That Story About What I Told My First Boyfriend Why I Am Scared to Have Kids and Also A Bit About “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk.
I understood 0 medical things when I was a child. And a teenager. It’s a good thing I’m a doctor now and totally competent in medical things. You know, like, medical jargon that makes sense. I’m all, “Do you concur? Do you concur?” and the other doctors are like “Yes let’s go operate on this patient.” My everyday life, you know. What a classic movie that is, by the way, Catch Me If You Can. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s when I say I’m a doctor and people go “REALLY?” like it really could be a possibility, and that’s basically what happened with that guy who is played by Leonardo DiCaprio who pretends to be a doctor and a pilot and also is superhot throughout the entire movie.
So, when I was told I had “hyperlipidemia” as a kid and didn’t remember the symptoms or the treatments (if any?), and the possible connection to that and my random crying sessions in the middle of class, I was pretty scared. For the crying I was told I should just go out of class for a bit and eat a snack to get my blood sugar levels up or something. Now I know the crying was anxiety and that I still have a coping mechanism of eating sugary things when I feel panicked, which still doesn’t work, but hey, chocolate.
Anyway, I had this great very sweet Long Distance boyfriend whose name was Ben (I mean his name still is Ben, I guess, but like, he could’ve changed it? I duno. We are no longer in touch.) and he was a New Medical Student in England which means that right after high school (or whatever ridiculous name they called high school. College? High tea? England is so weird.) he went into medical school. As an 18 year old. I mean they didn’t send him straight into the operating room, but as someone who was told all her life that med school is post-college and that other medical students in every other country start med school as college, I was all, “hey, why don’t they have to waste 3–4 years of their lives first studying poetry and architecture and politics like the rest of us?” so it seemed crazy to me that Ben would be a med student at such a young age.
So, the years pass and Ben and I (pre-dating) would talk daily and also use this ancient messaging system called “MSN Messenger” and I am only mentioning it here because Oh My God REMEMBER THAT? It’s like, older than AIM. Then Ben decides to do his junior year abroad here, in Israel, because he is Zionistic and also hello, I’m here, so he comes and I have this horrible realization that I am not ready to have a Boyfriend In Person. But hey, I don’t need to communicate that to Ben, right? Just pretend everything is normal. Sure.
So on one of our dates Ben brings up kids or whatever and I say in this grave voice, “I don’t think I can have kids.”
He is obviously shocked, especially because I’m like super vocal about my period and how much it sucks. So it’s not like I ever had any signs that I can’t have any kids or whatever.
So then, I say in this choked voice, “I have hyperlipidemia.”
Now, as a med student, Ben probably has this thing called Med Student Brain which was introduced to me in this amazing novel called “Choke” by the ever-amazing and shocking Chuck Palahniuk, (he wrote Fight Club) who writes this story about this poor kid who has dropped out of med school and also starts seeing signs of cancer and shit on everyone around him and how he feels so lame by dropping out that he makes people save him every night by choking on a piece of food at a restaurant and making strangers Heimlich him and in saving his life, they feel eternally bonded to him. So what I’m saying is, Ben knows what it’s like to have a headache and be like, “Oh God I have a malignant tumor” or coughs and is like “Oh no this is stage 4 of TB” and well, I do not blame him when he laughed after I told him I have hyperlipidemia.
Do I still have it, by the way? No clue.
This also reminds me when I was first going into therapy when my dad Got Cancer and I had this whole tragic memory of telling my friends in 8th grade that my dad had cancer and they didn’t know exactly what to say to comfort me (duh, they were also 13 year olds like me) and so I struggled to tell my therapist that my dad had cancer and I said he had “Leukemia-Lymphoma” because that’s just what I heard people calling it around the house. And this dumb therapist, with her gall, went, “Which one?” instead of falling down and crying hysterically at my tragic life, which I took super offensively because a logical question was like a slap in the face of an emotional teen.
I’m such a good doctor you guys.
So, Ben assures me that hyperlipidemia doesn’t prevent me from having kids and also he isn’t even sure it is hereditary and I shouldn’t worry about it.
This is such a great example of my “type” of anxiety that I have, and that many beginner med students share with me, is that they know one symptom of something and worry about it until it becomes this big black malignant tumor that brings nothing but death. I have learned, thankfully, with my (new) therapist, how to recognize these paranoid thoughts (for example, when I will be late for my job, instead of assuming I will be fired as soon as I step into the classroom, I can just calm myself down and assure myself that I will not be fired).
“Choke” is such a good book. Palahniuk (Fight Club guy. Just reminding you) is such an epic author. It’s like one of the phases that every emo girl has to go through: wear lots of black eyeliner, go to Hot Topic, get lots of piercings, listen to screamo, and read lots of books about broken characters trying to find meaning and connection in their lives. I may be romanticizing Palahniuk (who even remembers Fight Club? It was such a big part of my life that it was like a Time Period for me when I discovered the book and movie and wanted to live off the grid and make soap and have a mental disorder just like Tyler Durden, but maybe not everyone’s life revolved around this?) but he is just such a good author. I love using his work as examples and rereading his books.
I was talking about him at this job that every new olah (immigrant) to Israel has to have, working at Birthright, where you work weird hours (like 4 PM to 1 AM) and call North Americans and be like “Please sign up for Birthright” and it’s such a weird thing that like, most of my friends have worked this job but maybe it’s just something you need to do when you move to Israel and want to make a few thousand shekel for a couple of months. Anyway, I had this super cool co-worker and I wanted to impress her so I was talking up “Choke” about how this guy is trying so desperately to get saved because he feels so lost and about him seeing symptoms of sickness everywhere and how it relates to our everyday lives and anxieties and I am such an English major aren’t I?
Anyway, I fail to mention the other main part of “Choke’ is that it is about a recovering sex addict and also there are a lot of sex scenes in it. Now, I consider myself a “religious” Jew and I am not swayed by these (descriptive) scenes but it’s kind of a thing that you wouldn’t want your rabbi to read. Or know you’re reading. It’s like your mom finding out you were masturbating but instead of masturbating it’s this explicit scene she walks into involving a depraved man hooking up with this lady in the bathroom of a church where their Sex Addicts meeting was taking place downstairs in the basement.
So anyway, after mentioning the cool, beautiful ironic plot of “Choke,” I lend out the book to my unsuspecting co-worker, who I didn’t think would be the type of religious to actually care about sex scenes, but also I didn’t ask her. She returned it to me the following week when I finally was able to be like ‘Oh right there’s sex in it” but I don’t recall her response. I think I just hyped up the book too much. Then signing up for Birthright ended and we parted ways and I never saw her again.
I feel like I’ve outgrown a lot of Palahniuk’s work, because he often just writes for the shock factor, but I still have a very special place in my heart for his books. I still teach his story “The Magic Box” (from Haunted) and I still have to talk myself off that ledge of anxiety that so many times Tyler Durden or that guy in Choke had to do, backing away from the cancerous mole and remembering that sometimes a shadow is just a shadow.