Instead of a luxurious ‘walk gently into the water up to your neck’ there was a dive platform on the back end of the boat. It was a little metal grid about a foot wide. Just enough to stand on and dive off of. There was a teeny ladder they extended down into the water. I think my Fisher-Price tree house had a bigger ladder than that thing. What is more, the boat was moving with the swells and the dive platform was rising up out of the water and the SLAMMING down into the water, submerging a good two feet, with every wave. They actually had to warn us to not get too close to the dive platform when we were the in water because it might crash down onto our heads and kill us.

People were throwing up off the side of the boat. The crew was yelling at us ‘If you don’t want to get sick, get in the water!’ Richard, David’s partner, immediately chundered into the water. One of the more disturbing things was that immediately, brightly-colored yellow fin snapper came to the surface and you would have thought it was feeding time at Sea World the way they scarfed it up. This, of course, made more people puke. It was a puke chain reaction.

I was able to maintain my composure and jumped into the ocean, without dive fins or the wimpy snorkel vest. The crew kept asking if I was certain that I wanted to do that, that it would be easier with the fins and the snorkel vest (basically water wings to keep you afloat), but I scoffed at them.

The water was cold. The waves were knocking me around. Every time I put my face in the water, my fancy schmancy snorkel blocked up from water trying to get past the mechanism that prevents water from going down the tube. I began to hyperventilate Every time I put my face in the water, the snorkel blocked up. Water was going into my mask because my hair kept getting caught and breaking the seal. I spent about fifteen minutes treading water, getting knocked around by the waves, when I asked for a snorkel vest and a pair of fins. The crew smugly gave them to me.

As I was putting on one of the fins, my foot hit something hard and solid. I was in more than thirty feet of water. I am five foot nine. There should have been nothing there but water, my friends. Immediately, I imagined that movie from the 70’s with a giant turtle in it. At that point, I can verify that it is possible for chubby chicks to fly, because I jumped at least fifteen feet out of the water onto the dive platform. I do not remember climbing the ladder with the fins in my hand. I do not remember walking across the rocking boat. I just remember sitting on one of the benches and talking to David in the water and trying to stop my heart from racing.

David got back into the boat. Richard was very ill and was cowering below deck. David and I chatted for a bit. He calmed me down. The crew then declared that we would be moving to a calmer side of the reef. Hello? There’s a calmer side? Why, in God’s name, did we go to the rough side of the reef then? Trying to separate the barfers from the non-barfers, were we? We all buckled down from another death-defying trip to the other side of the reef.

This time, I steeled myself. I was going in this time. The waves were only three to five feet. This was more of what I was used to. I was the first person on the dive platform and I sat down and began to put on my fins.

Just then, people rushed to the back of the boat. Thirty feet away from me, two dolphins were surfacing and jumping. I relaxed. If there were dolphins, this was a sign. A good sign. One of the crewmembers snarked, ‘Well, now we’re sure there’s no sharks.’ I liked how they weren’t sure before, but allowed us to jump right in.

I jumped into the water and began to snorkel. The chunder-eating yellow tails were everywhere, coming up to sniff at my fingers. I saw lots and lots of yellow tails between trying not to drown or hyperventilate. I relaxed. This wasn’t bad. This wasn’t bad at all.

At one point, Hummus Girl came down to the dive platform and leaned over it, barfing into the water. I was fifteen feet away. I gagged, but didn’t barf. The yellow tails ate well that day. She apologized to me for barfing so close to me and for making me gag. I told her that I understood.

Then the jellyfish came. They had warned to avoid the jellyfish because they sting and it sucks, but they said that they were very easy to avoid, as they just float and don’t actually propel themselves. I wasn’t too worried. I was taking pictures with my underwater camera and not really paying attention to my surroundings. I saw a perfect picture of three moon jellyfish. I moved my camera to center them in the shot and a fourth one popped into the frame. I lowered my camera and saw tons of jellyfish around me, bodies ranging in size from dinner plate to family-sized pizza. Millions of baby jellyfish were floating around my body, around my arms, across my chest, harmless as empty tea bags.

I turned around to pack away from the gaggle of jellyfish and found that I was actually completely surrounded by them. I popped my head up and gasped for air. Sailor Bob and Sailor Ken were standing on the dive platform, gawking at the strange phenomenon. They saw me and said ‘Ma’am, you may want to make your way back to the boat, you are completely surrounded by a hundred yard wide school of jelly fish.’ ‘I know, you bastard!’ I screamed and grabbed for the towrope.

The nice thing about fat: It floats. I was able to skim across the top of the school by pulling myself along the towrope to the bobbing boat while Sailors Bob and Ken pointed at the jellyfish saying, ‘Look at the size of that one!’ ‘Have you ever seen one that big?’ ‘Must be the moon cycle that’s drawing them in from the deep’. I pulled myself back to the dive platform, maintaining a healthy distance away from it. Sailor Bob says ‘Ma’am, I’m going to allow you to break one of our rules and go ahead and climb up the ladder with your fins on, just get up here as quickly as you can.’

I jumped onto the ladder and tried to climb up with my fins on. There was no fucking way. Fins are hard enough to walk on, but try to climb up a little six-inch wide ladder that is bobbing up five feet up into the air and then two feet down into the water. It’s just not happening.

I looked up at Sailor Bob. I couldn’t see into the water to know if I was near the jellies but I would have to get in the water to take off the fins. ‘I’m going to have to take them off. Tell me when it’s clear.’ He gave the signal and I dropped underwater about ten feet, pulled off my fins, fought my way back up to the surface, avoiding the dive platform which was moving with the waves, and scrambled back up the ladder. Then I collapsed into a heap on a bench and sat there, dripping. Sailor Bob later said that he thought they’d be taking me to the hospital, given the size and the number of the jellyfish that surrounded me. Sailor Ken confided that he’s been coming to the reef six days a week for eight years and had never seen moon jellyfish the size of the ones he saw in that school.

Of the twenty-five of us on the boat, there were thirteen divers wearing wet-suits (some full-body, some partial) and twelve people snorkeling (in swimsuits). There were 12 people stung by jellyfish. At the time of the jellyfish invasion, about five people were up on deck due to seasick misery. As far as I can tell, every person who was snorkeling at the time got stung with the exception of myself.

Scary, nonetheless.

On the boat ride back to Key West, we had the camaraderie of a platoon of war-ravaged soldiers. People were peeing on their jellyfish stings. People were puking or puked out. It was freezing. We couldn’t get down to the cabin as the door was blocked by a dozen dripping wetsuits. Even if I had been able to get at my towel, I wouldn’t have been able to wrap up in it because it contained my clothing and undergarments. David and I huddled on the upper deck for warmth and talked about our favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Never once did it bother me that I was sitting on a boat in my bathing suit with 24 strangers looking at me. There was no energy left for body issues.

When I returned back to shore, I was late for a dinner party at La Ti Da, a nouveau cuisine place. I stripped my suit at the hotel and went with salt covering my hair and skin. La Ti Da was a very lovely place but they had Yellow Tail on the menu. Someone at our table actually ordered it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the chunder experience.

I ordered the vegetarian plate. And Cosmopolitans. Lots and lots of Cosmopolitans.

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