Did you know that whales have legs?
Okay, okay. Hear me out.
According to Science, whales evolved from land animals that liked the water so much that they were just like: Fuck you, walking. I want to swim.
And so, eventually, these ancestral whales stopped developing legs, because they didn’t need them.
But, they didn’t lose these leg structures completely. If you look at a whale skeleton, you can see little leg bones totally detached from the rest of the skeleton. These are called “vestigial” bones. And they’re the evolutionary remnants of that original land animal that dreamed about being a mermaid and lived that motherfucking dream.
Of course, now that whales are whales, they don’t need these bones anymore.
So, what’s the point of them? Why are they there? To fuck up creationists and look weird in natural science museum displays?
I like to think about this question, a lot. Not just in terms of underdeveloped whale legs. I’m talking big picture, here.
It’s a natural human urge — giving meaning to things, finding some kind of putty to hold all of the broken pieces of ourselves together. A Purpose.
It’s addictive. Meaning. We like the way it feels on our tongues when we tell stories.
So, let me tell you a story:
The other night, I had the most delicious spread of Chinese food known to man. I’m talking vegetable chow mein, I’m talking perfectly seared bean curd, and I’m talking spring rolls. Lots and lots of spring rolls.
It was a reward. A little present to myself after surviving the move into my new apartment.
Five hours later, I woke up with dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-why-have-you-forsaken-me stomach cramps.
An hour after that, I lurched out of my bed, grabbed the garbage can, and christened my new home with some Exorcism-level vomit.
My sister came running into my room and held my hand and tried not to let her voice shake as she asked me if we should go to the doctor. I produced a sound that can only be described as “gurbdddugh,” and returned to the garbage can.
Five hours (and one permanently-scarred garbage can) later, I was in a taxi, pressing my forehead into my sister’s shoulder, and trying not to feel the road move beneath us as the taxi driver sped us to the hospital.
I was poked, prodded, and oogled at in the waiting room (which probably had something to do with the fact that my pants were 75% undone. Because, sickness). I was admitted and carted into a room full of elderly people who were wheezing and staring and, in one instance, screaming every 3-4 seconds. I was informed that I probably had “sketchy Chinese food”-related food poisoning.
I was asked to describe every cringe-inducing detail of my bowel-munching chronic illness to a doctor whom my sister and I both agreed was too attractive to know so many intimate details about my butt. I was threatened with a butt probe (Okay, I wasn’t technically ‘threatened.’ But, you try having Sense-and-Sensibility-era-Hugh-Grant-in-a-lab-coat tell you he’s going to probe you and try not to feel a little bit on edge).
Perhaps the worst moment of all was when another doctor strolled up to my bedside, crossed his arms, frowned, and said, “You know, normally Crohn’s patients are quite thin. But, you’re not thin at all.” A pause. “At all.”
And you want to know what I’m thinking about through this chronological series of fuck? The underdeveloped legs of a baleen whale.
Because, why do they exist? What is the point? Why is this happening to me, right now? What is the lesson here? What is the endgame of me having to have a polite conversation with a doctor who keeps marvelling at my sheer heft!?
Twelve hours later, as I slumped out of the hospital looking like a deflated beige balloon, I did not have the answers. I only had anger and Simple Plan lyrics stuck in my head.
And, you know, I still don’t really have the answers.
But, I do know this: when I was researching whale leg bones for this blog post, I read about some scientists who studied whale pelvic bones for four years and found out that the muscles that control whale penises are attached to these “vestigial” leg bones. (I know. I, too, was surprised by this unexpected penial turn of events). And apparently, the larger the penis, the larger the pelvic bones need to be in order to maintain better “penis control.” (Not something I ever thought I’d write in a blog post. But, okay.)
So, the lesson here is that: 1) the sexiest whales really do need their sea legs, 2) “vestigial” bones may not be as useless as we all thought they were, and 3) just because we don’t know the answer or the point or the purpose of something, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.
Right now, I’m trying not to be angry at the universe — for giving me a chronic illness, for destroying my love of spring rolls, for making me endure butt-probing-threats from dashing English doctors.
Right now, I know that I’m too close to the dirt. I can’t see the forest.
But, I’m looking forward to looking back. To seeing this and all of the other clusterfuck WHY moments as the beginning of things and of lessons and of stories that I care about and value.
I’m holding onto that hope. That natural human need. A purpose, a putty, a whale penis.