We have moths. There, I said it. And we've had them for quite some time. I just haven't wanted to admit it. Who would? It's like having head lice – of the home.
I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about. Lately, the fluttery little sweater-eaters seem to be everywhere. A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the home of some friends for dinner, joining a third couple. There we all were, glasses of wine in hand, chatting around the kitchen island as the wife prepared her main course. The conversation – about art exhibitions, recent trips to Venice, summer plans – was all uptown and breezy. Until a little moth appeared right in front of me.
"A moth!" I shrieked, as if I had seen a monster. Then I clapped my hands together in an attempt to kill it.
I couldn't help my overreaction. I must have post-traumatic moth disorder. The darn things pop up unexpectedly, out of nowhere, like a recurring nightmare. You think you have cleared them out, once and for all, and then out flies another one, thumbing its wings at you.
"You have moths, too?" I asked our friends, after regaining my composure. The husband nodded with the doleful solemnity of someone admitting to masturbation. The party conversation stopped.
"Whenever Sarah sees one, she reacts as if she has seen a rat," my husband said over his wineglass.
"Rats are better," my friend's husband laughed dryly. "At least you can get rid of them."
The moth problem was now out of all of our closets. All sorts of stories came tumbling out. I relayed how, when we first noticed our unwelcome little friends, I had phoned a pest-control service and the woman on the other end of the line offered me the sort of gentle compassion I would have expected after an admission about something as personal and distressing as piles.
"There's nothing we can do," she informed me soothingly. She then said that moths thrive in dusty places, so I should go around the house and look for corners of cupboards or drawers that rarely get used.
"You're basically being told that you keep a dirty house," I said at the dinner party. Even after a thorough cleaning, though, the moths came back.
My friend sympathized. "I've washed the walls of our cupboards with water and vinegar," she said.
"Water and vinegar?"
She shrugged. "It sounded like a good old-fashioned cure." But her moths came back, too.
"Moth balls!" I said suddenly. "Those work."
"But only as a deterrent," said her husband.
"And who wants to smell of moth balls?" another guest contributed.
We then went on to discuss the merits of cedar blocks in our cupboards (the moths still ate a few sweaters) and also moth traps (which have caught nothing).
At my local hardware store, the clerks have started to look at me with pity as I make return visits for solutions. Last week, when the moths chewed a hole in my favourite skirt, I practically wept on the shoulder of one of their Home Hardware shirts.
My dry-cleaner, meanwhile, has advised me about the moth problem, too. "There's an infestation in this area," she said darkly, noting that many of her clients are complaining of the same headache. A bit too late, she recommended dry-cleaning all winter woolens before putting them away for the summer. "Moths don't like the smell of dry-cleaned clothes," she said, although she may simply have been trying out a new marketing strategy on me. During the winter, she added, we should set up a clothing rack in the garage. "Moths don't like the cold, either. And the larvae don't survive."
Great, I thought. Forget all those sublime home-decor magazines showcasing master suites with walk-in closets: You, by comparison, are going to be tiptoeing into your frigid garage, dodging the bike rack and the Christmas decorations, to find a dress that hopefully won't embarrass you. Because that has happened, too: You go out wearing something beautiful only to have someone politely point out that there's a moth hole in your sleeve. It's worse than smiling with lettuce in your teeth.
Which brings me back to the dinner. Finally, it was time for it, so we all sat down at place settings featuring beautiful linen napkins and heavy antique cutlery. And the conversation, at last, moved onto more pressing issues, such as tulips.