It Happened To Me: I Got Bed Bugs

Introducing the Bed Bug Emotional Therapeutic Community Hotline (BETCH).
Publish date:
July 5, 2011
gross, new york, summer, bed bugs, emotional trauma

I learned the hard way both times that telling people I had bed bugs is a lot like telling people about an STD. You never know who’s going to freak and who’s going to be chill, even supportive. Luckily, my house critter situation was extremely low-level and mild, and I caught it right at the beginning. It’s nonetheless demoralizing and exhausting to have to upend your living space in a panic and then live out of trash bags for two weeks, all the while wondering if that tiny twitch you just felt is another parasite out to suck your blood.

I figured it out when I woke up one morning and my foot looked like the less scabby version of this:

I've been terrified of getting bed bugs ever since I moved to New York three and a half years ago, and I made sure to research signs of them so I'd know immediately if and when it happened to me. Two days after my foot got itchy, the exterminators were here. One of whom, by the way, saw the print on my wall of two ladies in lingerie chasing each other on the moon, and started talking to me about his porn addiction: "I told my wife, 'You know how you take bubble baths to get in the mood? That's what porn is like for me.' And she bought it!"

When I told my few friends and family members, first thing they all asked was, “How did you get it?” Oh, it was probably the Crust-Punks-Only Party I threw in my bedroom. Or maybe it was the time last week when I shacked up with a local on one of the discarded mattresses lining my street. NO! Possibly because I live like Oscar the Grouch in an apartment with a storefront-size window right above the building’s trash cans, which is an invitation for all kinds of nasty guests? Otherwise, I have no idea how I got them! This city is filthy, so quit asking me that.

Most of my friends were very soothing while I was in high spaz mode. One, when I called her to see if she wanted to have dinner with me that night, realized that I had a bag of clothes at her apartment from when we got ready for a party together, and brought that up first thing, extremely worried. Then she told me she didn’t want to spend time with me that night because she felt dirty and needed to clean her apartment immediately. Nice.

I told someone I am casually seeing that I was feeling very low and that she may not be in the mood to do this—or maybe it’s not even appropriate at this stage—and that is OK, but I would love it if she’d come over and pet me and hold me and tell me I’m awesome. And that’s exactly what she did, even spent the night squeezed up next to me on my narrow couch, piles of plastic bags of my stuff everywhere, knowing the exterminator from Magic Exterminators (don't use them, BTW, they were terribly unprofessional and didn't do the job they said they would the first time, and had to come back, and then lost my receipt for payment) wasn’t showing up until the next day. That is what, in common parlance, we call “a keeper.”

Panicked, when I first realized I had an issue, literally the first thing I did was email all the ladies at xoJane and ask if anyone had any expertise with this. Ironically (not laughing), this was the same day I wrote about the end of the tripleclipse, in which I told y’all not to worry, “it’s not like the earth is going to pour forth with scorpions and snakes and dragons and other dark creatures.” (That'll teach me a lesson, when I figure out what it is.) I thought someone here must know a friend who’s gone through this hell, or perhaps have some firsthand wisdom.

Here is the response, which is so good-natured, and lets us all know what kind of ladies we have on our sides here:

Anya: “Oh NO! I just found a bug in my bed five minutes ago and put it in my glass jar for Googling (I don't think it is though). [ANYA'S NOTE: It wasn't.] I don't have any advice though...I imagine there are specialists in this sort of thing.”

Christina: “Sounds like a post. It Happened to Me: I have bed bugs. Sorry. I didn't mean to make light of it. I had a friend who had bedbugs. I will email her for recommendations.” And then she did!

Jane: “I thought I had bed-bugs at one point, though it was actually something else. There is a company that advertises a lot (they use that cute beagle to sniff out the bedbugs -- do you know what I'm talking about?). A friend, I can't remember who, used them and it worked out. Sorry, Liz!”

Laia: “I think you can call 311 for more help about bedbugs. They will tell you to tell your landlord in case it is his fault or something? I can't remember too well. Anyways I think you should def call the bug sniffing dogs! I am sorry. We thought we had bed bugs a few months ago and it was the worst thing ever. :( <3

Daisy: “Oh no! That sucks. My downstairs neighbor had them and you literally have to exterminate and wash everything you own in hot water. On the bright side, at least you aren't blind like the lady in this bed bug story: (It's the little things?) Good luck!!!!”

Cat: “On the bright side, I bet bed bugs will get lots of traffic! I love how Jane's advice includes 'that cute beagle'.”

MC Housework: “Show me the beagle, y'all. Please.”

Rachel: “Bed bug beagle pics from here

How would you react to a friend telling you about this? Or maybe you’ve had bed bugs yourself—what kind of stuff did you hear about it? Here we go, Bed Bug Emotional Therapeutic Community Hotline (BETCH). Let 'er rip...