Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Long Tail In A World Of Short Tails
Why is a person’s physical appearance more important than the content of that person’s character? When did being skinny mean you achieve nirvana? Since when was it okay to point or whisper about someone different from you? Why are women of a certain age invisible in our society, that is unless they are fat, bald, or don’t appear well?
Jill and I went to see the movie Hairspray, she was totally bald and I had some hair. I had just had chemo the day before and Jill had radiation to her brain so we were both pretty shaky. Jill had asked me to go to the movie; she had been feeling badly for so long that I was not going to deny her. (To this day, I still feel very sick just seeing an advertisement for the movie Hairspray. I can’t believe that I started gagging just typing out the word.) Twice going into the movie and once coming out, people actually pointed at us like we had the plague. In one case, we were pointed out to the children “that we must have cancer”.
The first week I found out I had cancer, someone (don’t ask, I will not tell) said to me “At least you will know what it is like to be thin.” Chemotherapy is NOT a weight loss plan. Turns out, they give you steroids that make you hungry all the time. And, you feel like complete shit and don’t even have enough energy to walk up the stairs, much less to exercise. Not to mention that you are forced into menopause. Just for your information, women receiving breast cancer treatments usually gain weight from medication.
In the hospital I was once asked if my 81 year old mother was my sister. Last week in the doctor’s office I was also told I could bring my daughter into the office. That would have been fine if one of my daughters was with me, it was my sister Shelly.
I cannot wear a bra. You can only imagine what this must look like. I use to think when I saw a woman without a bra “For pete’s sake, put on a bra at the very least.” Now I don’t make judgments.
Not being recognized by people I know because my hair is to my scalp and it is white. Being asked “What happened to your hair?” Well, you know I have cancer. “Yes, but your hair has changed so much.” Are you for real?
As far as physical beauty goes, don’t get me wrong. I understand what it is. I too, was young and beautiful once. My children are all physically beautiful. I enjoy looking at them, but more importantly I enjoy being with them. But I know and they know that physical beauty is pure genetics. You were born with that, now the main thing is what do you bring to the table? What is your substance? I am over the moon to say that my children are even more beautiful inside than their physical appearance.
Appearance is about a lot of things. It’s about vanity and feeling ugly, it’s about the stigma of being sick and that being obvious to the world. It’s about being an imposter in the mirror, it is complicated. I take ownership of the fact that some of that is really superficial shit, but it’s real and it’s emotional.
So, when you see someone whose tail is longer than yours, please don’t stare. Instead of being appalled, be compassionate.