It wasn’t that bad. I coped. It was okay. I got through.
How? People look at me with incredulity when I say this. How can I look back, even to the recent past and say that? In fact, what gives me the right to belittle or deride what to many, in a similar position, is the worst period of their lives? A painful experience for their friends and families, as it was for mine, for some, the final memories of their loved ones. People are generally not this harsh or blunt with their questions to me. Most people let me say what I like on this subject. But still, these words are my knee-jerk reaction. They are very honest, if not very nuanced. The answer to how, is comedy.
When I starting writing about cancer, and intersex, and a whole host of goodies I intend to put forth in the next few months, I really wanted to write my story, honestly and brutally, in the hopes they would comfort or ease the anxiety of some. I have searched and searched my brain for anything credible to share beyond my own narrow experiences. Maybe some key thing that got to me to where I am now. There are few tangible qualifications that I possess to help. I’m certainly no healer. But I can maybe make you laugh (shit, pressure). The most I have ever laughed in my life, to this day, is while I had cancer.
I woke up from surgery, sliced in half, jacked up on morphine, unable to move my legs. Julia sat by my bed and we watched ‘Zoolander’. We laughed and laughed at my reactions to the morphine, my sliding in and out of consciousness. That experience brought a new, realer meaning to the phrase ‘side-splitting’. I laughed about the prospect of dating whilst braced, bald, and bespectacled with friends. Me and my doctors snorted at my taking Lorazepam, “Blueies bring you down”. We laughed about my dad’s buying of a dozen Krispy Kremes for every visit. Me and my mum were bent over at the adverts in SAGA magazine, stuck in a waiting room for results and more bloods. We laughed and made fun of the friends that let us down. The very best of comedy, I believe, leaps out of you like anger. When moments are so absurd that you make fun of them. You bully them.
Comedy is a pain-reliever. It relieves, it doesn’t distract, I believe. Whether it is on the subject most pressing, or watched, it shifts perspective. I watched back episodes of SNL, Monty Python, and Have I Got News For You. The more I laughed at the goings on of the rest of the world, the more connected I felt to it. I got to grips with the sarcasm of Seth Cohen and developed a taste for funny men (watch out). I developed an obsession with the Daily Show. Scrubs brought to life the kind of weirdness I thought only Julia and me were capable of producing (bittersweet that).
Comedy is a victory. When the world has played a cosmic joke on you, what better way to say ‘fuck you’ than to laugh? There is no greater bond or secret than the black humor I’ve shared with those closest to me. We joke about intersex, my bareness, my tumor, my lung tumors, and my baldhead, as though we are joking about boys, and school, and parents. It’s the most genuine exchange we could have when we both afraid and sad but incapable of properly saying so. We used to joke about punching me in the “Novaries”. I’ve never felt closer or more accepted by someone than when we can share in black humor.
This is not to say, and here is the paradox, that these things are not serious. How can anyone hope to oscillate between Mike Myers and Mike Myers (Austin Powers and Axe Murderer) at a moments notice? We would certainly all rather laugh than cry, but cry we must. This disease is scary, real, life threatening, and crucially, it is isolating. But what better way to feel less alone, than to laugh with someone? My veins are a complete joke, they suck, and I’ve had 17 tries to put a line in. I cried with pain and frustration, and then I laughed at how absurd the situation was, and started to sing at the top of my lungs. Usually RENT. I’ve said a thousand times how paltry words are. Jokes aren’t though. Jokes are powerful. They express so much more cloaked in irony than any sincere sentiment can. No one can join you in your illness, but they can be in on a joke. And that is much better.
Last year, I met an incredible friend called Meg. I sat next to her, by chance, at our orientation lecture. We spent the rest of the year becoming great friends. She is one of the most talented writers and probing minds I have ever met, and I’ve been lucky to meet quite a few. She has the same passion, backed by insight and taste, for film and comedy that I do. A couple of times, we talked about comedy. We talked at length about what was funny, but on one walk home we got to the bones of why both of us had spent so much time devoted to the masters of comedy and improv and trying to be funny, dreaming about it in my case. We leapt around and around, making a million jokes, repeating one liners from our favourite shows, talking about the times when comedy had helped us the most. All we could agree on was that comedy is important. So important.
As Benito Mussolini said….oh wait, no. Definitely, no. Wait….’Google quotes about Comedy’. Clint Eastwood….Seriously. Ah. Google, you bastard. Never mind. Two quotes here:
“Life doesn’t make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy’s job is to point out that it doesn’t make sense, and that it doesn’t make much difference anyway.”
“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”