Side Effects May Include Miscommunication

Yesterday Jon returned to work after several days of government-sanctioned Family Leave to watch over me as I tried a new round of hard core, side effect laden drugs. I’m not going to be specific about which drugs I have tried or the ones I am in the middle of trying because I would inevitably receive a slew of emails from people warning me OH MY GOD THAT DRUG WILL KILL YOU, and right now in my fragile state I don’t need strangers predicting my death in all caps.

I am already well aware of the terrible things these drugs can do to me; I have done the research and I have rolled out of bed feeling like someone has scraped out my guts and replaced them with a colony of maggots. One of the drugs I tried had the potential to cause a deadly skin rash. A killer rash! That kills people! At the end of one of my therapy sessions last week I half-jokingly asked the doctor, “Who dies from a skin rash?” as if to say, “Who is such a pussy that they would fall over from a few red bumps?” For the previous hour I had detailed my elaborate state of pussiness, and I wanted him to be able to make a speech at my funeral about how I was able to make jokes about my condition up until the last layer of skin peeled from my body. “She was a funny girl, if not a total pussy,” he would say.

This whole thing reminds my of the semester I spent in England my senior year in college. I spent a lot of time with a family in north London, a family with three young kids who could solve the world’s energy crisis with the force of their collective brain power. During my first dinner with the family the two-year-old girl explained to me that the vegetables were “delightfully organic as mum prefers it that way.” And then she smiled and looked off into the distance as if something had just occurred to her, perhaps the delightful solution to cold fusion.

After dinner the mother took all three kids upstairs to prepare them for their nighttime bath, and soon after the six-year-old son came traipsing downstairs to make faces at me at the bottom of the stairs. He was completely nude except for a dog tag around his neck. His father who was sitting next to me motioned the naked boy over so that he could come show me his penile disease.


Blink. Blink.

I was perfectly comfortable with the fact that the boy was nude as I had read about young boys and their nudeness in philosophy. But I was in no way comfortable or interested in getting a closer look at this young lad’s penile disease, and as the little nudester skipped closer I scrambled for a way to say to his father, “You know, he probably has a great penile disease and I’m sure you’re very proud of it, but can’t I just trust you on this one?”

But how do you say that to someone? How do you actually utter the words “penile disease” to a distinguished British father who is obviously very happy to trot out his son’s disorder? And so I did what any other American would do in this situation and I screamed, “PENILE DISEASE? PENILE DISEASE??!!

Sensing my disbelief his father assured me, “Yes! A penile disease!” And then he informed me further that it was “indeed very nasty and grave.” And then he went on to describe how common these penile diseases were among young kids, all while Penile Kidster got closer and closer with his diseased penile. At this point the boy was singing a diseased penile ditty with the words, “I’ve got a penile disease! I’ve got a penile disease!” while clomping his bare feet to the rhythm, his diseased penile bouncing up and down. I wanted to die, or at least disappear and never again be confronted with the vision of a diseased penile clomping its nudeness toward my defenseless non-peniled self.

And as the walls of the room were about to collapse on my dizzying, frenzied panic, as the air became harder and harder to inhale, the father reached down to Sir Nudeness, lifted up the dog tag and showed me the inscription, “This child suffers from a peanut allergy.”



A peanut disease.

My world did an automatic flip-flop when I realized that we were speaking two different versions of English and I said, “PEANUT? PEANUT DISEASE??” And his father, without missing a beat again assured me, “That’s what I said. Penile disease.”

I was so delightfully relieved that I reached down and hugged the nude non-peanut eater and I bellowed, “I LOVE YOUR PEANUT DISEASE!”

And he said back sadly, “I can’t eat peniles. They give me a rash.”