A Slimy Recess

illustration by Xavier Schipani

I for one am swollen with relief at the realization that our long national nightmare of never being able to sue the President of the United States of America is nearly at a close. Gone are the dark days spent looking for someone to blame and accidentally suing the laundress or Bill, the guy we keep taking the Land Rover back to time and time again even though it seems like its always in worse shape when we pick it up! But Daddy trusted him, so we persist. Imagine, this whole time we could have been suing the president! The passing of H. Res. 676 (providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the president or other executive-branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States) really takes a load off my loafers.

But what I actually came here to talk about is fall fashion.



This season's must-have moisturizer is some sort of disgusting cream made from gastropodal mucus. In the 1980s, enterprising Chilean snail herders noticed how rapidly cuts and abrasions on their hands healed after long days spent corralling a sexually active flock of Helix aspersa. Sexual activity has little to do with the effectiveness of the slime on a snail-by-snail basis, but it is worth noting that Helix aspersa and other land snails are hermaphrodites. Imagine two Cadillacs pulling up alongside each other, talking for 12 hours and then, since each driver is also a server at a carhop, a tray of cheeseburgers and milkshakes appears in the window of both vehicles. Ta da! But instead of cheese burgers and milkshakes, its a tray full of snail semen!

What actually happens is vastly more horrible and romantic and has less to do with ruining your next trip to Sonic. Land snails make out for hours and hours before each snail shoots a spiny calcium "love dart" into the other's face prior to copulation in an act that may have spurred the creation of the Cupid myth. Since snails can't see very well, sometimes one partner will overshoot the target and lodge hir dart near important snail organs.[1] Occasionally a misfired dart will penetrate the other's head and protrude through the other side, like the snail version of a hickey. This is probably the origin of the phrases "love is blind," "love hurts," and "It's not you, it's me."

Gastropod means “foot body” and when you can get that image out of your head, hip yourself to the fact that snail slime is a combination of glue and lubricant. This “glubricant,” if you will, allows the snail to scoot along comfortably on nearly any surface and, once winded from sprinting at 0.03 mph toward lettuce, repose in complete adherence to the rock or wall or other snail upon which it finds itself.  Consummate professionals that they are, snails possess eight types of secretion glands, each producing mood-respondant slime based upon whether the individual is perturbed, randy, or motionless on the underside of a moist leaf.

I am pleased to report that the slime component of facial creams can only be manufactured by happy, or at least passively content, snails.

Masks, moisturizers, and assorted goo-type potions are available from companies with names that also sound somewhat gelatinous: Elicina, Biocutis, and Missha. Testimonials for Elicina, the Chilean brand that trailblazed contemporary use of snail slime as complexion booster, praise the cream's effectiveness in combating plagues of facial warts and contain phrases like "it feels like it is feeding itself from inside."

While simultaneously pondering the fact that the House of Representatives, instead of fixing Veterans Affairs or addressing issues at the cross-section of childcare and immigration, voted to allow Speaker John Boehner to behave in a manner befitting the type of person who takes his legal advice from the side of a bus, you may be asking yourself: What's all this about snails?

In July, inspectors at the U.S. Customs and Border department of Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a shipment of 67 Archachatina marginata or giant African land snails. NPR Correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton posits that the snails, considered a delicacy in West African cuisine, were headed for the banquet table. Why order the snails, a nutritious and affordable alternative to beef, from Nigeria instead of Miami? Perhaps the diet of Nigerian-sourced snails affects their flavor. Like homeowners in Miami, giant African land snails have a taste for stucco.

The seat of Florida's 18th District is so infested with Archachatina marginata, the Florida Department of Agriculture developed a response program whose primary directive is "just find all the snails you possibly can and then kill them because they are simply everywhere, it's disgusting." Let us take a moment to think upon U.S. Congressman and pink man of note Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), who, along with one-third of his state's reps, voted "Nay" on H. Res 676. Let us imagine that regardless of how he and his fellow Florida Dems cast their ballot, the bulk of his August recess will still be spent desolately plucking immature snails off the side of a bungalow, clad in the finest cargo shorts Georgetown has to offer.

[1] Usage note: Here I elect to insert the possessive pronoun "hir," a combination of "his" and "hers."