the smell of my desperation has become a stench

On overcoming phobias

A couple of weeks ago when I was cleaning out my closet I found the black rubber tarantula that I bought several years ago in an attempt to scare Jon. He’s been featured here many times (here, here, and most prominently here), so I think at this point he deserves a name. Everyone, meet Randall:


I just thought of something somewhat related, so bear with me for a second: we’re all lying there in bed this morning, and just as I sleepily reach over to turn on the light, the toilet in the bathroom directly next to our bedroom makes some weird noises. Leta starts to freak out, is all WHAT IS GOING ON IN THERE, and just as Jon tries to explain the basics of how water can sometimes seep through the mechanism and whatnot, I go, “There’s a ghost on the toilet!”

Do not ask me why I would say something so obviously incendiary, so EFFING DUMB, because I guess I was half-awake, half-asleep, and I thought it would be funny? Ha ha! A GHOST! ON THE TOILET! And Jon is groaning while Leta goes, “A WHAT? A WHAAAAT?

So I snap awake, and because I am so quick on my feet, so very good at yanking my foot out of my mouth because of my years and years of experience, I go, “TOAST! There’s some toast! On the toilet!”

Leta wrinkled her nose, tilted her head much like Coco does when you make the slightest noise, and says, “Mom, you are so weird.”

I will take weird over nightmares about ghosts on toilets ANY DAY.

Anyway, I tried once again to scare Jon with Randall by putting it underneath his pillow, and of course it didn’t work. The dude just doesn’t scare easily, and I will forgive him for this boring trait because I promised to love him until I die. He has plenty of other lovely characteristics that make up for this flaw. Give me a second and I’ll think of some.

Maybe a couple of seconds.

So I’m climbing into bed three days later and I see that he’s placed Randall right underneath my nightstand. Surprisingly, I don’t jump three feet into the air or DIE, and the next morning when all four of us are lying there trying to wake up I lose my mind again, reach over and grab the tarantula, and toss it at Jon’s head. Why? Why do I do these things? Someone needs to hold an intervention! Heather! Stop giving your five-year-old reasons to wake up screaming!

So Leta FAH-REAKS OUT. She is screaming and panicking and clutching to my arm as firmly as if I have her dangling over a pool of sharks. Jon commences groaning, and then we both start rattling off reasons as to why she should not be scared. It’s a fake spider, Leta. It’s rubber. It’s not real. It has no feelings. You cannot make it sad. And then I shove the whole thing into my mouth which turns out to be the absolute WORST idea ever because then it’s OH MY GOD YOU’VE GOT A SPIDER IN YOUR MOUTH!

And now that I’ve had a couple seconds to think about it, Jon is really patient. There. There it is. That’s his lovely characteristic. Singular.

Because the following morning he spent well over an hour convincing Leta to touch the fake tarantula. It took that long, and he never raised his voice or got agitated, not once, and suddenly Leta walks into the living room HOLDING RANDALL IN HER HANDS. And I’m all LETA! And she goes MOM! LOOK! I AM COURAGEOUS!

That’s the word she used. Courageous. Leta, I forgive you for all those years we had to take you to physical therapy only to find out that the diagnosis was STUBBORN.

So a few days go by, and I’m preparing Leta for a bath when Jon hands her a few pieces of black licorice. Like, why did he choose that time? Right then as she’s about to take a bath? MINUS TEN POINTS FOR ABSENTMINDEDNESS, JON.

And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this enough here, but I hate black licorice. LOATHE IT. It is The Worst Tasting Taste in all of Tasteland. It’s like, we’re headed for a bath and he picks up a ratty tissue that a hobo has used to wipe her vagina, hands it to Leta, and says ENJOY!


The smell of it almost knocks me over, and I’m trying not to gag as I pour shampoo onto her hair, and she’s just chomping away on all that awfulness. Suddenly she stops mid-chew, looks up at me with half-digested black death wedged between her teeth and says, “If I’m courageous enough to touch the spider, why can’t you be courageous enough to try black licorice?”


So I called Jon into the bathroom to demonstrate his lovely characteristic and patiently explain to her the VERY OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the difference, only to say that we’re now setting aside money for law school.

  • Swedish Pankakes

    2009/10/27 at 12:47 pm

    Whatever you do, don’t try Sen-Sen.


    2009/10/27 at 12:50 pm

    Black licorice is horrible and my mother used to try to convince me to eat it in several different forms, including expensive anise seed hard candy in fancy cans. Disgusting.

  • leesavee

    2009/10/27 at 12:51 pm


    So, did you try some licorice? Were you that courageous?

  • Lee-Lee

    2009/10/27 at 12:51 pm

    Ummmmm, why can’t you?

  • My Baby Sweetness

    2009/10/27 at 12:51 pm

    Can you tell her you’ll taste it when she eats the spiders?

    Oh… that probably doesn’t help with the “not saying stupid things…”

  • Valerie

    2009/10/27 at 12:51 pm

    Do you just laugh constantly? Like…every single time she speaks? That girls is so full of awesome. Kind of like that entire post…I mean TOAST!

  • Bucky Four-Eyes

    2009/10/27 at 12:52 pm

    It’s my sneaking suspicion that if you bite into an actual tarantula, it will taste like black licorice.

    Please note that I will never be the one to test this theory.

  • Liz

    2009/10/27 at 12:53 pm

    Black licorice is HORRIBLE! And, way worse than spiders.

  • Nicole Johnson

    2009/10/27 at 12:53 pm

    Blech. I don’t like black licorice, either!

    I relate sooo much to saying stupid things that might lead my 4 year old to nightmares. You know like when I decide to play dinosaurs and talk about dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs and things like that. Did I mention I did that about 30 minutes before bed one night? Why do we do that, anyway?!?!

    A patient husband is one of the best to have, right?!


    2009/10/27 at 12:54 pm

    This is the candy I mentioned in my comment:


  • Candy

    2009/10/27 at 12:54 pm

    Oh I’m totally with you on the black licorice.

    My husband has only one fear, and it’s clowns. Once, long ago, after my husband and I had read Stephen King’s “It”, I got up in the middle of the night, blew up a few balloons and put them in the bathroom.

    He gets up first, and all I heard was screaming. It was an awesome moment.

  • Jeanne

    2009/10/27 at 12:54 pm

    OMG – hilarious!!! We have a rubber spider that sits in the car visor and after 20 years I still forget it is there (we don’t drive the car every day!). Fun times – let me tell you!

  • Dawn

    2009/10/27 at 12:54 pm


  • CW

    2009/10/27 at 12:54 pm

    Best line ever: ‘It’s like, we’re headed for a bath and he picks up a ratty tissue that a hobo has used to wipe her vagina, hands it to Leta, and says ENJOY!’

    i hate black licorice too. actually i only like starburst licorice.

    i love how she tried to compare her fear of spiders to your dislike of licorice. smart cookie.

  • Olive

    2009/10/27 at 12:55 pm

    Love the story – love Chuck in the scarf more, though. This reminds me of the time I was on holiday with friends in Florida and we bought a stuffed/taxidermied alligator and were hiding it all over the condo we rented as a joke.

    It was all fun and games until a REAL ONE found its way inside and we thought it was the fake one until someone tried to pick it up and it started moving!

    I still have no idea how it got in, but it was absolutely terrifying.

    Also, I totally agree about black licorice and anise and unfortunately, some of the supplements and one of the medications I take TASTES EXACTLY LIKE IT. It’s like, OK, yay for not having the crazy right now, BUT THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FILTHY. Red licorice? Fine. Red licorice shoe laces? Lovely. Black licorice? Filthy.

    Licorice is also a word I feel stoners would have a hilarious time dissecting.

  • Terri

    2009/10/27 at 12:55 pm

    Ugh…black licorice is disgusting. Seriously. HORRIBLE. That’s excactly what a big black tarantula would taste like!

  • Anonymous

    2009/10/27 at 12:55 pm

    To whom should I send the bill for a new keyboard? Because mine is now coated in sticky, sugary, milky coffee, which involuntarily spewed from my mouth (and nose, thank you) TWICE as I read this post. Oh it’s good to catch up on Dooce on a rainy day with a heavy workload. Well worth my “x” key sticking a little.

  • Julie

    2009/10/27 at 12:56 pm

    My mother was always so upset with me when I was little because I loooved to pick up spiders. I presented her with a black widow when I was four. We almost had to go to the ER- not because I was bitten, but because she suffered a mild heart attack.

  • Amanda

    2009/10/27 at 12:57 pm

    With you on the licorice. Yesh. And, I’m going to have to get a Randall for my house because I am SURE my husband would die. Of fright. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

  • Eva

    2009/10/27 at 1:00 pm

    I am seriously in love with reading your blog!

  • Dr. R.

    2009/10/27 at 1:00 pm

    OMG… I bet you are a barrel of monkeys to live with. Yes, more points for Patience to Jon. God love him (and I’m not religious). You know, Awareness (yes, that has been capitalized) is the 1st step in realizing our vices, so I’m glad you have an inkling of it.

  • Jennifer Lynn

    2009/10/27 at 1:01 pm

    black licorice is gross… is yummy! black is almost as bad as horehound….yuck.

    Hee Hee….you are in soooo much trouble with that smart girl you have:)….GOOD LUCK!

  • Vander

    2009/10/27 at 1:02 pm

    So, it’s such a good thing that I tell my husband about your posts, and that he doesn’t visit on his own. If he came here and saw that picture, he would maybe never venture out into the internet again. For anything, and that includes obscure movie references, porn, and video game easter eggs. Yes, his phobia is that big.

    But I’m totally going to tell him about the licorice, because he does love that.

  • the mighty jimbo

    2009/10/27 at 1:02 pm

    jon clearly has the makings of a zen master to live with three women.

    next time i’m in tibet, i’m picking him up some cool red robes and yak.

  • Anonymous

    2009/10/27 at 1:02 pm

    She gets sassier every day! haha!

  • Rebecca, Idaho

    2009/10/27 at 1:03 pm

    ha ha I’m totally with you on the black Licorice thing!

  • Con

    2009/10/27 at 1:04 pm

    A tissue a hobo used to whaaaat? Did you throw that line in just to give the haters some good material? 😉

  • Leandra

    2009/10/27 at 1:05 pm

    Did you ever find out if there is a prescription or any physical therapy for stubborn? Because my daughter has THE STUBBORN too.

    We’ve been accumulating fake plastic bugs and spiders over the past couple of weeks as we’ve attended various fall festivals and parties. Over the weekend my daughter decided to decorate her room with these various critters and I have had a heart attack on a nearly daily basis ever since.

    And yes, big black hairy spiders most definitely taste like black licorice.

  • Gabriela Frei

    2009/10/27 at 1:06 pm

    Oh good Lord.

    Yes, black licorice is the foulest of foul.
    But I must say that I side with the little Leta in shuddering at the repulsive tarantula. I have a tremendous fear of them, which also stems from having a plastic spider thrown at my head. While watching “Arachnaphobia.” During the scary final scene with the flames and the running and leaping… Yeah. I’ll never be the same again.

    LOVE the blog, Heather!

  • Tracylea

    2009/10/27 at 1:06 pm

    WOOT to Leta for touching creepy spider! and WOOT to Jon for giving her black licorice (Yum) and TWO WOOTs for you for dealing with both issues ;p

  • Leandra

    2009/10/27 at 1:08 pm

    Did you ever find out if there is a prescription or any physical therapy for stubborn? Because my daughter has THE STUBBORN too.

    We’ve been accumulating fake plastic bugs and spiders over the past couple of weeks as we’ve attended various fall festivals and parties. Over the weekend my daughter decided to decorate her room with these various critters and I have had a heart attack on a nearly daily basis ever since.

    And yes, big black hairy spiders most definitely taste like black licorice.

  • MidLifeMama

    2009/10/27 at 1:10 pm

    I laughed at this post. I am constantly giving my husband the DIEDIEDIE look just as he has said the very thing he should not have said at that very moment in the presence of our 3 year old. Anywho, all licorice is nasty, and it is not about courage. Courage is eating a live hissing cockroach or something you have never had before. Not eating something that makes you barf is just SMART.

  • hoskas

    2009/10/27 at 1:10 pm

    You are a great writer.

  • tracy

    2009/10/27 at 1:11 pm

    in my opinion, there are very things on this planet grosser than black licorice.

  • Janie

    2009/10/27 at 1:11 pm

    Man, I LOVE that kid! Seriously, she rules! (I mean, I would be thinking first female president except I really hope we don’t have to wait that long.)

    And Heather? I only know your daughter from the internet but even I KNOW not to say “a ghost on the toilet”. On the toilet? A ghost? Really?????? Phew…have you no memory? Enemas, laxatives, constipation, oh my

  • Andrea

    2009/10/27 at 1:12 pm

    It’s super cool that both of your daughters will be smarter than you. I’m not being mean, just it’s cool. I wish more smart people breed.

  • Olga

    2009/10/27 at 1:12 pm

    Your daughter is a genius….

  • Olive

    2009/10/27 at 1:14 pm

    @23 Vander, I thought you were saying your husband had a phobia of video game easter eggs and porn and I was like… yeah I’m pretty sure he’s lying about that!

    Then I reread and was like, oh right, spiders.

  • Raschelle

    2009/10/27 at 1:14 pm

    Agreed I would much rather hold a rubber spider than eat black licorice. YUCK! But if it was a REAL spider I think I could choak some licorice down!

  • eunice

    2009/10/27 at 1:15 pm

    physical therapy?

  • erin

    2009/10/27 at 1:15 pm

    “And then I shove the whole thing into my mouth which turns out to be the absolute WORST idea ever because then it’s OH MY GOD YOU’VE GOT A SPIDER IN YOUR MOUTH!”

    ****I seriously almost peed my pants. Thanks again for being exactly what I needed this afternoon. 87D

  • Elizabeth_K

    2009/10/27 at 1:17 pm

    Clever, clever girl — like mother, like daughter. UGH on black licorice.

  • DTDorrin

    2009/10/27 at 1:18 pm

    Oh my goodness–if the phrases she uses are any indication, she’s going to be just a good a writer as you. I am courageous! Oy vey that kid is cute.

  • Zina

    2009/10/27 at 1:18 pm

    The law school savings is for *you* to go to law school, right? I know that’s why I’m saving up for law school, so I can win arguments with my daughter instead of just having to say “BECAUSE I’M THE PARENT, THAT’S WHY.” (Not that that’s not a valid argument.)

    In my family it’s usually my husband who says the stupid things that shouldn’t be said in front of the kids, except for all those other times when it’s me. I’m so grateful there are two of us to catch each other and do damage control.

  • Jessica

    2009/10/27 at 1:19 pm

    Leta is awesome and so is black licorice! Give it a try, Dooce!

  • Belle

    2009/10/27 at 1:20 pm

    I cannot believe your child likes licorice. What a freak of nature. I mean that in the best way possible. 🙂
    I think you’re going to need to set aside A LOT of money… for Harvard Law. Shooot…

  • Michael

    2009/10/27 at 1:20 pm

    Randall. What a perfect name! How about calling him, Randall the Courageous? Also Chuck looks very dashing in the Wintery photo. Thanks for all the fun, Heather.

  • beyond

    2009/10/27 at 1:21 pm

    black licorice frightens me too, but spiders frighten me more. i’d rather chew on some licorice than on any kind of arachnid.

  • Katherine

    2009/10/27 at 1:21 pm

    I am so with you on the licorice thing. Way too many kinds of YUCK there. Anise and fennel too. Blech.

    And I love it when kids get to the comparison/analytical age. They come up with the funniest things.

  • Susan

    2009/10/27 at 1:21 pm

    I must speak up for the black licorice. It is the best. So much better than those fake red things people claim is licorice.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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