At Least I'm Not A Cicada Mother

 In case you are living under a rock, or more likely, in another part of the country, we here in the DC area are absolutely overrun by cicadas, which are clumsily flying, red-eyed, far-too-big insects that gestate in the ground for 17 years before emerging in one massive, festive, loud, debauched cicada parade that puts Mardi Gras to shame. It's probably more akin to Woodstock, because it features a ton of sex and laying around looking dazed. 

Then after a few weeks, everyone dies.  It's a highly compressed version of all our lives, really, complete with teenage awkwardness.  If you think human puberty is bad, try busting out of your own skin in public. Yikes. 

This is a cicada molting. I have to credit my friend Beth N. with the awkward adolescent comparison. Reluctantly, because I just hate it when people think of smart, funny things before I do. 

To make matters worse, there is apparently a cicada STD sweeping through the population this year. To be more precise and scientific, it is a butt fungus.  You heard me right. There is a fungus that eats off the cicada's butt, including its genitals. This turns it into a seriously freaky zombie looking thing that could probably start its own cult given a slightly longer lifespan.  

Hello. I am the Cicada Messiah, and for all your money and free access to your wife, you can reign with me for 1,000 years. 

But the fungus doesn't just disintegrate the cicada's hindquarters. That really wouldn't accomplish anything. Fungus gotta spread, man! So the fungus amps up the cicada's libido to an 11, and the cicada then frantically humps anything in sight, covering its sexual partners with fungus dust. The fungus then spreads to the next cicada, and pretty soon, you've got a cicada public health crisis on your hands (the fungus does not infect humans, mercifully).  The Washington Post breathlessly called the infected cicadas "sex-crazed salt shakers of death." And we thought herpes was bad (OK, it is bad. Or so I hear. To be clear, I have never had herpes).  

So what does butt fungus and cicada sex have to do with parenting? I'm so glad you asked.  First of all, on a very practical level, the insect invasion means that my stubbornly housebound kids are even less inclined to enter the Great Outdoors. They, too, prefer to gestate underground for 17 years, it seems. In addition to sun, dirt, air that is seldom room temperature, body movement, poor Wi-Fi, few electric outlets, shoes, bees, ants, and the odd other critter, the outdoors now also contains seriously freaky-looking, large insects that, by the sound of things, have apparently formed a metal band despite a complete lack of talent (I would comment here about the average talent of metal bands, but I don't want any trouble).  In addition, there are many more insect corpses, in varying states of mutilation, as well as millions upon jillions of abandoned exoskeletons pretty much everywhere and on everything. It's like the gruesome aftermath of some great disaster, like cicada Pompei.  I can't say I blame the children on this one, I'm not loving the outdoors quite as much these days.  I'm just thankful the cicadas are so bad at flying, although every now and then one does manage to hurl itself into the air, which then guarantees an intoxicated-like crash into something that could be your head. Still, it is a mercy on par with the short career of William Hung (google it) that cicadas mostly crawl around on the ground and even more often die on it.  

But the frenzied, fungus-addled launch of Brood X after 17 years underground has me counting my blessings as a mom.  I feel sorry for the cicada moms, first, because of course they died 17 years ago.  They laid their eggs in the ground, and then they just exited the scene.  That is one way to parent, I suppose. In this case, is probably yet another mercy, because I keep imagining what the cicada mom would think to see her offspring finally unleashed on the world after 17 long years of nurturing by adoptive mother earth and whatever else may be down there in the ground.  It's like, you do you part as a parent, you do your best, you shelter them for 17 years and try to instill in them some morals. You hope when they go out into the world, they don't act like idiots, they don't do anything really dumb, and maybe they make something of themselves.  But instead, they make a bee-line for the nearest frat house, strip naked, have a bunch of sex, and end up butt-less and dead with an STD that they have spread to most of the party guests.  Hopefully they got some fertilized eggs deposited before they went legs up.  

"I'm so proud," said Mrs. Cicada.

Like all moms, I worry about my children's future and trepidatiously hope they will both end up productive citizens. I have my concerns, but I feel pretty confident neither of them will become sex-crazed salt shakers of death.

That's not nothing.   


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