A cavalcade of shark chores at school: plastering the joint with handsome sea-blue flyers advertising Ralph Collier’s lecture, xeroxing piles of articles, realizing that not everyone is as utterly fascinated with all things shark as I am, although some students seem keen on learning more and one kind soul gave me a shark Pez dispenser.
I realize some of this lack of interest in sharks is not just disguised fear, but disgust. Sharks are fish. “Fish are gross,” one girl said. “They stink.” I thought of Jonathan Foer’s argument (I am too tired to reproduce it here) about fish being separated from us–living in the water they retain their otherness.
Another form of distance. Another barrier to overcome.
I described how beautiful the leopard sharks looked when I saw them in La Jolla, their spotted gold bodies rippling in the current. I gently suggested that our associations with smelly fish perhaps originated with the dead sea creatures laid out on slabs of ice in the market or languishing in filthy tanks.
I asked the class to write a few questions to ask Ralph Collier about shark behavior, attacks, etc.
A boy in the front row said, “I want to ask him if sharks have emotions.”
“Great question!” I exclaimed.
Although I felt too embarrassed to admit it, I’m still recovering from the crushing realization that this widely circulated shark-man love story was a hoax.