Thursday 18 September 2008

Misery loves company.

I miss pubs. And restaurants and cafes and bars (my clubbing days were over long before the arrival of The Bullshit). And that's fine; that's the way it's got to be for now (I intend to spend the rest of my life making up for it – a damn good master plan, if you ask me). The thing is, with the lack of socialising of late, I'm becoming increasingly doubtful about how to behave in company. Not around P or my folks or my bro and future sister-in-law (speaking of which, I'd better lay off the ginger biscuits – it's only three weeks til the wedding). There's no hiding from that lot – they've already been witness to me at my foul-mouthed, whingeing, wigless worst. It's the rarer, wig-on moments with everyone else that are starting to trouble me. It's not like I'm barely getting to see anyone at the moment – I'm lucky enough to have lots of visitors and that's great (even if it sometimes makes me feel like an exhibit). It's just that the only place I'm really doing any socialising at the moment is, invariably, my living room. Or my folks' living room. Not in bustling restaurants or noisy bars or West End pubs. (This could be considered a good thing, mind. On the run-up to my diagnosis, I was developing a habit of getting more pissed than usual on the same amount of booze – I still maintain that this has everything to do with The Bullshit and not that I am, in fact, just a bit of a lightweight.)

I'm much more confident in blog than in person. My emails are far more interesting than any actual conversation with me. Come to think of it, I'm not so good on the phone either. (Actually, you'd do well to avoid meeting me altogether – I'm a total let-down.) And it's being all too aware of this fact that has always made me quite nervous socially. That's maybe a wee bit of an exaggeration – I'm fine if there's, say, six or so of us around a beer-garden bench. It's just when the numbers creep up – and especially if there are people present that I don't know – that I suddenly find myself conscious of the way I'm sitting, wondering what my choice of top says about me, silently berating myself for saying such stupid things and not knowing where to put my hands. (This, by the way, is the only reason I've ever smoked socially. Not because I like it, but because it gives me something to do with my hands.) This admission of nervousness may come as a surprise to a few of my mates because, despite all this, I'm not exactly a wallflower. I just happen to do a great imitation of a chatty, amiable, far-more-confident version of myself. (I'd like to thank the academy...)

And so, of late, when I've found myself back in a non-living-room situation, I've noticed that same old nervousness creeping in, and I'm more aware than ever of how I'm acting. The wig doesn't do much to help, of course. While I'm definitely more used to it now, it's not getting any comfier, plus I'm continually paranoid about whether people are looking at it or me. (Like that scene in Austin Powers 3 with the kid from The Wonder Years and his huge mole.) Are people really listening to what I'm saying or just chanting 'wiggy! wig! wig! wiggy!' in their heads as I speak? Because, God knows, if it was me I'd go all Basil Fawlty and trip over myself trying not to mention it (don't mention the wig – I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it). I'd frantically try to think of interesting questions to ask, but end up dithering and making a complete tit of myself in the process. ('Delicious meal, Rachel. Remind me, wigch – sorry, which – wigsite – sorry, website – had the recipe for that lovely wigted – oops, wilted – spinach and roast wig – dammit! – fig salad?')

In truth, I'm as guilty of drifting off during conversation as anyone fixated on my wig. I'm becoming obsessed with other people's hair. Apparently my friends have had impressive hair-growth spurts while I've been busy losing mine. Actually, I suspect they're stealing the hair that ends up on my pillow and adding it to their own, the thieving sods. Or have I just never noticed what lovely long locks they all have? It's not just the girls, either. I'm equally engrossed by my male friends' barnets, too – specifically their hairlines and balding bits. See, I caught sight of the back of my head the other day, and I really am balding in the oddest way. There's still a decent little tuft at the front that's determinedly hanging in there (I love that bit), and at the very top of my head – the bit where it starts to curve down at the back – there's a lawn-like strip that's more fur than fluff. But the rest of it has either gone completely or thinned down to the point of new-born-baby hair. And, from my limited research, that's not your average balding pattern. So, lads, apologies for the staring – I'm not judging or turning my nose up, but simply comparing notes. And girls, if you catch me gawping at you, take it as a compliment – I'm just jealous, is all.

The wig doesn't help on the temperature front either – another reason I'm not completely comfortable in company at the moment. Thanks to both the rug and the onset of early-fucking-menopause (cancer just gets better and better), I'm equally paranoid about whether the hot flushes are making me red-faced and blotchy and sweating off my make-up (turns out Sex and The City got it spot on with Samantha's 'bad enough I lose my hair, now I have my face running down my couture' moment.) So I'm constantly checking myself in a mirror which, of course, makes everyone else think I'm even more paranoid about how the wig is sitting. Either that or they think I love it so much that I've become ridiculously vain and can't stop checking myself out. (For the record, this is not the case – I still think it's a bit helmet-like, if truth be known.)

But the worst of my nervous twitches at the moment is more of a physical issue. Another of the lovely, flattering, feminine, sweet-smelling side-effects of chemo is how embarrassingly windy it makes you. I've said it before and I'll say it again, cancer treatment is hard on your bum. After the first week of crippling constipation (I never thought I'd have a go at P for his farting on grounds of showboating, but that's week one for you), then comes the relief. But with it comes an uncontrollable urge to let one rip. Add that to a social situation, and you've got one very fidgety lass with a can't-get-comfy stomach ache, an expanding, air-filled belly (thank God for the Empire line) and a noisily rumbling tummy. No wonder dinner at Busby's last night ended up with a conversation about colonic irrigation.


Anonymous said...

You write SO WELL! No, cancer can never be the 'best thing that ever happened' to you, but we are certainly the beneficiaries of your savagely funny, witty and honest posts. I have just discovered your blog and read it from start to finish (yes, my job's like that) and I'm bowled over by your courage, both in seeing the humour and also in not stinting on all the crap parts. Superbly descriptive: despite all your self-effacing comments, you're obviously a very exceptional person. There's a blog I think you would much enjoy, if you haven't discovered it already and I think, should you take a look, that you will see quite quickly why I suggested it, called Keep on trucking, girl. x

Anonymous said...

'a total let down' my arse. for those of you that don't know her - she's even better in real life. Don't let her tell you otherwise.

Lisa Lynch said...

She's only saying that cos I've got cancer. x

Anonymous said...

I never leave comments, but now i have to say something. I'm from Finland, and i always buy glamour magazine, and right away after reading the article i had to come here and read more, i think you should definitely write a book at some point, your so good at this :)
And, as someone who has ibs, i can really relate to your constipation and wind problems! Best of luck with everything, from your new finnish fan :)

Anonymous said...

No. I'm serious, and it's nothing to do with the bullshit. To all of you who don't know her, she really is that fab. Even better in fact. I wish you could all have her as a mate. But you can't. Cause she's ours. So you'll just have to make do with the blog.

Anonymous said...

I second th's comment. And very lucky we are too to have this lovely lady in our lives. Which is why we try so hard to make The Bullshit as bearable as we can for you, L.

Runaround Sue said...

ah, premature menopause :0( If I was writing a blog like yours it would be about my struggle with this, which struck me at the same age you are now. It's really bloody hard to be having a killer hot flush, soaking through your clothes in the small of your back, face like a beetroot, and none of your friends are going to understand for, oh, about 25 years.

Hello, BTW, I just found you through BĂȘte de Jour and I've been reading all day (don't tell the boss) because I've been unable to stop, so compelling is your tale.

Anonymous said...

Three days after starting a new job my manageress came in sporting a new haircut and I told her I liked it. A month later I was mystifyingly transferred to a new branch. Seven years later I found out (from her) that she'd had me transferred because she thought I'd been taking the piss out of her wig.
She'd had three wigs, long, medium and short and I'd caught the rotation to short. It was news to me.
They're not as obvious as you might think. x