Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Bed Bugs: Is No One Safe?

MOLLSBed bugs are shameless. They are the pest equivalent of a party guest who comes out of the bathroom and boldly announces that they just snooped through your medicine cabinet and you're like, "No shit, asshole. You left your fingerprints everywhere." They have no boundaries. That kind of boldness is not cute in people and it's even less cute in flesh-eating creatures of the night.

It doesn't matter if you're fabulous or young or in need of a body that men want to touch, because things that lack shame don't understand the importance of all that. If you live in an area where old mattresses line the street and foot traffic is heavy, you can get bed bugs no matter how amazing you are. In fact, here in Koreatown, I would say that the bed bugs are the only residents who don't actively discriminate against anyone.

The truly fucked up thing about bed bugs settling mainly in densely populated areas is that usually people who live five to a one-bedroom apartment (like every family in my building except for me) are poor. Eliminating the infestation was by far the largest expense I have had while living in Los Angeles.

Here's that breakdown: My landlord is legally responsible to pay for my extermination (a very good landlord will even put you up in a hotel while they fumigate your place, FYI), but he is dodging the $180 bill and I am too tired to fight about it. The cleaning service was another $200. I will be replacing the mattress and box spring I threw away when I am confident they are gone. Until then, I'm crashing on a reasonably priced and fairly comfortable air mattress. Don't make that face. I'm fine.

Treatment for my bites has been the easiest part. At first they were shiny little red dots. It looked like my stomach had baby acne. The itching only lasted for a couple of days and was nowhere near as severe as mosquito bites. I've gone through a couple boxes of Benadryl to decrease the inflammation. I've also been using it as a light sleep aid because I'll lie awake all night in fear if I don't. I've also sunk a TimeWarner bill's worth of cash into hydrocortisone, which I use as a moisturizer when I get out of the shower. At the rate they are fading, I will not be going to any pool parties this summer. There was nothing in that Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff song about kickin' it with a girl who had oblong hot dog-colored marks all over her body, correct?

Then there are the clothes. I did over twenty loads of laundry in a two-day period. I had to figure out what my belongings meant to me because everything I kept was a liability. By the way, that's completely how the experts need to talk to the wackjobs on Hoarders. Instead of, "Do you really need this?", they should say, "Do you love this so much that you would keep it even if skin-eating bugs who lay thousands of eggs every time they move lived in it?"

I straight-up tossed out a Marc Jacobs skirt I had never worn and then the next day I saw a homeless man dig it out of my dumpster along with several old pairs of shoes and a fish-print terrycloth jumper. He thought he was going to bite my personal style, but my personal style was going to bite him.

Everything I kept had to be packed away in 2-gallon Ziploc bags. That whole process, between the bags and the quarters, totaled another hundred bucks. My time is very valuable, and it cost a lot of that too.


The exterminator was a jovial Korean man who came down in between fumigations to visit me in the laundry room. I was reading Julie Klausner's book and having a panic attack about my love life when he popped his head in the door. He asked me about my work and I told him I wrote "for the Internet" because I didn't think he'd know what a blog was. Then he asked me if I was an actress, and I said that sometimes I am. He got really excited and said, "You! You are going to be a big star! Big star!" and he looked up at the ceiling of my laundry room and squinted, as if the light from me in the sky was so bright that it hurt his eyes. He even said "Ahhh!" softly, like he was half-heartedly screaming in pain from having his eyes burnt out by the flames of the bright star that is Molly McAleer.

The Universe has to be laughing at you when the man killing the flesh-eating bugs in your apartment tells you that you're going to be a "big star" while you're sitting in your dingy laundry room with every piece of fabric you own.


My landlord is Korean and speaks fluent Spanish and decent English, but as the prostitute who lives next door to me said, "That guy. He like, acts retarded or something when he has to answer questions." The man who can speak three languages pretends not to know what you mean when you say "there are bugs in my mattress eating me when I sleep." Three days after I told him that I suspected there were bed bugs, he brought me a can of roach killer. I showed him the bites on my side and he asked me if I had eaten any strange meat lately.

I fogged my apartment on my own with a bed bug killer from the hardware store, but then heard from several people that foggers only kill adult bed bugs and that the eggs that are the real problem. After reading up on that for thirty-two seconds, I threw away my mattress and told my landlord that I was calling in the exterminator for the next day. He said to let him know if I needed anything.

Because I Velveteen Rabbit-ed so relentlessly, there's really nowhere for them to hide anymore. My blankets get put in the dryer every other day to kill anything that could be living in there. My rugs, shoes, purses and luggage need to be vacuumed daily. I pour rubbing alcohol on a sponge mop every other day and wipe my floors down because it's one of the only things strong enough to kill bed bug eggs. This new lifestyle is exhausting considering I barely moved from my computer until three weeks ago. I've temporarily "let myself go." Chronic paranoia is harder to live with than feeling ugly.


Sometimes I bone this dude and after I won the laundry marathon he insisted that he stop by to see me. Relax, I had my period. I'm not going to talk about bed bug sex. I'm not like that.

The apartment was bare except for Ziploc bags and the air mattress. We pretended it was normal until he eyed my bed and asked me why I hadn't been staying with friends.

"Because this is my house!" I said.

He started laughing. "I love this," he said. "You have proven yourself to be completely unstoppable this week." Damn. Look at that. I was so busy freaking out about all the possible ways this was going to keep me from the things I love (boys and money and clothes!) that I didn't stop to realize that I'd practically already solved my problem.

I wouldn't recommend bed bugs to my worst enemy, but I might recommend them to my best friend. I feel brave as hell right now and you can't buy that. I'm prepared for pretty much anything and since I only own seven things now, I can make a break whenever. That's kind of a luxury. When the bed bug epidemic gets as bad in Los Angeles as it is in New York, you'll be seeing me walking down the street in my suit made of alcohol swabs, wielding a rifle and screaming, "THOUGHT YOU KNEW!"

Molly McAleer, as we knew, is making it in Los Angeles. Photographs by Lou Noble.

71 Comments / Post A Comment

mathnet (#27)

(Sorry, Alex, that article was actually about her.)

That was amazing and, by amazing, I mean HORRIFYING but still really funny at the same time.

Emily (#20)

I heard hearts all over Brooklyn break when I read the line "Sometimes I bone this dude"

grandpa27 (#804)

Was the dude crab free?

Hoarders taught me about something called "carpet beetles." I thought this was a a regional nickname for this critter–but turns out it is a thing!

NatashaVC (#464)

Let's not even talk about what lurks in our eyebrows.

WindowSeat (#180)

This except a condo with 4 roommates and the culprit was scabies. Twenty years and I still shudder when I think about it.

breccia (#2,412)

Once, my insane boyfriend-at-the-time found a dead, adult bedbug on my bare mattress when I was moving out of a slummy apartment in Pittsburgh. He spent the next 6-9 months refusing to sleep. He analyzed every visible particle of dust he found, thinking it may be a bug. Any mark on his body was met with obsessive scrutiny. He hot washed every article of clothing he owned, ruining many. His insanity made me cry at least 3 times, thinking that this one rogue, deceased bug and I had ruined his life (to be fair, we had.) An exterminator once told him he had NO signs of an infestation. He assumed he was lying and continued to sleep on his porch in a rocking chair, sitting upright.

So I guess I would like to add that while acquiring bravery is a great outcome to a bedbug infestation, pure insanity is also a reasonable alternative. (We broke up months later, but not because of the bugs. I now consider our time together to have been a "learning experience" more than "a relationship.")

blueprint (#2,019)

This article changed me 4 eva.

Is that a Chanel tattoo or a map of Australia?

Hey Molls, good luck with that bedbug problem. I hope you can … nip it in the bud. So to speak.

KarenUhOh (#19)

This is like if Orkin bought American Apparel.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

This made my day.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Wait, Dov Charney gave you bedbugs?

betsy (#274)

Isn't this a Gus Van Sant-style shot for shot remake of Emily Gould's NYT Magazine photo shoot?

Hey, remember that Seinfeld episode when Elaine sent out the Christmas cards?

Dunno what just made me think of that …

MollyBloomberg (#1,169)

I know, right? Pic troi is very, well – you know.

tunamelt (#2,669)

As another resident of Koreatown, Los Angeles, I have to admit I am far more concerned about the flying roaches the size of my palm than the bed bugs.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Palmetto bugs! They're the norm where I live. I still remember the first time I went to squish one and it launched a FLYING KAMIKAZE ATTACK AT MY FACE. Mainly because I spent the following week curled up in a corner of my bedroom, sobbing.

tunamelt (#2,669)

They are terrifying and during the Station Fire when it was hot as hades outside, I inadvertently left my window open and came home to about 6 or 7 flying around my tiny studio.

@tunamelt I had roaches (not flying ones, granted), then mice when I lived in NYC. The mice were pretty bad–but I would take those, or roaches, or almost anything ANY day over bed bugs. You can NEVER. get. rid. of. them. I did not actually have them, but had a bad scare a few months ago, and I'm *still* deeply traumatized. You can't understand it until you've been in the situation. I know this sounds ridiculously over-dramatic, but that was seriously about the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

HiredGoons (#603)

I may steal that Polaroid decorating scheme.

PatsyStoned (#3,564)

Don't you need a boner to bone a dude? Unless you use an apparatus of some sort.

lululemming (#409)

The gratuitous vanity photos say "you shouldn't like this", but the part of me that battled a vermin infestation all by my ownsome right after a broken-off engagement read the whole thing and identified. (And then overshared!)

Anyways, I'm off to look at Julia Allison's cheesecake photo essay depicting the effects of a raccoon living in one's kitchen cupboard.

earlydinner (#1,816)

The photos. The photos. What is the point of those photos?!

liz (#3,108)

Joy. and also to show how little (visible) damage the bed bugs have actually done.

lululemming (#409)

At some point we'll all have to give in and accept that this kind of presentation is that status quo. Molly is talented and genial enough to convince me she's not a complete prat, even with the topless photos, so maybe that's just how it is now – news with more id that we're used to. Personally, I had my money on new via single-panel LOLCat (viz. "Dumbledore is gay?!!??") but this will do.

lululemming (#409)

No offense to Molly. I hate to talk about you like an object, but the leg work's been done for me.

missdelite (#625)

Boys like 'em.

missdelite (#625)

@earlydinner: The point is boys like the photos. Urgh. These reply buttons suck.

earlydinner (#1,816)

@missdelite. That's okay–I just assume all the responses to all the pieces are directed at me.

NatashaVC (#464)

As a lady, I think the photos are important. Beyond the monetary and emotional havoc bed bugs create there is a really scary imprint they make on your body. It doesn't feel like your skin belongs to you anymore. But there's Molls, owning it, looking fresh.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

I think Ms. McAleer still believes her brand is going to happen.
Or she's looking for compliments from strangers on the internet. Not sure which is sadder.

balsa_wood (#465)

Okay, if you please, how is this a lady's issue? I'm not sure the "scary imprint" they make on a man's skin would be any more…uncomfortable…unpleasant…unattractive…traumatizing? How far you willing to go? Would you say the bedbugs raped her?

Beyond that, let's not overanalyze self-promotion. Molly McAleer, at least as I remember her in those painfully sloppy and limp videowhateverthefucks on Defamer, really, really likes her own spiel, her own routine, and especially her own face. It's branding. Wink-wink branding, but branding nevertheless. Because, really, what else we got here? Another bedbugs story?

balsa_wood (#465)

Sorry, that was a reply to NatashaVC. This reply system, it confuses me.

NatashaVC (#464)

I'm not saying it's strictly a ladies issue. I am saying that was a card carying vag-haver, this resonated with me because we have a particular set of body issues that is different from yall.

I think the accusations of self promotion are needlessly cynical. A good narrative is a good narrative.

adminslave (#3,548)

I had a similar situation a few years back with fleas thanks to two crappy roommates and two infested extremely anti-social cats (illegally living in the closet)–all in a one bedroom. No one wanted to spend any money on an exterminator and we couldn't tell the landlord because the cats were illegal. I would go to sleep with the light on, wearing jeans over my sweatpants, a jacket, and my socks over my pants, completely covered in deet (we also had no heat because it broke down and my roommates didn't want to pay for gas). I moved out shortly thereafter and never spoke to those lovely ladies again, though I do hear from friends that the cat owner is now a massive coke head, so I guess I missed on some awesome times.

City_Dater (#2,500)

This made me itch. As all good insect-inspired writing should.

And if those are four of the seven clothing items you chose to keep, the sartorial angels weep for you.

HiredGoons (#603)

<- also became itchy.

KenWheaton (#401)

Not to make you paranoid, but does all the exterminating do any good if the bedbugs are more than likely still in every other unit in the building? Aren't they just waiting for you to turn your back, let your guard down … fall asleep.

Damn. Now I'm all itchy and shit after reading that. And I'm at work.

Tanya77 (#3,565)

Molls, really great article. Well done, Girl.

Jasmine (#8)

I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: put the legs of your new bed in little containers with baby oil in them. It'll keep them from getting in your new bed.

Been there, done that and agree it was probably the worst thing I've ever experienced. We're survivors, Molls.

Mary Mouse (#670)

I WAS ABOUT TO SAY THAT EXACT THING. Anyway, I loved this article.

flossy (#1,402)

I take it that bedbugs, like most other trends, took 2-3 years to migrate from New York to LA? Because this felt like an American Apparel ad had become sentient and started telling me about what life was like back in the summer of 2008.

@unfuckwithable (#3,570)

Not gonna lie, I read this article for the pictures.

Onjay (#2,679)

Ah. I was trying to figure out what the pictures had to do with anything. I guess that tells me.

Liz (#1,979)

I love Molls' ring. Also this post.

tunamelt (#2,669)

Also. You are wearing American Apparel nail polish in Office, no?

"My landlord is legally responsible to pay for my extermination (a very good landlord will even put you up in a hotel while they fumigate your place, FYI), but he is dodging the $180 bill and I am too tired to fight about it."

Write him a letter with a copy of the bill telling him that you are deducting that amount from your rent.

Sara Padilla (#3,547)

I wrote a whole long comment that just got eated, but it comes down to this: if your landlord is doing this now, he is not going to get better. I had a very similar situation (my landlord pretended he could only speak Greek).Molly, plan to move, budget to move, and when you move take as little as possible with you.

Sara Padilla (#3,547)

Additionally, the Polaroid wall paper would make an excellent place for those little bastards to lay their eggs. It looks cool, but if I were you I'd take it down sooner than immediately.

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

Even as Bitten as Mark Bittman's blog, Molls is the hawtness. Also, I think Babeland just ordered a seminar on "Velveteen Rabbit-ing."

There is so much indignity these shameless little fuckers cause. I think the worst is the transient bullshit of having to sleep on air matress in your own place. Like you're a guest in THEIR castle. Ugh, girl, you deserve a pillowtop for dayz.

NatashaVC (#464)

Hi! I left that comment.
Commenting integrity is important to me.

prufrocksspoons (#3,573)

Oh Dammit. Till now I've sometimes been annoyed by you, Molls. Now I'm less annoyed, more aroused and paranoid – about bedbugs. Phantom itching and all.

Chuck McCarthy (#3,576)

Turbo is going to be very excited that you did this shoot adorned with his phone number.

NatashaVC (#464)

It's spelled Turbo-XXX

Atencio (#399)

I dated a girl who had bedbugs once. It was a pretty awful ordeal. It started when we noticed what we thought were baby roaches in her Koreatown apartment, and from there it progressed in suspicions later confirmed by internet searches, a lying landlord claiming that one spray treatment from an exterminator would fix the problem, and eventually, her moving out of her apartment and staying with me. Before that I'd had no idea how bad bed bugs really were (indeed, I had somewhat assumed they were the stuff of urban myth). All of which is to say, I empathize with you. Great essay.

6h057 (#1,914)

I love how good Molls is at making blogging fun and interesting. I don't think I've gotten so much enjoyment from such a gross and personal story.

davidwatts (#72)

It's the bedbugs that are shameless?

Tarrabyte (#3,582)

Bed bugs in hotels are common. If you were able to actually see bed bugs it would be a horrendous infestation. Bed bug bites are painful and itchy and can stay that way for weeks if you react. You can watch videos on how to inspect a hotel room at

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)

I just wanted to put on Jerry Lewis teeth when she said "Big Star".

Kerry (#3,587)

can't beat off to this

DougBaker (#3,588)

I don't know which field would be better for you, acting or writing. My blinded eyes say either would suit you well.

Jenkins (#1,696)

Oh God, I have been there. The air mattress that makes you feel like you don't have any right to sleep in your overpriced city apartment, worrying about what the guys you're dating will think of you if they find out about the bedbugs, then thinking, "should I be dating this person if I'm worried about them freaking out about my bedbug issue?", then thinking "I can't fucking believe that I'm overthinking my dating life (and choice of friends) because I'm afraid of how they'll react."

Living in fear after you've gotten rid of them ("gotten rid"), reading the horror stories on and then getting mad at yourself for doing that, not being able to do anything without thinking about them. I haven't met many people in New York who *aren't* afraid of getting them — one of the few instances was a few weeks ago, when I met a woman who didn't even know they were a problem in New York. And I pictured her perfect life, free of bedbug worries (well, before she met me, at least) and I was so, so jealous.

Molly, thank you for being so pretty and making the bites look less creepy than they are…I'm amazed. Wtf is wrong with the commenters who are being insulting? A bedbug colony is headed for their box spring soon, if only because of karma.

FlatCat (#3,613)

It would appear that the bed bugs are not the only shameless creatures in the room.

cilecto (#3,611)

Great essay, Molly. Great pix Luciano. Note that according to, alcohol is a "contact killer"; it will kill bed bugs that you hit directly with it. It will not kill bugs who walk over your floors hours after you spray (i.e., no residual kill) and it will not kill eggs. Murphy Oil soap, which is more gentle on floors thna alcohol, also (according to is a good contact killer. Keep it up. Judging by your expressions in your pix, the bugs are not winning in your life. And if I had a pool, you'll be welcome at my party.

fairest (#413)

If it were possible to not feel sorry for someone who had bed bugs…

RogerPaul (#247,902)

How many of us check the mattress at hotels where we stay to see if there are bed bug remnants? (my hand is raised). Even at top hotels. The thought of the little buggers crawling around my bed gives me the heebie-jeebies!

spencerid (#239,811)

You can have many problems at home if you don't regularly clean the house. I always use septic tank bacteria products, special kitchen products and so on. So you should discuss with your landlord to make a whole house disinfestation.

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