I like to think that when it comes to being a hypochondriac, I was a bit of a child prodigy.
My earliest memory of my certain and imminent death came after 5th grade sex ed class. I now know that I should have come back from that class feeling sorry/horrified for my male classmates and the fact that they had to walk around every day attached to penises, which are probably the weirdest and most poorly behaved pets in the universe. But I was too busy planing my funeral, because I was sure that I not only had AIDS, but I was also pregnant!
What led me to belive such things? Was I sexually active in 5th grade, you ask? Well no (boys are gross!), but that certainly didn’t matter. Because I was achy and had a runny nose, which was undeniable proof that I was very, very sick and also soon to be a mother.
I’m also quite certain I had scarlet fever when I was young. I remember fevered dreams, passing in and out of consciousness, my family surrounding my death-bed, just like Beth in Little Women (in my memory I am wearing a night-cap and the room is lit by candlelight). Although when I ask my mom about it, she claims it was “just” strep throat and I only missed two days of school. Pssh.
I also discovered a brain tumor after an especially poignant episode of ER (headache), self-diagnosed a very severe case of dengue fever while travelling in Brazil (heat rash), and during the height of the anthrax attacks in 2001, I cried on my bathroom floor, begging for Cipro, and, certain the terrorists had targeted me and Tom Brokaw, I told my parents goodbye (urinary tract infection).
You don’t even want to know about all the scary and terminal illness that pop up when you type in “tired” “malaise” “hungry” and “itchy dry skin” into Web MD. I was certain I would never make it past 24 years old and people would talk about me like they do James Dean and WWII soldiers, and children with cancer, and everyone else who was so brave but died before their time, may God rest their souls.
And then a miracle happened.
I fell in love.
I fell in love with this healthy, glorious, Adonis-like creature who takes vitamins and eats tofu and wears spandex when he exercises and is brimming with energy and fervor.
And suddenly I want to live, to LIVE goddamnit!
I want to be with this man forever, into old age, and then die together at exactly the same time like that old couple who died spooning on the bed in that movie Titanic, or at least like June and Johnny Cash, separated by only a few miserable, lonely months apart.
To ensure our mutual health, I’ve stocked our cabinets with coconut water and kale and fish oil. I monitor our aluminum cans for BPA and spring for the organic apples (why do I have to pay twice the amount for the worm hole and bruises?). We wear seat belts and have a gun safe and an emergency plan in case of zombie and/or gas attacks. I keep my mind fresh by doing math problems in my head, I have daily stretches, and I never, ever microwave the Tupperware! Like a modern-day Clair Huxtable, I worry about his sodium consumption and his blood pressure. If only Rudy would stop feeding him sweets!
I just read this awesome article on the New York Times about a Greek Island that has an above average amount of old people and where plagues like alzheimer’s and cancers are kept at bay. They called it “The Island Where People Forget to Die.” It made me happy! We can do this, he and I. If we drink enough red wine and eat our leafy greens, we can be together forever.
It’s funny how the fear of losing something you love so dearly can make you seize life so fervently.
The photo is also from the New York Times article, and also what I hope my man looks like some day.