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Oct 17 2005

The Social Whirl

Hammock_stingray
My former life. Photo by my bodyguard Stingray.

I promised that I Blame The Patriarchy wouldn’t turn into CancerBlog, and I meant it, but the novelty of my bizarro diagnosis hasn’t worn off yet (remember when I first got my puppy Bert and I posted pictures of him every day for a month?) so here are a few canceresque observations I can’t resist making.

Not a few people have, of late, pointed out to me that coming down with breast cancer does not appear to have diminished my "wit." Apparently I am just as hilarious as I always was. They seem surprised by this. Their surprise surprises me, until I recall the traditional ancient American belief that a woman’s sense of humor resides in her right boob.

When I was in the hospital after my mastectomy, basking in post-traumatic stress and the soothing aroma of disinfectant, I noticed there was a wooden crucifix hanging on the wall. This brought me great comfort. I don’t know how many times I’d turn to it and say, "Thanks for the cancer, Jesus!"

Since coming down with cancer, I have kissed my happy old life of lazy, hermit-like reclusiveness good-bye.  Cancer is a hell of a lot of work. I’m not talking about the treatments. I’m talking about socially. The social whirl is ridiculous. My phone-hours have quintupled, and I spend the rest of my waking hours writing thank-you notes for sick-person gifts (such as the 15-year-old book on breast cancer that begins "This year, 140,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighty percent will die."). Friends who have contentedly ignored me for years are suddenly calling to "check in."

Except for Brad Hines, who I’ve known for 20 years.

What about it, Brad, ya big pussy?

38 comments

  1. Emma

    Apparently I am just as hilarious as I always was. They seem surprised by this.

    Perhaps many of the commentators know people like me, who, when ill, drop the facade of charm and good humour and spend every waking hour complaining gracelessly and demanding cups of tea/books/magazines/newspapers.

  2. SneakySnu

    Yes, people who call only when a trauma occurs. What’s the name for them? Not fair weather friends, but poor weather friends?

    I hope that the rest of your gifts were more helpful than the outdated cancer book.

    I feel compelled somehow to announce that I LOL because of paragraph 3 of your post. Did Jesus wink back at you from the crucifix?

  3. Tony Patti

    There’s another reason for one to delight in the unabated wonder of your amazing wit, Twisty dear, and that is the simple fact that the celebrated lobes encased within the confines of your all-too-human skull have been washed with the embalming fluids of primitive anesthesia, administered by an old-school idiot you described earlier in your blog.

    Even in the best of situations, the drugs administered during most operations include the strongest painkillers known; mixed with drugs to paralyze your body to suppress involuntary convulsions resulting from the violence done to your tissues; amnesia drugs to prevent you from remembering the assault on your body – even under these drugs your body is quite aware that it’s being cut with sharp knives; and sleeping drugs that act so quickly that you go out within seconds.

    You, my superhero brainiac friend, seem to have recovered impressively from this ordeal, and have proven to my satisfaction that you have been endowed by nature and your own ceaseless mental exertions with brain cells to spare and more reflexive intelligence than supplied to the majority of those sleepwalking through their lives submitting themselves to the patriarchy.

    I salute your amazing recovery with a great deal of tender feelings and relief.

  4. Ron Sullivan

    OK, the scariest thing I’ve read here yet is that you were in a hospital room with a crucifix on the wall. You do have someone to go along if you deal with this bunch again, right?

  5. ashanti_mama

    Apparently I am just as hilarious as I always was. They seem surprised by this.

    You shouldn’t be surprised when you’re able to come up with lines like this:

    Their surprise surprises me, until I recall the traditional ancient American belief that a woman’s sense of humor resides in her right boob.

    Absolutely the best laugh-out-loud moment I’ve had in days. Thanks.

  6. BlondebutBright

    Good for you to be surprised at their surprise. People often seem to think that sad, sympathetic attention is welcomed by the person “in need,” when actually the opposite is much more refreshing. Maybe it’s just hard for some to be cheerful when faced with the concept of mortality.

  7. Jen

    Ugh. I got that ‘wow you haven’t lost your sense of humor’ thing. I had to keep reminding people that I’d had a lumpectomy, not a humorectomy. These were, largely, the same people who kept breathlessly extolling my ‘bravery’ and ‘strength’ in the face of the whole cancer thing. Feh. It’s not like bravery and strength were added to my chemo drip, y’know?

    The people who only call when something bad happens: vultures. That’s my term for ‘em, anyway.

  8. AndiF

    Their surprise surprises me, until I recall the traditional ancient American belief that a woman’s sense of humor resides in her right boob.

    More precisely, the American belief is that women are their breasts. That this belief is genetic was conclusively proved when the human genome project mapped the “Valley of the Dolls” gene.

  9. Jodie

    Some people just like to bathe in the misery of others because then their pitiful lives look OK.

    When you don’t cooperate, Twisty, how are they supposed to get their jollies?

  10. Chris Clarke

    Twisty, no item I may (or may not) have sent you (not that I have) carries with it any obligation for an energy- and time-consuming return note of requisite acknowledgement.

    Unless the item- should it exist – sucks, and you wish to tell me not to send any more. If, theoretically, I had in the first place.

  11. Josef K

    Apparently I am just as hilarious as I always was. They seem surprised by this.

    My sister once had a couple of teeth out under general anaesthetic, and when she came round, groggy and moody, my mum said “Well, it hasn’t made you a nicer person!” Apparently she’d learnt all about the different stages of unconsciousness from the nurses, and somehow got the idea from this that anaesthetic changed your personality.

  12. MsKate

    “Their surprise surprises me, until I recall the traditional ancient American belief that a woman’s sense of humor resides in her right boob.”

    Don’t worry, I’m sure there is a scientific study somewhere, maybe even in The Lancet archives, that demonstrates extensive compensation by the leftboob in humorous utterance once the right boob has been amputated.

    Just so long as your left boob doesn’t become right wing, as in starting to mimic Rush Limbaugh’s idea of humor!

  13. Karolena

    Fuck thank you notes. Honestly, what a serious waste of time and unnecessary being-nice effort. Down with the tradition, I say!

  14. Carol

    What I would like to know, dear Twisty, is this: will all those pervy middle-aged men who direct their gaze and attention to a lady’s boobs when conversing with them, now be winking when they talk to you?

  15. kathy a

    right boob — was wondering where that sense of humor was stashed… although this string of posts has me chuckling, what with jesus winking and theoretic presents that might suck and left-boob compensation and prevert winks, and all.

  16. FoolishOwl

    Their surprise surprises me, until I recall the traditional ancient American belief that a woman’s sense of humor resides in her right boob.

    Of course, because everyone knows that the boobs on the left have no sense of humor.

    ;)

  17. Hissy Cat

    I don’t know this “Brad” you speak of, but you know what I blame? The patriarchy.

  18. Erin

    What’s that saying about how only those who are left-boobed are in their right minds?

    (someone stop me before I quip again…)

  19. The Fat Lady Sings

    I think the reason we are all cluck-clucking over you so much has everything to do with fear. It’s that old ‘only the good die young’ thing that seems inescapable no matter what the generation. You’re FUNNY, honey – we all come here because reading your thoughts lightens our load just a bit. That plants you firmly in the ‘good’ category.

    So you got sick. Good people who lighten our load aren’t supposed to do that, you know. Icons are to remain intact, thank you. Otherwise we feel a little less stable, as though it was us instead of you, in a way. I remember when my husband had brain surgery. I was young enough to convince myself he just couldn’t die. That belief remained unshakable. In a way, it helped him as well. So we both approached what was, in reality sheer horror absolutely convinced it would be all right.

    Now, almost 25 years down the line, I have more of a sense of how tenuous life can be. I would not be able to face something that formidable with such blind faith again. Now, I don’t know you from the kid around the corner, my dear – but I have had a glimpse of your mind – we all have. I like it – how you write speaks to me. That makes you someone I feel I know – if only just a bit.

    This is something I spoke about on one of the Dark Wraith Forums – the blog circles we have all connected ourselves to are like a giant coffee house. If we all lived in the same place, we would probably run into each other there – share some espresso and talk a little treason. We have all become philosophical acquaintances. I kinda know you, you kinda know me – it’s the blog connection – a whole lot less impersonal than people make out.

    So when you got sick, we all rallied round. We all want to help, we all want you well. You are part of the circle. I mean, really, honey – where else can we have the satisfaction of blaming the patriarchy served up in such a saucy manner? So you have to get better. No other option available. With or without said humor boob.

  20. ae

    The two people to whom I’ve been closest who’ve come down w/ cancer quickly turned anxious, nervous, and every other related emotion. Neither could muster humor, bless them, which made me worry all the more. Humor is so fascinating anyway, but the ability to “retain” it under duress strikes me as an especially adaptable trait, an advanced survival skill. Thank Buddha, Twisty, that you’re fucking hilarious and continue to be.

    I have been in the role of bodyguard for my former boss (we were close), and we quickly curbed this taking every call/answering every letter thing. This was one of my jobs as advocate. I gave updates to his mother! It’ll become v. tiring (&c.), as you know, to give the same report to 6,000 anxious friends. You need not only a physical respite but psychic. Cancer is a lot of work, and you want all that effort to benefit you. My boss’s friends quickly got hip to the plan, and I expect your friends will, too. The Twisty Digest can be just as informative and 1000x less wearing on you (or Stingray). Of course, everyone is different, and if it helps you to talk about it, by all means, chat away! The point is what is best for you, not for the umpteenth well-wisher.

    Wait. Thank you notes? Are you saying some people have your address?? Dude! I blame Brad.

  21. ae

    Twisty, may I take a what about the men?!? moment to sing the praises of two IBTP faithful: Tony Patti and Chris Clarke. I would so make out w/ them.

    Also, The Fat Lady Sings for President.

  22. Caitlin

    i found your site from a ‘our word’ link. i guess this is the honorary ‘let’s “talk” about breast cancer’ week.

    anyhow, i enjoy your biting humor and insight. i also hate being patronized and assholes think they can do it all the time and make us feel better, but really they just piss us off. maybe it’s good to be pissed off sometimes, so as to keep us on edge, ready to spring.

    i find your honesty and bluntness admirable…and, while you might not want to hear it, strong.

    wishing you the best.

    ps.

    barbie? i hate that bitch!
    the worst part is i played with her.

  23. Caitlin

    i found your site from a ‘our word’ link. i guess this is the honorary ‘let’s “talk” about breast cancer’ week.

    anyhow, i enjoy your biting humor and insight. i also hate being patronized and assholes think they can do it all the time and make us feel better, but really they just piss us off. maybe it’s good to be pissed off sometimes, so as to keep us on edge, ready to spring.

    i find your honesty and bluntness admirable…and, while you might not want to hear it, strong.

    wishing you the best.

    ps.

    barbie? i hate that bitch!
    the worst part is i played with her, while she played with the other barbie….

  24. Chris Clarke

    Twisty, may I take a what about the men?!? moment

    Because, you know, running the whole rest of the goddamn world isn’t enough.

  25. Sara*

    Yeah. This whole “thank you” thing kinda sucks … Because I had some great knitting to send you before the scalpel hit. Now I have to wait. And I get it where? It comes from–

    I mean, unless you don’t like mail — err, post. Yeah. Post.

  26. Saoba

    Some years ago I took three years off work to be The Dragon At The Gate for a friend in treament for leukemia. I fended off phone calls and visitors, I took dictation for thank you notes, I kept the VCR cued up with Animaniacs and other goodies.

    I tossed out people who didn’t take hints that L was really tired now. I gave out lists of things she actually needed/wanted/ was allowed and I dealt with well-meant but useless or dangerous gifts.

    I argued with ministers who tried to barge in because a relative was just sure this trial would bring L to Jesus. I took notes when her doctor and nurses gave us test results and chemo schedules, because she was often to sick to remember what was said to her later.

    I made up a sign for the door that said ‘Rage Zone’ on days she was too angry and sick to be polite. I charged the lab techs one joke per vial of body fluid they drew. I read to her when she couldn’t hold up her head, let alone a book.

    L is fine and healthy now. I came away from the experience convinced that being that sick is a full time job, and amazed that any one can do it alone.

    One day between rounds of chemo we were out shopping, because none of her clothes fit. At a stop light the man in the next car was clearly staring at her in shock and disgust. L whipped off her bandana (exposing her cue ball head) and pulled open her shirt to display her multi-port IV catheter.

    “I’ve been SICK, okay asshole?” she yelled.

    The man sped away. L laid her head down on the dash and howled with laughter.

    “I’m going to Bad Patient Hell,” she told me between giggles, “But damn that felt good. Fuck this cancer makes you a saint crap.”

  27. The Fat Lady Sings

    Saoba – That’s exactly what I would do for my best friend – my sister really. Our ties go so much deeper than blood, because they were forged over time by love. She truly is the sister of my heart.

    And she would beard the lion for me as well – batter down the world if necessary – just to find me cool water. Everyone needs someone to get their back. That one person with whom they can bare their soul, to trust when they are too tired – someone to hold your nightmares. Your friend had you – what a blessing. Twisty, honey; whoever it is for you, tell them to rub your feet. It can make so much pain fall away.

    And AE – Thanks for the promotion, dear – but I’d never be elected. I had WAY too much fun in my 20’s. Trust me on this – WAY too much fun!

  28. anne

    okay, knitters, the following appropriate-for-the-moment set of patterns and blaming the patriarchy comes to you courtesy of BoingBoing (not where one would usually expect to find it): “tit bits”

  29. kathy a

    saoba, you are a hell of a dragon. thanks.

    anne, what a great link!

  30. flawedplan

    My god you are an amazing writer, amazing spirit. I’m just crying here at the strength and beauty in your command of language, this is some of the best stuff I’ve EVER read, and I read very good stuff, constantly. Blessings, speedy recovery and thanks for keeping on.

  31. Jean Szilva

    When I was in medical school in the 70′s, one out of 14 women got breast cancer sometime in her lifetime. Now, it’s one out of 9. For this, I blame the patriarchy. For a century of cruel deforming surgery developed by a misogynistic drug addict, perpetuated without a shred of evidence of effectiveness over less radical treatment, for this I blame the patriarchy. For HIPAA and laws like it that obstruct research into environmental causes of breast cancer, for this I blame the patriarchy. For diagnostic tests with such high false positive rates that every woman I know in my age group has at some point thought about how she would manage her chemo schedule around her myriad of responsibilities, for this I blame the patriarchy.
    Thank you Twisty, for giving them hell. Thank you for helping me remember that it’s the system and not “them.” And thank you for the adrenal shrinking laughs while you show us the obvious that our culture blinds us to.

  32. Steph

    Twisty, did you write this piece from
    The Onion: Man with friend with cancer ‘Going through a rough time’?

    I saw it this morning and thought of you. It mustn’t have been you because it would have been funnier (or had the word fuckwad in it).

    And fuck the thank you cards and the socializing. You’re supposed to be recovering. See who you want to see, write to who you want to write to. Ignore the rest.

    My dad (who has terminal cancer) takes these “naps” when he wants to just stop being “cancer guy”. I know he’s watching football or Monty Python or on the internet. He just wants to be who he always was and avoid all the pitious crap.

  33. Steph

    One other thing since you’re fascinated by the world of knitters. This pattern was released yesterday.

    Tit-bits.

    Yes we do knit everything (there was a uterus a few issues back). If you have a hankering for a knitted breast (for wearing, throwing at pink ribbon types or for a Bertie chew toy) let me know.

  34. liz

    Heh, I was just going to inform you of the knitted tits myself.

    You could give them to your doctors…

  35. Orange

    Actually, I’ve always found the right breast to be fairly humorless. The best it can manage is a few listless puns. The left breast, though? Life of the party.

  36. laura

    The crucifix is actually a helpful touch to guard you against vampires. Medical people care.

  37. Dianne

    “This year, 140,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighty percent will die.”

    Nonsense. 100% of them will die…someday, of something. But far fewer than 80% of them will die of breast cancer. In fact, these days, over 80% will die of something else.

  38. Sarah Ennals

    It seems my workplace no longer allows me to read you, probably because their porn blocker noticed the word “breast” recurring on your site. I think we all know who (or rather what) to blame for that one.

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