Ps & Qs: Ticks in private places

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Dear Nicole,

Holy cleavage! Guess where I found an embedded deer tick? Unable to disengage the tick from its private perch, I needed to enlist the help of — well, that was my problem — who do you go to for help pulling a tick off your privates, if you don’t have a someone in your life with day-to-day access to those parts? I didn’t want to go to my doctor or the emergency room and pay for tick removal — and I was too embarrassed to call on a neighbor or friend. Surely I’m not the first person with a tick in thick. So what’s the protocol on whom to call? 

Confidentially yours,

Private Call


Dear Private,

Talk about a Vineyard business opportunity — Tick Busters! Startup costs and overhead are nearly nonexistent: a car, some tweezers, discretion, and a big jar of kerosene. You’d drive all over this beautiful Island making house calls (and barn calls and duck-blind calls and beach calls and harbor calls), providing a real service. You’d be a hero to the people, to the hospital, and to the CDC. I hope somebody does this, pronto. 

Before I get into personnel suggestions, let’s make sure you know that there are gadgets designed for safe, effective tick removal. Walk into a drugstore, hardware, grocery, convenience store, etc, and you’ll find them. With a mirror and a tick-removal tool, more is possible with minimal contortions than you might think.

But if that doesn’t work, then let’s talk about to whom you should appeal for assistance, if your nearest and dearest aren’t around. I’ll likely get in trouble with whomever I send you to. For the greater good, I’ll risk it anyhow.

Let’s start with the easy group: People you definitely should NOT approach when you need to expose any part of yourself for the purpose of tick-removal assistance:

  1. Strangers on the street.

WHY: They will think you are insane.

  1. Tourists.

WHY: They will think you are insane, and you’ll scare them away, and as crushed as summer feels, we need them.

  1. UPS and FedEx couriers making deliveries when you’re home alone; your best friend’s attractive spouse; your neighbors hosting a dinner party.

WHY: They will think you are insane. Also, these scenarios are how art-house porn films open. 

Next up: People you MIGHT consider approaching when you need to expose any part of yourself for the purpose of tick-removal assistance.

  1. Members of your church, AA, Al-Anon, or other self-help group.

WHY: They’ve already proven they’re there for you in your hour of need. Also, they really understand boundaries and appropriate behavior.

  1. Your family vet.

WHY: Hands-on examination of mammals is second nature to them, and you already know they’re good at it.

  1. Lifeguards

WHY: If you would trust one of them to breathe into your mouth, surely you can trust them with this. Also: If you were tempted to use your tick emergency as an excuse to expose your cleavage (or whatnot) to your best friend’s attractive spouse, the average lifeguard will be just as attractive, and has the benefit of not being married to your best friend.

Finally: The best people to approach when you need to expose any part of yourself for the purpose of tick-removal assistance are …


This is true: As I was writing the word “Finally,” above, I felt a deer tick embedded where I could not reach it (never mind where), and I was alone in the house. A friend was on her way over, so she helped me out, but while waiting for her I had the opportunity to contemplate my backup options. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Pharmacists.

WHY: They are experts in the field of health who already know your medical secrets, and they keep regular business hours.

  1. EMTs, firefighters, or any friend or family member who works in health or medicine.

WHY: Their vocation is taking care of people, and they have been trained to see a human as a living piece of meat. It doesn’t matter to them what your cleavage looks like.

  1. Attendants at “Information kiosks.”

WHY: They will not actually remove the tick. They will school you on the outrageously high Lyme disease infection rate on Martha’s Vineyard, and give you directions to the ER or the nearest clinic. If there are no EMTs, pharmacists, lifeguards, vets, or 12-steppers at hand, then listen to them.

Another option is to start a tick-removal support group — a members-only group of friends or relatives who pledge to always be available to other members to remove their ticks when called upon to do so. The potential repercussions of trying to form such a group are so hilarious that I think that would have to be its own column, however. 

That’s my take.


Bemused readers ask bestselling novelist and Shakespeare for the Masses co-creator Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Her most recent novel, “On The Same Page,” is set on Martha’s Vineyard and concerns itself with island newspapers. If you’re trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question, send it to