Socially Acceptable

My childhood friend is one of those girls who can accessorize anything.  She has a purple purse for the days she has purple nails.  She doesn’t skip curling her hair on the weekends.  She is put-together, observant, and socially fluent.  I’ve known her since third grade and I’ve actually never seen her make a misstep.  But, today she’s crying over brunch.    

Her mother has terminal breast cancer.  “It’s just that it’s not socially acceptable to keep talking about cancer past a certain point.  At first everyone is interested, but after awhile I can tell that people feel like it’s a chore that they have to keep asking how my mom’s doing.  I can tell that some people are kind of annoyed she hasn’t died yet because it means they haven’t to keep asking.  They don’t want this to be a constant part of me.”

I know how she feels.  It’s not that it’s anyone’s fault.  It just gets awkward when it’s been a year and a half and I can’t say, “he’s great,” or “he’s cured,” or “things are fine.”  Well, actually, frequently I do say those things.  It’s just that they aren’t exactly true.  We need friends more than ever and I’m constantly concerned that if I say what I’m really thinking, or how I’m really feeling, that I’ll lose the friends I so desperately need.  I won’t lose them because they’re intentionally tired of talking to me, but it gets awkward for everyone when it’s been a long time with no progress and they have no advice to offer.  And then they assume that it’s them and that other people do a better job responding to the cancer situation and you can feel things start to fizzle.

Sometimes I’m more exhausted from being socially acceptable than I am from the cancer.


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