When Being A Cancer Surviving Writer Isn’t The Awesomest Job At Cocktail Parties

Whoa, man, it’s been way longer than I wanted it to be since I last updated this thing. I blame it on my travels. ‘Cause I’m a fabulous jetsetter. I was in Boston and Vermont for six days, visiting a friend from college and then heading to the Green Mountains to watch another friend get married. And besides the whole ‘four hour delay -slash- flight cancellation -slash- getting stuck on the tarmac -slash- everybody at O’Hare smelling like stale McDonald’s, the trip was pretty awesome.

STILL, this is no reason for delinquency! How in the world am I going to be a best-selling, Oprah-endorsing author at this pace? I haven’t worked on my book in over a week. Maybe I should throw in the towel and take up professional microwave popcorn making. I make sure to get that shit done every. day.

So this wedding. Amazing. My friend who got married is finishing up at Dartmouth Medical School this week. She’s going to be an opthamologist, and from what I know about doctors based on my extensive experience in Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, the -ologists are much more fancy than the -icians. She is brilliant and funny and kind and this makes me thrilled for her.

But hanging around her brilliant, Ivy League-educated future doctor friends can get to a temporary file clerk after awhile. These BILEs* tend to talk about serious things like earning potential and good ‘lifestyle’ specialties and that Master’s degree they got in Computer Science at Stanford, just for the hell of it. So a conversation with them might go something like this:

BILE: So what do you do?

Me: Well, I’m a writer? And I’m headed to graduate school this fall?

BILE: Graduate school in what?

Me: Uhhhh…an MFA? Master of Fine Arts?

BILE: Oh. So what do you do with that?

Me: Uhhhhhh.

BILE: (sighs) I do admire people who stay in the arts.

Me: Uhhhhhh.

BILE: Are you writing somewhere now?

Me: Yeah! Um, I kind of freelance for this newspaper, and I’m kind of writing a book…

BILE: What’s the book about?

Me: Uhhhh…just this thing…that kind of happened to me last year…

BILE: Oh. Uh. That’s cool.

Me: (bursts into flames)

This also happened a few days later, when an old friend who moved to New York was back in Madison for a visit. Keeping up with the Joneses is a pathology in our culture, especially with we competitive Virgos. I feel like my stabs at legitimacy and oneupmanship in conversations are getting more and more absurd, like soon I’m going to start saying things like “I WAS ON ‘THE BACHELOR’!!!!!!” or “I’M PREGNANT WITH JUSTIN BIEBER’S BABY!!!!!!”

I wish I could say that having cancer made me care less about impressing other people. Sometimes it does. But sometimes it makes me want to impress them more, because there’s this huge, one-year gap in “normal person life” that is a lot of damn time when you’re in your twenties. Like, whatever I got out of being really sick isn’t quantifiable. You don’t get a diploma for “self-awareness,” or a cash bonus for “developing a spiritual practice.” And it’s not the kind of thing you talk about at cocktail parties. Like all the ‘big stuff’ that each of us goes through…it taps into another frequency level where cocktail parties cannot travel.

This is why I have decided that the next time I go to an event with a bunch of BILEs, I am going to pull a Bridget Jones and change the subject to the war in Chechnya, or something. And maybe claim that I am a secret agent. That oughta impress ’em big time.

*I realize some might characterize me as a BILE since I did go to Barnard, but we humanities majors with Guitar I on our transcripts aren’t treated the exact same way.


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