“The world of men is always uncertain, seldom inspiring, often a source of discouragement and dismay. But the keeper of bees, like anyone who has welded his life to the cycles and patterns of nature, can always turn to his tiny creatures and his craft.”
-Richard Taylor, The Joys of Beekeeping
The sun rises again over my apiary. I nestle myself among the warm buzzing aisles, happily tending to my gentle brood, but something is missing. Even though I’m surrounded by 80,000 busy little bodies, I feel completely and utterly alone.
Don’t get me wrong – I love being a beekeeper. I wouldn’t trade my little ones for all the honey in the world. But when I end yet another day alone, exhausted, covered in pollen and stings, I have to wonder: What about my needs?
Who keeps the beekeeper?
I’ve been an avid beekeeper for 16 years. Everyone always asks me, “Aren’t you afraid of the bees?” My answer is always the same: I’m not afraid of bees. I’m afraid of who I would be without the bees.
I make an effort to be social with non-bees. I go to human parties. I visit their shockingly honeyless eateries. I make conversation with words, not with calm, fluid movements and buzzing sounds. You can’t say I don’t try. But still, people keep their distance. I guess no one likes to see a woman over 40 living her best life, running her own business, with no husband or kids. Or maybe it’s my bee suit. People often ask me why I wear my bee suit to places that do not have bees. Does a pastor just “take off” his faith when he leaves the church?
Some of my human female friends try to get me to take off my mask more often, but there’s only so much I’m going to change to make others happy. When I look in the mirror without my beekeeper suit, I don’t recognize my face. I marvel at the odd, pink, non-proboscis protrusions and think, Whose face is that? Then I put my mask back on and I think, Oh, it’s my face. My suit is my armor against stings from human eyes. It’s not like I don’t care what I look like – this is an Aspectek professional self-supporting veil, for goodness sake. I look damn good in this veil.
When will I receive my royal jelly?
Sometimes when I’m feeling sultry, I’ll dust some pollen on the sides of my veil, under which I imagine my cheekbones are hiding. I turn my face this way and that, admiring my beauty, wondering self-indulgently why no man has responded to my Match.com profile. The pictures I took are positively scandalous – you can even see a part of my neck! Still, no messages. It’s so hard to date when you’re a female beekeeper. Most men my age prefer younger women who don’t wear beekeeping suits.
Where are the good men? The ones who don’t care that you spend your crisp fall days watching female worker bees cast out male drones from the hive after mating? Where is just one single, normal, funny guy who isn’t threatened by a female business owner who’s constantly surrounded by a swarm of stinging insects? My needs are few and my prospects are fewer.
I look at my queen, surrounded by eager mates, and I am jealous. She looks bored even, as they dance frantically for her attention. I think, What makes you so special? Who died and made you queen? The answer, of course, is Lady Dolly Mamawala Who Dances II, my previous queen. She died and made this bee queen. I know it’s impossible, but deep down, I wish she had picked me. Just for one day, I’d like to be surrounded by a crowd of peers who admire me, who want nothing more than to please me, who regurgitate into my mouth even though I’m fully capable of feeding myself. That’s the kind of love I’m talking about – and I fear that I’ll never find it.
If love finds me, great. But I certainly won’t hold my breath, unless I’m smoking out the hive, in which case, I will hold my breath.
In the meantime, I’ll just be out here, feeding my bees.