Does Your Butt Glow?

lightning bug

Do you love insects? Crazy about science? Get a thrill over cReEpY cRaWlIeS? Were biology and zoology courses your favorite?

… You may not want to keep reading. No seriously. This post is about as far from scientific as it gets. I’d hate to give you heartburn, so all y’all who are entomologists at heart need to just exit this website and visit me again real soon. <smile>

Whether you call them lightning bugs or fireflies, chances are you have seen them. Actually, I don’t recall growing up around fireflies so they must not be indigenous to southeastern Colorado. I would see them when I visited my grandparents in Ohio during the summer, and then I saw them all the time when I moved to the South. It wasn’t until I had kids though that I really began to think about fireflies. Kids ask the craziest questions and it make us think. “Mom, how do their butts glow?” As this was right before the Internet had become available in household homes, I had to pack the kids up and go to the library. If you are younger than 30 you may not know what that is (a library, I mean). I found a number of books on these bioluminescent insects and the kids and I studied up, becoming pretty knowledgeable about fireflies. Their butts are not actually what light up – it’s their abdomen. However, from our vantage point? It clearly is their butt. There are thousands of types of firefly species, but the kind we have here look like this:


After we figured out the HOW, the kids then wanted to know WHY. Scientists think fireflies light up for three primary reasons. 1) To find a mate. Each species has a specific light, pattern, flash intensity, and chemical. Fireflies can tell by the flash who is who. 2) To warn others they taste nasty – especially in the larvae state. This helps everyone. The predator is warned off that this larvae is toxic, and the larvae keeps from being munched on – win/win! 3) To communicate. Two species actually flash in unison – a firefly CHORUS. It only happens in southeast Asia and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They time the flashes so that it all happens at the same time… in UNISON. Can you imagine? Thousands of fireflies flashing in UNISON! It can light up an entire meadow!

Does Your Butt Glow?

One of the frequent topics of emails from readers is that of INVISIBLE disabilities or illnesses. Some argue that the fact their illness is invisible, works to their advantage. (I’d LOVE for some of these folks to write for me because I love various opinions). I’ve always been an “out of the closet” kind of person about my disabilities. Well, I take that back. In the very beginning, I was not. It wasn’t until I had a series of encounters with people who didn’t know I could not hear, that I learned to make it visible. I’ll never forget the first time I was knocked out of the way because I didn’t hear that someone needed to get by me. So it started with little magnetic badges that said, “Please face me. I read lips.” This was an advocacy FAIL. People would read the badge and then loudly and with exaggerated enunciation talk to me with a pre-school vocabulary. By the time I had hearing aids, I decided to have super colorful ear molds. Shortly after that I started adding bling-bling. By the time Meniere’s disease had really become an entrenched part of my daily challenges, I had bright chrome-colored canes, blinged-up gadgets and a large service dog. For me (a very personal decision) making the invisible – VISIBLE – benefited me. I suppose you could say my butt glows. I didn’t need to find a mate, but I discovered my openness drew other like-minded and similarly challenged people to me. People who also had hearing loss or balance issues felt comfortable asking about my own struggles – not in an intrusive way, rather… a “HEY! Our butts glow the same!” kind of way. Total strangers would stop and ask me about cochlear implants, canes, and service dogs.

Because my butt glows, predators know I taste nasty.

Yeah. That needs further explanation.

Some people are uncomfortable around people who are differently-abled. My openness lets those folks steer clear. I see them in my peripheral sometimes. That’s ok. I’m not contagious but I totally understand that some people are not comfortable around people who are different. It isn’t my goal to ram my disabilities down another’s throat. My “flash” is different and I “get” that our butts glow differently. Some people steer clear because they don’t think I should have a service dog, or should even be out and about. I was at a Rite-Aid once when a store employee asked me why I’d go out with a service dog. When I told her all the things Chloe can do for me (and that it was my right to have her in public places), she said, “Why don’t you stay home where you are safe?” I was stunned. I told her that I had a life, and I was going to live it… even if it meant I live it having to do things a little differently. So some predator kind of people see my glowing butt and are warned off. I’d rather them steer clear than come up and take a bite out of me. I bite back.

I also buff my glowing butt and make sure the wattage is at maximum levels to be a good advocate. Before I started being open about my invisible disabilities, my ability to make a difference was limited. In a way, my luminescence has made me bolder. I serve on various committees and invest myself in causes that I once did not know even existed. I communicate with my butt glow.

Does your butt glow? Do you live with a chronic condition, invisible illness, or invisible disability? I encourage you to just THINK about being more open about it. Maybe you don’t want to go around mooning everyone with your glowing behind right off the bat. Just consider flashing some “light” once in awhile.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal



2 thoughts on “Does Your Butt Glow?

  1. Denise, this is an awesome and spot-on post. My hearing aids are covered in wildly colored Ear Gear. My service dog wears his brightly colored vest. (I am also partial to bright colored Converse sneakers, but that’s neither here nor there) I’m not ashamed of my hearing loss just as I was never ashamed of my mobility disability. It’s all part of who I am. I guess my butt glows! In the future I hope to get sparkly ear molds so I’ll glow even more. Maybe it’ll keep more of the jackasses away.

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