Shoo FTC, Don’t Bother Me!


I'm not going to bemoan the new FTC guidelines that say that bloggers must disclose the swag they receive, because I take it as a sign of respect. It recognizes that we are journalists and that our readers rely on our integrity, so we can't allow ourselves to be bought off.

Honestly, though, the temptations of blogging have thus far been very few.  I've been offered shockingly little of selfish interest: no cases of lily or tulip bulbs, for example, or cast-iron urns or stone Buddhas.  The stuff that I do accept is generally not stuff I even want, but something I think I ought to write about.

And you can use the hideously unflattering photograph below as proof of my sincerity:


I wouldn't be caught DEAD in clothes like this, if it weren't for this blog.  These are clothes cut for rectangular women, and that happens not to be my body type.  But in April, a company called Insect Shield contacted me and asked me if I'd be willing to try some of their products.

Insect Shield has found a way to bind the insect repellent permethrin so tightly to fabrics that the protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and flies may outlast the clothes themselves. The clothes are designed and produced by various rectangular-people purveyors like L.L. Bean and then treated by Insect Shield.

Obviously, such a fabric treatment might prove really important in preventing diseases like malaria, which devastates the developing world.  But even in cozy upstate New York, we are increasingly made miserable by vector-borne diseases, particularly Lyme, which NO ONE on my country road has escaped.  I had Lyme last summer.  Here is another really ugly picture that demonstrates what happened to my knee as soon as I pulled the tick out of it:

Unglamorous Obviously, I caught this early.  But the intense achiness and fever were not fun.  My daughter Georgia was not so lucky at the age of eight.  We didn't know she had Lyme, probably for months, until her knee suddenly swelled up like a balloon and her doctors initially terrified us by claiming it was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

So I wore the Insect Shield clothes all summer, together and in combination with other clothes that fit me.  And when I forgot to bring a belt with me to the country, I used whatever was handy to hold up the theoretically size 2 pants, would otherwise would fall around my ankles.

For the first time in six seasons of gardening in my tick-infested country place, I did not get a single tick bite. Dear FTC, I can't say that my experience is typical, but Insect Shield seems FANTASTIC to me!

My only complaint is that I was forced to listen to the sad laments of my husband all summer long about the transformation these clothes seem to highlight: "When I met you, you wore leopard-print miniskirts! Now, it's tick-repellent pants held up by a dog leash!" 

Such, darling, are the depredations of age and the effects of decades of happy contact with the soil.  One transfers one's vanity from one's own person to one's glorious root crops.

Insect Shield, I love you.  But for the sake of my marriage, could you please negotiate a license with J. Crew?  The J. Crew/Insect Shield line, I'd gladly pay for out of my own pocket.


  1. Hmm. Insecticide-impregnated clothing next to the body’s largest organ (the skin) for long periods of time, while sweating? I think I’ll give Insect Shield a miss, thanks. Reading this, your Common Sense Shield appears to be in full working order…

  2. Hilarious photo, M, and so brave of you to post it. Now the knee photo is just scary – your whole leg looks disconnected from presumably a foot at the end of it.

    Now about ticks, you don’t have to cover your arms?

    And what about mosquitoes?
    I throw caution to the wind and have a sinking feeling I shouldn’t.

  3. Rather than waiting for Insect Shield to team up with J. Crew, you can do a trick I learned from friends who worked overseas where malaria is a problem — buy permethrin, soak your favorite clothes in it, and hey presto, you are good to go.
    Should comment though: Permethrin is NOT an insect repellent, as you state. It is an insectide. And powerful enough that cloth treated with it kills insects on contact. Given I’ve no Lyme disease to worry about in my part of the country, I’m going to pass on insecticidal clothing.

  4. I’m with John, I’ll pass on having the insecticide against my sweaty skin.

    I wonder what the long term effects of it against your skin would be? I’m guessing for the average weekend gardener it wouldn’t be such a problem, but for those in the profession I can’t imagine that having that against your skin 5-6 days a week could be good for you.

    Plus as you already pointed out, the styling leaves something to be desired, it looks like a GAP ‘uniform’.

    I wonder if similar results could be achieved with natural oils – neem/citrus etc, and what the success rate and effects would be?

  5. You buy clothes to garden in? Gardening clothes are the oldest of old because they are ruined the first time they are worn. Real Gardeners get Dirty. Maybe I am just a slob of the first degree. The thought of insect repellant clothes against most of my body does not sound good. And for me and all of the other rectangular women out there I say: Phhhhtt!

  6. It is impossible for you to look anything but cute, even in those clothes.

    I am afraid I would break out from a shirt or pants, but maybe the insect repellent hat might be good. And socks maybe. I’d go for the accessories.

  7. Yeah, the comment from John certainly gives me pause and makes me think before running out and buying some.
    I bought some homemade insect repellent at a farmers market in another state and it was the best stuff I’ve ever had. Unfortunately there’s no label on it, so I don’t know how to get more of it. -Drive back across the state, I guess.

  8. Based on my research into neem I think I’d rather have permethrin next to my skin for an extended period of time — at least it’s been more thoroughly tested (Neem does have significant effects on human physiology and is a known allergen for some). I’m not going to say that I think it’s safe to have permethrin next to your skin for a long period of time, but if you live in an area that has a high concentration of Lyme disease cases you’ve got to ask yourself which is worse, and I’d venture to guess that the Lyme disease would be — both short and long term.

  9. Having had Lyme for perhaps 2 years, I struggled for months taking antibiotics and feeling miserable. I have been worried about gardening ever since…which has really put a damper in my style. I purchased some clothes quite similar in looks, with sunscreen in the fabric…because the antibiotics were making me burn to a crisp. The clothing was so-so in looks, but being sun safe was my priority. Now that I’ve experienced the ravages of Lyme, I would be interested in giving these clothes a shot. Personally, I think you look fine! For me, it is a safety issue–so I’ll take that over fashion any day! Thanks for this information!

  10. I love this line: “One transfers one’s vanity from one’s own person to one’s glorious root crops.” I still have a leather miniskirt in the back of my closet, just to remind me, as I wear clothes even less flattering than the trial clothes when I head out to garden.

  11. I’m about ready to brave insecticides. Around here, as a gardener, Lyme’s is an inevitability. My husband is currently sick with something – likely Lyme’s. Time to get more serious about protecting ourselves.

  12. Just because something has been “more thoroughly tested” is a good reason to put it next to your skin with all its pores open? Forgive me Jeff, but I don’t think I buy that one.

    If you’re going to be lured into using this insecticidal clothing, surely it’s going to be something you wear “for a long period of time”, so if there is any risk, however small, you will be fully exposing yourself to it?

    And when you wash this clothing, where does the permethrin go – into the fibres of all your other clothes? And where does the permethrin that washes out of the clothes go – down the drain and into our ecosystem?

    Call me dumb, but wouldn’t it be safer to tuck your trousers into your socks and maybe put planet before people, just for once?

  13. I wore one of those shirts in a mosquito-prone area of Ecuador and was glad to have it. It is a trade-off, but in some cases, the bug spray is surely better than the bug diseases.

  14. John, I honestly think that where I garden, the choice is either clothing like this, or to be constantly either sick or on antibiotics. And Lord knows, there is nothing ideal about contributing antibiotic resistant bacteria to the world, either.

  15. I’ve had shockingly good success with the natural oil repellents with a blend of plant oils. Yes, it’s no fun to smell of citronella and lemongrass all day, at least not that strongly, but it works for my neck of the woods, where the mosquitoes are admittedly less voracious.

    There are also little cotton pads that one can attach to clothing that have natural oil repellents. Between the two I felt pretty safe in the great outdoors last year.

  16. Thanks for the LOL about how you used to wear leopard-print minis but not anymore. I crack myself up when I realize the stuff I wear to garden in … old sweats stuffed into bright pink-patterned rubber boots with a green & blue hat was my last getup.

    I don’t think I could bring myself to wear clothes treated with insecticide. More power to you if it suits you, though.


  17. Just switch the colors and you’d look hot. Neem oil smells like garlic. You wouldn’t want that wrapped around you.
    Been running from the body snatchers. I’m not getting their fix.

  18. What a great article and lively comments about our new rules of blogging. Yes, let’s keep on torturing ourselves with these gifts we have to write about.

    I for one love it! I love getting something like these clothes–which look great on you but would look way to curvy on me–and not in a good way. But I’m sold on buying them for my health’s sake. Do they come in pink?

  19. In the sprite of things, I have awarded FTC my ‘October, 2009’ Idiot of the month award.

    It is much more likely that I will have to purchase out of my pocket cash any product that I may comment on. It seems that they do not seek me out to evaluate their products to be included in one of my humble postings!

  20. Goodness, you look like the picture of haute couture compared to what I wear in the garden. Mine is the worst of what was already bad to begin with.

    According to an article on Wikipedia-

    According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, permethrin “has low mammalian toxicity, is poorly absorbed through the skin and is rapidly inactivated by the body. Skin reactions have been uncommon.”

  21. Speaking of “payola” I guess that means I have to claim the coffee and muffins NYS Assemblyman Kevin Cahill brings me when I am on the air WGHQ when he comes in weekly as a guest on my morning talk show!

    I am surprised you are placing permethrin against your skin since it is not organic.

    You can also buy Permanone, a permethrin spray, to protect against ticks for up to two weeks.

    The TROLL

  22. Hmmm. Here in Minnesota we have a very good tick disease instrument — it’s called a “tick inspection” and it is performed by a trusted person, in my case, a husband. This person inspects all parts of the gardener’s body nightly for ticks. It works very well.

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