Conversation starter- tell a big bug story.

Not long ago, I was out on an awkward brunch and the conversation started to sputter and fail. At times like these, I often inexplicably assume responsibility for everyone’s entertainment and try to liven things up by instigating bouts of armwrestling or yodelling contests. But on this day, neither of those seemed appropriate, so instead I told a 2-minute long, fairly dynamic story about a big bug. Luckily the big bug story in question had actually happened the previous night, so I was able to segue into it without too much contrivance, and even luckilyier, I had photodocumented the horrible bug with my celphone, so I could show everyone my grainy photos of the monstrosity, class arthropoda, species cataclysma.

not the actual bug.  I dont wanna brag, but my bug? Totally bigger.

Note: not the actual bug. I don't wanna brag, but my bug? Totally bigger.

Now, I’m not saying I’m Oprah or anything, but basically my bug story saved brunch and made the whole world a way better place. Everyone was interested, and then immediately my bug story (which also involved a part about the cat trying to eat said bug) was followed by another bug story, then a cat-kills-bird story. And then the lens opened to include a real gem, an illustrator-slides-down-mountain-and-almost-dies-but-lives-to-tell-
the-tale story. Awesome. Conversation revitalized, food arrived, brunch success.

The bug story was a perfect tool to re-invigorate things, and after some thought, I’ve figured out a few reasons why:

1. Everyone has a story like this: human vs. nature. The general structure tends to be: nature terrifies human, human poisons or stomps on nature (or in my case traps and flushes nature down toilet), hence humans are amazing, and, now that we’ve reconfirmed that understanding, please pass the bacon. It’s so relatable.

2. Telling these stories is the opposite of bragging, as we all act like idiots when faced with a big hairy bug. And nothing is more endearing than an idiot who can dramatize his-or-her idiocy.

3. No political or ethical dilemmas ensue, unless you’re hanging out with vegans, in which case I cannot help you. Enjoy your carob tempeh loaf.

4. These stories are fast-paced, brief, and require only a gnat’s attention span to comprehend, so even the mediocre storyteller can’t ruin brunch with an overly long one. Not so the story of your breakup, or mortgage, or car accident, or favourite NBC sitcom plot.

5. Bug stories don’t make the teller seem gross. That’s why bug stories will work, while their cousins, the equally dynamic food-poisoning-stories, are not so good. I don’t mind imagining my new aquaintance crying about a spider; but if he makes me imagine him bespattered with the products of his own digestive processes, and crying on the dank bathroom floor of a hostel in Zagreb, well, it’s hard to feel quite so enchanted about this new friend.

6. On the contrary, big bug stories actually accentuate likeable secondary sexual characteristics. If you’re a girl, we’ll laugh indulgently at your feminine hysteria when you find the bug, admire your womanly independence when you squish the bug, and sympathize with your girlish guilt for taking its little life. If you’re a boy, we’ll think it’s cute that you cried when you first saw the silverfish- you’re not so tough! And then we’ll be reassured that you speedily dispatched it- clearly, you’re just tough enough, and in a pinch, you’ll step up and take care of me! Maybe with killing! Good work dude, way to seem simeltaneously sensitive AND virile.

All in all, I think a detour into the land of the big bug story can really revitalize a conversation. I predict that there must be others of its ilk- any suggestions?

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20 Responses to Conversation starter- tell a big bug story.

  1. reuben says:

    pass the bacon? who passes the bacon?

  2. Anonymous says:

    gentiles do.

  3. Jessa says:

    I am prompted to write a comment about your post. While ingniting the idea of telling a big bug story for the sake of great conversation is in fact a great one, it is not always everyone’s point of view that insects are gross or creepy. I am in the business of “bug stories” and hear them from people of all ages, all cultures, and in all languages. They are not all based on fear and prejudice, not by a long shot. The truth is, those who are educated understand that insects are the world’s most important wildlife when it comes to human survival as a species. Those who are uneducated fear or hate and articulate no scientific facts as to why they think insects are bad, only speak an opinion. Through daily conversations, I serve my purpose on this earth by helping others overcome the later through art and education. My big bug story started 5 years ago and will continue until my last breath. Thank you for listening.

  4. stamperoo says:

    hi jessa,
    thanks for the comment. i should clarify. i actually don’t find bugs gross and rarely kill them. this was not a bug, though, this was a big bug. it was larger than the paw of my sizeably-pawed cat, and i live in the boreal forest where such bugs do not belong. it was clearly an invasive species that had no business whatsoever in a toronto apartment, and as such, it needed to be documented and then removed from the ecosystem. but in general? yeah, bugs rock, and i will defend your garden variety house spiders and carpenter ants from murderous neighbours. i will even stroke the segmented backs of madagascar hissing cockroaches in a scientific situation. but you put the zebra mussels of kindsom insecta in my bedroom? shit’s goin’ down. thanks for visiting, and i salute your support of the arthropods.

  5. Jim says:

    Wow!! It’s getting better and better.,

  6. Amanda says:

    The bug stories are also good when they are about people you know (who may or may not be present in the company you are brunching with).
    Oh, like the one about the palm’s-width-sized centipede that crawled across my mom’s face in the middle of the night, waking her from a REM cycle to unconsciously swat at it, only to wake up screaming and running down the hall, a single jointed leg still sticking to her nightgown. I subsequently had to find and trap the offending bug in the pillowcase into which it had crawled, and then throw ALL the bedding out onto the curb, and lend her my bed until the next day.
    My mom’s really afraid of bugs.

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