Friday, July 25, 2014

My First Blind Date

Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point about individuals known as Connectors who know lots of people and enjoy introducing them. Connectors are unique in that they have both a rare social talent and the energy to use it. My Connector-friend is Uhhcya, and he connected me months ago with Cuz1. Uhhcya clarified the connection: “No one is getting ‘set up.’ That happens on its own.”

Meeting at wine bar for blind dateI initiated conversation with Cuz1 through text messaging. I wrote that Uhhcya meets lots of interesting people. She wrote that he collects people. I asked if she has any hobbies as unique as collecting people. 110 text exchanges later, I met her at a wine bar.

I arrived on time and found two darker-skinned girls sitting on a bench. “Hi, I’m Ben. Are you Cuz1?” I asked.

“Yes, hi!” the shorter girl responded. “This is my cousin, Cuz2.”

Cuz2, whose level of cousin they didn’t even know, was visiting from Lebanon and the two girls were inseparable when visiting one another. Uhhwhat’shappeningrightnow?

Lebanese people must have different concepts of set ups because I knew I had thrown my best stuff at Cuz1 with the lines about collecting people. We ordered three individual glasses of wine and later a bottle and sat at a table together.

Most of the time Cuz2 talked, Cuz1 rolled her eyes and I asked questions. Cuz2 shared that her boyfriend had cheated on her and now she needed to whip him into shape. Cuz2 was looking for a rich hubby and wanted to spend her life shopping. She insulted disabled people which made me laugh out loud for two reasons: I walk with a limp and Cuz1 was using crutches for a hip injury. I found myself disappointed that these girls, both who grew up in Lebanon, couldn’t offer a unique perspective on anything except for the role of cousins at set ups.

We were about ready to leave. My risk analysis went something like this: If you pay for Cuz2 then you’re down $20. If you pay for Cuz2 then Cuz1 may get confused about who you’re courting. Nah, don’t be an idiot—you just don’t want to spend $20 for nothing. True. True. If you don’t pay for Cuz2 then Cuz2 will influence Cuz1 with negativity and the game is over. G-dammit.

I paid the full tab and said goodbye. Many wonder why I even cared since I didn’t particularly like Cuz1. I point out the rules that I live by that lead me to play everything out, or as my friend Hamburgers put it, “You are always all in until they opt out.”

Cuz1 opted out. Uhhcya has connected me again and my set up will also take place at a wine bar. If she brings her cousin then, by rule, I’ll have to pay the full tab. G-dammit.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Recovering from my superman complex

As published on reimagine

You have a tumor,” my mother told me. I was 16 years old. I didn’t cry that day, but I did force tears the day after. I was alone in a small basement room, yet the sobbing humiliated me. I vowed to never cry again. I decided I would become superhuman.

I received treatment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. I would often compare myself to other patients on the pediatric floor. Besides our identical hairless appearance and disease, we had nothing in common. Some of them would call the poison “cheemy” to make it seem less frightening and grumble about needle pricks. I learned not to wince. They are sick, I would tell myself. I am not. Cancer will forever change them; I won’t let cancer affect me. And in this way my delusion flourished.

I soon learned how to turn off my emotions as if they were connected to a digital switch. I did this by feeling shame when experiencing certain feelings like sadness, and sinful when exhibiting them. When my nurse told me that she’d never seen a patient recover from vincristine, Adriamycin and Cytoxan (also known as VAC) chemo cycles as quickly as I did, my delusion grew to the extent that it took on a life of its own.

But being superhuman required more sacrifices and restrictions on my humanity. Keep reading, here.

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