If I were bitten by a great white shark, I’d work it into every conversation I ever had for the rest of my life.
“Have we met before?”
“I don’t know. I’m the woman who was bitten by a great white shark. Does that ring a bell?”
I’d milk it for all it was worth. Sharks don’t drink milk. They’re born alive like mammals, but their mothers don’t nurse them, not even Nurse Sharks. Baby sharks are left to fend for themselves. Alone in the deep. All teeth and hunger and instinct.
That’s the kind of shark-based factoid I’d work in at cocktail parties.
“Wow! That’s fascinating. Are you a marine biologist?”
“No, but I was bitten by a great white shark.”
I’d have to do a lot of shark-based research in peer-reviewed shark research journals so I could have several obscure and intriguing shark facts at my fingertips. This scenario assumes my fingertips weren’t bitten off during the shark attack.
I would probably become a vegetarian.
“Are you going to order the steak?”
“I swore off meat after being bitten by a great white shark.”
Here I’d pause for dramatic effect and gaze into the middle distance like I was remembering the calm waters of the sea before the attack. Then I’d shake off the memory like beach sand.
“Sorry. It’s just that when you’re almost dinner, you think twice about what’s on your plate.”
“Oh my! Well, do you need a steak knife to cut your portabella mushroom?”
“I don’t use knives because they remind me of the jagged teeth of the great white shark that bit me.”
This conversation would work best at a fancy restaurant in a land-locked city far from the ocean. And in this restaurant, no one would be having a conversation as interesting as mine because no one else in the room—I can almost guarantee—would have been bitten by a great white shark. The odds of being bitten by any shark, let alone a great white, are one in over three million.
Some restaurant-goers might never have even seen the ocean, let alone swum in it, let alone been bitten by a great white shark. In that way, I could consider myself fortunate.
As soon as I said I’d been bitten by a great white shark, everyone would stop eating. Stop chewing. They’d really listen.
Here’s where I could work in shark teeth factoids. (Other great locations: the dentist’s office, the toothpaste aisle at Target.) I would tell people that sharks have several rows of teeth, that their jaws are like tooth conveyor belts, relentlessly working another deadly enameled dagger forward to fill the gap left when the shark buried a bite too deep into its prey.
If I were bitten by a great white shark, I’d have to get all new clothes.
I’d go to one of those stores where the sales associates still actually want to help customers. Maybe an Ann Taylor Loft kind of place where they don’t even make you take a little plastic number that shows how many items you’re trying on. They trust you. They’re on your side. They want you to look your best. And at this store, the sales associates would especially trust me and be on my side and want me to look my best because I had been bitten by a great white shark.
“What can I help you find today?”
“Gosh. I guess I need something to help me cover up this shark-bite scar.”
But I wouldn’t really want to cover it up. Not all the way. For example, if I were bitten on the leg, I’d invest in skirts: soft skirts with gentle pleats and modest yet playful hemlines that billowed just above the bottom of my shark-bite scar.
You don’t want to show too much. Not at first. People can be like sharks too. If they get a taste, they might devour you.
The sales associate would say the skirts were perfect, that they were made for me. She’d call the other gals into the dressing room to see how good I looked and how they hardly even noticed my shark-bite scar. When we went to the register, I would laugh and jokingly ask if the store had a discount program for shark-bite victims. The sales associate would laugh too. Then she’d pause, smile conspiratorially, and ring up my skirts using her “Friends and Family Discount.” I’d save twenty percent on the entire purchase, which would also include stylish tops and at least one pair of fun earrings.
In a tangible way, one that I could prove by saving my receipt, the sales associate and I would become “Friends and Family” because I’d been bitten by a great white shark.
I’m not saying I want to be bitten by a great white shark. Certainly, it’s better going swimming in the ocean—feeling the chill of the saltwater on your sun-hot shoulders, letting the waves lift you skyward, floating like delicate bubbles of sea foam while your hair spreads softly around you like a mermaid’s trusses—and then emerge from the water un-shark-bitten. That is my preferred scenario.
I’m just saying that if I were bitten by a great white shark, I could make the best of it. I would be a real glass-half-full, body-mostly-whole, silver-linings kind of person.
Of course, if I did get bitten by a great white shark, there’s also the chance that I wouldn’t make it. Six to eight people die of shark attacks a year. And most of them die in Florida.
There’s the chance that fellow swimmers would heroically drag me to shore only to have me bleed out on the sand before paramedics arrived, before lifeguards whistled the rest of the waders out of the now-reddish water or hoisted the purple “Dangerous Animal” flag.
And after the paramedics collected me, working slowly and reverently, there would still be all that blood-stained sand. Bystanders would try to kick clean sand over it or wash it away with water they’d carried from the shallows in bright, castle-shaped plastic buckets.
Or worse, what if I were eaten whole by a great white shark? Just swallowed like those license plates fishermen always seem to find in shark stomachs. Now, that is a scenario without a silver lining. Unless you’re the great white shark.