I appreciate what a shameful admission this is, but... actually, there is no 'but'. I almost used the 'but sod it, I've got cancer' excuse there, but my brother will tell you that I've already exhausted that one this weekend, having beaten him to the TV remote, the front seat in the car, and used it as a reason for him to stop taking the piss when he called me a minger (for the record, we are 29 and 25, but enjoying making up for a childhood of being unusually nice to each other).
This playing-favourites revelation is especially ridiculous when you consider that I even feel guilty when I wear a certain top more often than my others (for the past couple of weeks, my Batman T-shirt has been ousted by my Jimi Hendrix one, and already I can tell it's sulking by the way it keeps falling off the hanger), which probably gives you a decent picture of how ashamed I am that my mates are now falling prey to such preferential treatment. It's not like I've got a Santa-style list of who's been naughty and nice, or even that any of my friends are aware of this behaviour (at least they weren't until now, but I'm hoping they'll let it slide on account of the cancer stuff – there's that excuse again). It's just that with me getting so much attention and support and wonderful gestures and love from so many of them, it's no wonder that they've moved up several places in my mates league. Having done a bit of research (read: discussed it with Mum), it seems a lot of people view their friends in a core-of-the-earth kind of diagram, with their best pal(s) in the middle, their closest mates in a circle around that, good friends on the next layer, followed by see-less-often people and then acquaintances near the edge. But mine's become more of a hierarchy.
It's a top-heavy structure we have here at Friends Inc (less pyramid, more ice-cream cone), and I'm a lucky CEO in that the top level of my hierarchy – director level, if you will – is jam-packed with magnificent mates. They keep me going: they're in constant contact, they make sure I'm up to speed on the world outside my cancer bubble, they don't treat me any differently (probably because they know I'd knock their tilted heads off if they tried doing the sympathy thing), and yet they're happy to let me have a whinge if ever I need one. In short, they're brilliant, and they're all in for a serious pay rise once The Bullshit is over (ie, the beers are on me). But – cue more favouritism – within this level have emerged three people (they know who they are) who really ought to have a level of their own. They've taken magnificence to new heights, this little lot, and if we were all still at school I'd form a special club for them and make membership cards and pin badges and devise a secret handshake. (Incidentally, I did once form a club at junior school – only Brosettes were allowed, and I gave each member a welcome card [a badly drawn Bros logo on a bit of graph paper], song sheets [lyrics ripped from the pages of Smash Hits] and a membership number [we never made it higher than 003]. I expect we encouraged a fair bit of piss-taking, actually – I might as well have just made us 'kick me' badges.)
Then there's the management level – they also keep in regular contact, but probably not so much as the directors. They'll send the odd text or occasional Facebook wall post, but they're always up to speed with my progress, love 'em, despite asking fewer questions than the directors (the blog helps a lot on that front). Next is the shop floor. These small few are still in contact about as much as they ever were but, thus far, have made absolutely no mention of The Bullshit, despite being well aware of it. And that's fine (though it is a bit like me suddenly getting a bright green mohawk and them asking where I bought my shoes). Actually, I secretly appreciate it. God knows it's difficult for a lot of people to know what to say to someone they've always known as being on-form who's now living with cancer, and there's absolutely no shame in that. (By the way, 'living with cancer' is a little trick I learned from my cousin who once worked for a charity. Apparently it's not politically correct to say that someone is 'fighting' or 'battling' cancer – 'living with' is the acceptable alternative. Well sod being PC – I'm fighting and battling my arse off here, and anyway, 'living with' sounds like cancer is paying rent in my spare room.) Besides, at least the shop-floor few are still in touch, unlike the cleaning staff at Friends Inc. (I'd like to say that I meant no offence to cleaning staff with that comment, but that would be as PC as 'living with cancer'.)
The cleaning staff comprises a much, much smaller number of people who have suddenly stopped showing up for work and disappeared off the radar completely. I'm not necessarily talking about 'mates' here, rather acquaintances who'd normally be in contact from time to time. 'Facebook friends', if you will – y'know, the ones who make up the numbers. Those same numbers that I suspect will suddenly dwindle as soon as I hit 'publish post'. (For the record, I'm not expecting folk to befriend me just because I've got cancer, like the slow kid at school who you felt a bit sorry for. That would make me the human version of Timmy from South Park, and I'm happy being Tweek, thanks very much.)
My intentions for this post weren't for it to become some kind of name-and-shame missive in which I point the finger at anyone who's avoided me since I dropped my cancer bomb. I don't mean to sound like a paedophile-outing Sun journalist here. And, guilty fun as it may seem, I don't want to rank my friends in a Eurovision Song Contest-style league table (cleaning staff, nul points!). Lovely as it is to be reminded on a daily – hell, hourly – basis that I'm on people's minds, I'm not daft enough to think that the world has stopped turning just because I've got breast cancer. Everyone's still out there, leading their normal lives, buying groceries, arguing about where to spend Christmas, shouting at referees, ironing holes in their shirts and elbowing space-hogging commuters on the District Line. It's a comforting thought, actually, so I'm hardly going to strike off my Christmas-card list anyone who puts their regular routine in front of sending me an email, ferchrissake. But that doesn't stop a mischievous part of me (probably the same part that secretly wants 'Save Ferris'-style T-shirts made in my honour) from wanting to update my Facebook status with: 'L has still got cancer, in case you were wondering'.