For those of you who don’t know my background, I grew up in South Florida. And before Mi-jami became host to a bevvy of silicion-enhanced honeys, Euro-trash nightclubs, and Fidel’s personal trash heap, the city was best known as “God’s waiting room.” Simply put, I lived where all the old New York Jews came to die.
Before I even learned how to drive, I caught on early to never ask an alter cocker (“Old Fart” in Yiddish) the dreaded three-worded question: “how are you?” Not if you wanted to get to your prom on time – or your own funeral. It was kind of sad, really…people who were formally vibrant mothers and fathers, husbands, wives, workers, business owners – whatever – were now reduced by the bitches of time to a list of symptoms and ailments. I vacillated between feeling sympathy and annoyance by their plights. And by the time I left South Florida for good in my early twenties, I have to admit to harboring a healthy dose of agism to my less-than-stellar list of personal attributes. Can’t they just shut up and suck it up?
I know I was not the only young person who felt this way – it was a common joke in my hometown. And let’s face it – discrimination against the old and the fat are the last acceptable prejudices left in this country, no? Well, of course, it’s the karmic kick-in-the-ass that only Father Time can provide when all us yung-uns eventually grow older ourselves. I personally made a vow to myself to never become “one of those” that spent their life complaining. So during any illness or surgery recovery I have had in my 20’s and 30’s, I was determined to be tough. I simply ignored minor pains and quietly treated anything more severe. I wasn’t trying to be a martyr – just perhaps less of a pariah to those around me. Also, let’s shoot straight for a moment here…there’s also the very-real fear that if we reveal the depths of our pain and vulnerability to those we love, only to be met with that look of annoyance or indifference, they will have failed us in the most important test of all – to love us unconditionally. Sickness and in health. No matter what.
I am grateful that my husband has always been there for me – as have the rest of my family. It’s especially comforting now, because I’m in the midst of something that’s really starting to scare me. And I don’t scare easily. I don’t want to get into the gruesome details, but the fact that I need a body CT scan, every sort of fluid sample, and a colonoscopy done within the next few weeks should be enough of a clue.
I will not be reduced to a list of ailments.
I will answer every “how are you” with an affirmative answer.
I will try to not to let fear overtake me.
And I will keep you posted without becoming too self-obsessed. Promise.