Dead Butterflies

The other day it occurred to me that I should perhaps eliminate some butterflies. I honestly never thought I would say this, but I may just have one too many (but only *one* too many). When people find out you are into something there is all of a sudden an onslaught of said things on every object you will receive the rest of your life.

The butterfly has a sentimental value for me, and will always, but do I really need a key chain with a mounted butterfly on it? Honestly, that just freaks me out. I mean, if you have to mount something, maybe you shouldn’t be giving it as a gift. I think that is a general rule we can all follow.

But once I became associated with butterflies, it became customary to bring me objects with butterfly replicas on them. And that is exactly my point. I *love* things with butterfly replicas on them. Once you are murdering insects and handing them to me, any packages received from you there after will be regarded with utmost suspicion and partial fear. First butterfly corpses, now what?

I kept this keychain for many years simply because of its rarity. It is a silver studded blue butterfly, and if you have no idea what that means, just simply know that is highly endangered (and very beautiful). Yes, of course I have considered that it is actually a fake, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I still received a keychain encasing a dead bug.

Also, why is this on a keychain? The entire thing is about the size and weight of a baseball, with the shape of a mason jar. On. Your. Keys. Really? Even my Mary Poppins-esque purse cannot comfortably accommodate that. If you are going to gift someone a dead creature, the rational thing would be to make it into some sort of shelf ornament, but now there is this rather unseemly keychain bit attached to it that stands out as if you had given them a stuffed turkey vulture to hang from the ceiling instead. I mean they could position the entire thing as to hide the keychain. Maybe. But then is it more important to properly show off your butterfly tomb, or hide the keychain?

See, this entire ordeal is riddled with awkwardness – what to do with the keychain, how to properly display your dead insect, and what is the protocol for accepting such a thing? I personally like to write thank-you notes for the gifts I receive, and this one was no exception. Unfortunately, no matter how many times I drafted my note, my tone seemed sarcastically incredulous, and perhaps ungrateful.

This was almost as bad as the time Trish got me a butterfly shaped vibrator that I found slightly interesting until it started flapping its wings at me and I called her screaming (not in a good way, mind you), as I was beating the thing into a corner. She got no thank-you note from me.

Yet I couldn’t equate a keychain with *that* so I settled on the least offensive note. When I send thank-you notes I want to make sure the person feels fully appreciated, which I generally do by getting specific about their gift, not just how much I enjoy having it, but enumerating its many qualities and what I foresee myself doing with it in the future. For example, I once wrote to Gina that I plan on wearing the lovely black leather gloves she got me on my next trip to the Bay Area in winter, and how they will look perfect with my new dark grey peacoat.

Unfortunately I didn’t know very much about silver studded blue butterflies and I felt it would be rude of me to simply dash off a note thanking the person for “the butterfly carcass in a square jar keychain.” After a bit of research I found that this particular species is extremely endangered, and not only is it not to be mounted, but even if, should the poor thing die of natural causes (and considering its very short life span that is entirely the case most of the time), it’s body is to remain untouched. Not even an antennae may be taken for souvenir purposes – that is how endangered this thing is. Now do you see why I have kept it all these years? How can I eliminate an endangered butterfly from my collection? (pun totally intended).

More research on my part discovered its treatment in different jurisdictions. While in the US and various parts of Europe the butterfly is to be left entirely alone, in life or death, there are some pockets in which death brings on a grey area – if it can be proven beyond a doubt that it died of natural causes, then it may be mounted. I assume this entails extensive interviews with all the other butterflies in the vicinity to ensure that the mounted butterfly died of old age, or disease. I made sure to include in my thank-you note that the butterfly in question was too beautiful, and had been unmarred by whatever disease that had caused it to now be in my possession. And if it is old age that got it there, then should I ever fly to Wales, I will make sure to bring it along so its grandchildren may view the body. But only within the part of town where carrying endangered butterflies is allowed. I surely would not want to break any international laws and have to explain that to future employers.

To alleviate some of the morbidity of the gift, I decided instead to focus on the pretty pin that was used to impale the corpse, commenting on the deep cerulean color that brought out the snowy blue of the butterfly’s wings, veins and all. Then I informed her I plan on placing it atop my bookcase, overlooking the living room in the hopes that it keeps other insects away, which makes it a very practical gift as well.

Now, looking at my makeshift insect scarecrow I think it may be time to say goodbye. Poor thing has been dragged around enough, and probably would like to rest. Do butterflies get buried? Should I hold a funeral for the thing? What is the standard procedure for dead insects you have received in the mail?

However, I do have to admit that it is rather beautiful, and if I picture it alive it scares me slightly less. And if it is in fact a genuine silver studded blue butterfly, then I can’t bring myself to simply discard it, which is how it has finagled its way into my continuous possession all these years, despite the fact that I am probably breaking some sort of international law by holding on to the thing. Nevermind that it came from overseas and no butterfly murder has taken place within US borders, since the burden of proof would be with the accusers, well, they wouldn’t have to go far. Habeas corpus? Um…well… right there, in the jar.

I should have included that in my P.S. on the thank-you note. Thank you for incriminating me in international butterfly murder plots and providing all the evidence necessary to prosecute me. This is what I mean when I said that I just couldn’t get the tone of the thank-you card properly.

And when did we get to the point where we were sending each other dead things? Isn’t it like lingerie where you have to be intimate with someone before you can get it for them? Did we cross the friendship barrier to where asphyxiated corpses were okay? And was I supposed to reciprocate in kind? I didn’t, and I can’t help but feeling I had committed a serious social faux pas. Perhaps I should have sent her a stuffed peacock or something. She likes peacocks, and since we are all in the habit of getting others only that one thing that they once mentioned they like, I think a peacock would be very appropriate. A male of course, with all the plumes. I had it all figured out, but by then several years had passed, and I think we moved on from the “sending each other dead things” stage, so I sent her a different kind of stuffed peacock, a plushie.

In the meantime, as I am reevaluating my butterfly collection, and finding places for my varied butterfly memorabilia, I think that the mounted butterfly has found another place – the closet. I may not be able to bring myself to throw it away, but I think enough time has passed to where I can politely put it away.

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