A Sebastian Amongst Wo/Men

You’re all familiar with the song “Les Poissons” from The Little Mermaid, right? Let’s go with that assumption, since most of humanity has seen that movie.

Well, I am what you would call a Sebastian. I can not tolerate being around most fish flesh without getting queasy. It sounds hyper dramatic but it’s totally true.

Crab legs? Lobster? Mussels? Cold dead fish with the eyeballs still intact, staring vacantly back at me?

My issues with creatures from the ocean center largely around two aspects: how does it smell and does it have a shell?

I can’t say that I have never consumed seafood or that I never will again. About once a year I can tolerate a few ice cold shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce. Caveat: no sauce, no shrimp. If I think about eating a shrimp on its own, ice cold or otherwise, my knee-jerk response is to hold my breath. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have texture issues.

Cooked shrimp should not come near me. (Smell.) I enjoy a delicious “crab” rangoon but I have been told that my taste for it is more about the cream cheese and seasonings more than any “crab” that may be in it. (No smell, no shell.)

Other things I have tried over the years, whether by force or by choice, are fried calamari (only if the smell isn’t fishy, also no shell) and crab cakes (smell/hint of fishiness will get a thumbs down and with crab cakes, I didn’t have to witness the crab being mutilated).

However, watching/hearing crustaceans being cracked open is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Recently, when watching Top Chef, Paul began ripping open LIVE lobsters and I had to cower under a blanket with my fingers in my ears until the scene was over. I was uncertain for a few moments whether I’d keep my dinner down.

It looked something like this.

I’m pretty sure I must have been a crustacean in a former life because I just lose it when I have to be around any kind of shellfish and people are smashing/cracking/ripping them open. It’s an intensely physical response where I want to curl up in the fetal position, throw up a little, and then die.

I refuse to step foot into a Red Lobster or a Joe’s Crab Shack or anything resembling one of those places. I just don’t “get” having a gigantic crusty thing sitting on a plate in front of you and wanting to rip it open. To me, lobsters are the roaches of the sea. I know–gross imagery. But that’s just how I perceive them.

Despite being a grown woman who is well familiar with my senses of taste and smell, I get some strange looks and/or reactions from people when I tell them that I can’t stand fish or seafood and that even the smell makes me lose my appetite. I don’t know if it’s because most people outgrow it or what but some people’s responses have made me feel as if I should get over it or that I must be faking or overly exaggerating. The truth is, I’m really not. Fish just isn’t for everyone.

In the same way that I flat out do not understand people who don’t enjoy chocolate or popcorn, I get an occasional incredulous stare when I pipe up during a conversation where a group is deciding where to eat dinner and I have to say, “As long as it’s not only a seafood restaurant.” It makes me wish I were allergic, quite honestly. That would probably go over better.

It should go without saying that sushi is included in my general distaste for fish but people have had to clarify that with me. I’ve lost count how many times I have heard, “Taste this, it’s REALLY not fishy.” Correction: it ALWAYS tastes fishy! I don’t know if this is because I’m a supertaster or why I can’t stomach it, but both my brother and I have extremely strong aversions to fish. (My parents, on the other hand, are both avid lovers of seafood and don’t understand how we’re related to them.)

On rare occasions do I wish to be like “everyone else” and enjoy a fresh seafood dish. Visits to coastal cities are wasted opportunities on me when it comes to going to acclaimed seafood restaurants. When I lived in New York, I hated to even walk past a fish shop or seafood restaurant, worried that the smell would follow me, or worse yet, stick to my clothing.

And folks, the smell CAN stick to clothing and hair. Prime example: on Valentine’s Day, Kevin enjoyed a seafood dish for dinner. Later in the week, I went to wear the shirt to work, since I had only worn it to dinner. When I put it on, I immediately smelled the remnants of his dinner all over the shirt. It’s lucky I didn’t put the thing in a bucket with gasoline and set it on fire. The shirt survived after I put it in the wash but my brain was screaming from the olfactory overload.

Before writing this post, I even tested myself and watched “Les Poissons” on YouTube to see if the images OF A CARTOON MAN KILLING CARTOON FISH would still bother me and I confirmed that my stomach muscles still tense up and quiver when I’m watching and listening to the gutting of non-existent seafood. Sad? Probably. But oh so true.

And so, after more than 31 years of detesting even the smell alone of dead/raw/cooked fish, I think it’s safe to say my taste buds aren’t converting anytime soon.

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