I was a dramatic child.
As the baby of five children, my fateful dramaturgy may seem fortuitous (“baby of the family” is sort of a cliché, after all), but for us, it was a near necessity. Since our clan produced three ballerinas, one “double masters in Shakespeare” scholar (there is such a thing), and a father whose eight-minute voicemail messages sound like a soliloquy from House of Cards… who can blame us? Growing up, I was the worst of the worst. I brooded more than Daria (or super sexy “first cartoon crush” Trent), and my favorite editions of The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High were almost always the ones involving an asthma attack, drop in blood sugar or a broken wrist.
As an adult, I learned how to channel my innate emo-ism towards my work (choreography and writing), although it didn’t seem to lessen my pathetic, shameful pension for unabashed, overdone cinematic tragedy. The more heartbreaking, the better. A Walk To Remember? August in New York? Sweet November? Loved them. Playing By Heart? Life as a House? Restless? Even better. I adore the cliché leading actresses- preferably gamin and sporting a Mia Farrow pixie cut. The last minute bucket list (“What does it all mean? Let’s break curfew and dance in the rain… that will cure everything.”) The inevitable confrontation with the doctor or the dying partner’s family, begging them to save the love’s life (only to later collapse together: mutually humbled and defeated by the grandiose morbidity of it all).
Growing up, I had all sorts of justifications for my uncontrollable theatrical flare (preferably involving a good truism like “consumption” or “scarlet fever”). As a writer, I’m perpetually a page away from an abysmal A Farewell to Arms ending. Always a Jo, never a Beth. As a dancer, the majority of my subtext satiation is derived from Odette jumping off a cliff at the end of Swan Lake, because… well, it’s kind of fun to imagine her belly flopping like a duck offstage. To put it simply, I deal in disaster (and it’s movies like The Notebook that serve as my enabler).
The only problem? I had literally no idea my life would become so ironically literal as a fully functioning adult. My somatic decline happened much like John Green describes falling in love (yes, in a book about dying): “slowly first, than all at once.” Since I’ve never been a hypochondriac – which seems an odd paradox, I know- I’ve never complained about physical ailments without them always ringing true. Unfortunately, I no longer need Love Story or Now Is Good to remind me to “make every breathe count” or “always count your blessings”: I have my own reflection.
As the potentially condemned but enduringly plucky female lead… I kind of suck. My disease is all about mucus. I make too much of it (really, I’m an overachiever), and it slowly messes up by lungs, sinuses, pancreas, stomach and everything else in between. Basically, if I can secrete it, I can destroy it (the afore mentioned Hemmingyway is attributed to that quote). Nothing says “romantic tragedy” like a surplus of mucus. I have had to learn all sorts of new date night tricks for my husband. “How to apply mascara so your oxygen cannula is less noticeable” or “How to have a coughing fit in bed without spoiling the mood”: future bestsellers, undoubtedly. My life is about describing coughs like I would a fine wine: “throaty, with a hint of pseudomonas” or “inky, with darker undertones”. Being sick doesn’t make you want to take spontaneous road trips or makeout in a field of roses. It makes you want to sleep… and be a raging bitch just for the hell of it… and then sleep again.
Between a large, lumpy portacath in my chest (perhaps easily hidden if my body created as much breast tissue as it does mucus), and a future g-tube hole in my stomach… I am every man and woman’s dream. To be honest, finding a way to deal with my physical decline has been nearly as hard as rewriting my view of myself, and my relationship. I can no longer curl up with a good disease movie (because as contraindicative as it is, there is such a thing) and remind myself how lucky I am.
Instead, I have to curl up with a romantic comedy, and remind myself that it could be worse (I could always be involved in a Jessica Alba plotline).
Naturally, there is nowhere to go from here but down. And no, I don’t mean that in the helpless, defeatist sort of way (it’s not that part of the movie yet)… I mean it literally.
Next step? Flesh eating, zombie movies.
Here’s to self-improvement.
Want to rant with me? Share any of these pics on Makeover Momma Pinterest page or just talk amongst yourselves.