This is Melissa, a lovely six- or seven-year-old tarantula I met today:
When I was asked if I wanted to stroke Melissa's belly, I hesitated for a moment, because that's what sane people do, right? Someone proffers up a palm-sized, upside down tarantula with what looks like giant fangy bits, and a person who is not so well-versed in huge spiders politely declines, because of VENOMOUS FANGS.
But then I wondered: what wouldn't I know if I gave in to my fear? I kind of wanted to know.
So, I reached out and stroked Melissa's belly, and I found out that their fangs freaking hurt and that your whole arm goes numb and that it's super stupid to pet a tarantula's belly.
I'M KIDDING. That didn't happen.
What did happen is that I found out that a tarantula's underside is softer than a horse's muzzle — softer than babies, even — and that, if she really likes it, she will stretch her legs out like a cat in the sun,.
I'm not saying that you should go around turning random bitey spiders upside down and petting their bellies, because that is a truly terrible idea, but if a knowledgable spider guy named Stu presents you with a docile and friendly tarantula named Melissa who really likes this kind of thing, give it a go. The sweetness will surprise you.