My Soulmate is a Jerk

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Originally published 8/1/2013. Edited slightly because I can’t stop myself from fiddling with stuff.

One day not too long ago, my sister arrived at work and told me that she’d gotten into a heated debate with my husband on Facebook. “I should know not to argue with Ray,” she sighed. “I try to convince him that he’s wrong, but all that happens is he ends up tying me in verbal knots, and then I feel like an idiot.”

While she was telling me this, I got a text. It was from Ray: “I just used all my dirty debate tricks to beat down your sister on Facebook. I’m awesome!”

I thought, “I am married to a complete jerk.”

This wasn’t exactly a revelation. We’ve been married for fifteen years now, and, while he’s changed a lot in some ways, his jerkiness has remained pretty constant over the years. On our first date, for instance, I was looking over the dinner menu, and he told me that I should get something cheap because he wasn’t made of money. This last weekend, I was doing a performance up in Vail, and as we were walking through Vail Village, Ray was telling me his plans to firebomb the place and exterminate all the rich snobs who thought they were better than him. When I took a week off last month after running my first competition, Ray (unbeknownst to me) posted a note on Facebook saying that if anyone called or texted me during my week off, he would come over with a crowbar and break their arms and legs. That led to an awkward conversation with my dad which I didn’t understand until I got home and Ray proudly showed me his post.

And then there was the time, before we were actually dating, that we went to a jazz concert together. He was so obnoxious during the evening that I decided to drop him as a friend. But he emailed me the next day and thanked me for a fun evening, and his note was so sweet and thoughtful that I said, “Well, I’ll give him one more chance.”

Seventeen years later, here we are.

I told my sister, after the Facebook argument, that she should just unfriend Ray and ignore him. There was no point in trying to convince him he was wrong; I’d been trying to do that for seventeen years without success. He’s both opinionated and as stubborn as a mule, and he loves arguing. Even if he eventually changes his mind, he’ll sometimes keep arguing just for fun. Also, he sees it as his God-given mission to correct people when they’re wrong, and he definitely believes that his opinions are the right ones. When I point out that opinions aren’t right or wrong, since they’re, you know, opinions, he says that is an example of a wrong opinion. He doesn’t care if he makes people mad or if they dislike him; he has an unassailable self-confidence that both drives me crazy and makes me insanely jealous. I asked him once if he ever worried that I’d stop loving him and find someone else, and he said, “No–why would you? I’m awesome.”  You might as well try winning an argument with Mt. Rushmore. He’ll never, ever admit he’s wrong. So I tell people, like I told my sister, that if his Facebook rantings irritate them, they should either hide his feed or unfriend him. It’s just easier that way.

Anyway, on this occasion, the consciousness that my husband had acted like a jerk led me into an also-familiar train of thought: did people, like my family and friends, think less of me because I was married to a jerk? Did they think, “Wow, if she likes that guy, she must be a real loser herself”? Did they feel sorry for me? Did they think I was crazy? And this familiar train of thought led to a new question: what if your soulmate is a total douchebag?

Now, I don’t believe in the concept of “soulmates.” I don’t think that there is one person on Earth that you are destined to be with, the only perfect match out of billions of mistakes. The romantic part of me thinks it’s a lovely idea, but the larger, practical part of me thinks that if you only have a one-in-seven-billion chance of finding your one true soulmate, you’re in deep trouble. If Ray dies before I do, I know that I’ll get married again eventually. Ditto for him.

However, it was fun to mull over the idea. In all the modern fairy tales, the princess is a sweet, good-hearted person, and her One True Love is a good person, too, although sometimes he’s a Diamond in the Rough or a Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold. But what if you’re a princess and your One True Love turns out to be a jerk? What does that say about you? Does that mean that you’re a jerk, too? Do mean people get mean soulmates?

And, even though I don’t believe in soulmates, these questions are valid for real relationships, too. Ray and I haven’t been married for fifteen years because we’re co-dependent or super dysfunctional or masochistic. I really and truly love him. I like being married to him. He’s my best friend, and we get along great. So…if we’re so compatible, does that mean that I’m a jerk, too?

Maybe. I don’t think I’m the best judge of that. I’m definitely sarcastic, judgmental, and opinionated, and, in private, I’m capable of being every bit as profane and argumentative as Ray. I’ve got more social polish; I’m able to be nice to almost everybody, even people I don’t really like. But I’m not sure if that’s a positive or not. One of my teaching assistants told me the other day that, while she doesn’t agree with some of Ray’s opinions, she values him because he’s so honest. You know exactly where you stand with him.

I’m not like that. I’m very private, and I keep most of my opinions to myself. While I know myself very well, I think it’s probably hard for others to get to know me. Ray wears his heart on his sleeve. My heart is hidden deep down.

When we were first dating, I was very protective of my heart. I’d had a bad breakup not too long before, and I didn’t want to make another mistake. Ray (who’d also just had a bad breakup) didn’t seem to feel any such compunctions. On our first date, we went to dinner and a movie, and I kissed him good night. Nothing earthshattering, but I still spent the next morning in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I decided I would wait a couple days before calling him again; I wanted to take things very slowly. Right after I had decided that, he called me and asked if I was free to go out again that night. “I have to see you,” he said. Who could resist that?

Within two weeks, he told me that he loved me. Within six weeks, he mentioned getting married. I thought he was out of his mind. Not that I didn’t love him back–I did, with a strength that surprised me–but the speed at which things were happening scared me. Ray never seemed to have any doubts. He told me that he just knew, and I guess he was right. We got married a year and a half later, and neither of us has ever had any regrets. I’ve heard that marriage changes some people’s relationships, making it hard to go from dating to marriage, but that never happened to us. Marriage just made everything even better.

In many ways, I feel like I’m the lucky one. Ray loves me with as close to an unconditional love as one human being can feel for another. I know that he will never leave me or be unfaithful to me. He loves me exactly the way I am, and he doesn’t try to change me, not even when I’m dancing down the aisles of the grocery store or making him take silly pictures of me. I am the most important thing in the world to him, and he lets me know it all the time in a hundred different ways. Hardly a day goes by where he doesn’t text or call me to say I love you, even after fifteen years.

I’m more complicated. I don’t think I’m capable of unconditional love, and I try to change Ray all the time. It doesn’t work, but I still try. I’m critical and impatient and sarcastic, and deep inside I worry sometimes that I’m not really worthy of the kind of True Love I stumbled into. Ray doesn’t see it that way. He says that we’re creatures of the same species–T-Rexes, he calls us, since we both have short little arms and short little tempers.

At the end of my musings, I thought about the two long-term boyfriends I had before Ray, one while I was in high school and the other while I was in college. They both got along great with my parents and my friends, had good social manners, and didn’t have more than their fair share of anger management issues. One of them took drugs and the other one cheated on me.

So I went from relationships with guys who seemed great on the outside but didn’t treat me right, to a guy who seems like the World’s Angriest Man but treats me like a fairy-tale princess. I don’t know what other people think of our marriage, but after what I went through before, I know that Ray is the best thing that ever happened to me.

My soulmate is a jerk. And I’m okay with that.

Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

caesar

I went to see the Coen Brothers’ latest film, Hail, Caesar!, this weekend. I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to the Coen Brothers. I like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and Intolerable Cruelty, but I really didn’t understand Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, or The Man Who Wasn’t There (which I think, in film circles, disqualifies me from ever being a real movie critic). So I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this new movie or not.

I liked it! Mostly.

The film is about Eddie Mannix, a movie studio “handler” in the 1950’s, played by a fabulous Josh Brolin. Mannix’s job is to protect the studio’s stars from themselves and the studio from scandal. As he goes about his action-packed day at Capitol Studios, we are treated to cameo-laden homages/parodies of various 50’s-era films: Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams-type synchronized swimmer; Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-type song-and-dance man; and George Clooney as a Roman centurion in a sweeping Biblical epic. If you love both classic movies and modern movies like I do, these little scenes are totally worth the price of admission.

The main plot centers around the kidnapping of Clooney’s character. With this plot, I was hoping for an exciting whodunnit (I love mysteries), but you find out relatively quickly who the kidnappers are, and the revelation is a disappointment (it was for me, anyway). I think the situation with the kidnappers is supposed to be funny, but I found it awkward, dry, and waaaaayyyy too long. Even the reveal of the Big Bad at the very end (and what happens to the Big Bad) isn’t very exciting, and it doesn’t really make sense. I found myself wondering if they could have just cut out that part of the plot altogether–which is always an issue when you’re talking about the main plot.

But there were so many funny moments that it almost didn’t matter if the plot made sense. There’s a great scene where Ralph Fiennes, as an elegant, sophisticated director, is trying to teach a Roy Rogers-type singing cowboy how to say his lines correctly in a drawing-room drama. In another, George Clooney’s centurion is reacting to seeing the face of Christ in the Biblical epic, and you can hear the director shouting in the background, “Squint more! But with grandeur!” And the film’s climatic moment is fantastic–but I won’t spoil it for you.

If you’ve never seen any movies from the 1950’s (Ben Hur, On The Town, Trigger, Jr), you probably won’t like this. And if you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers movie before, I don’t know that this should be your first one (I’m not sure which one SHOULD be your first one; I think mine was Raising Arizona, which was pretty good, but opinions are as varied as the Coens’ movies themselves).

But if you like classic movies and you like “lighter” Coen Brothers movies, give Hail, Caesar! a try.

Movie Review: Deadpool

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My husband and I went to see Deadpool on Valentine’s Day, because nothing is more romantic than seeing a violent comic book movie with your sweetheart (although, since the movie we saw on our first date was Scream, maybe what we consider romantic is different than normal).

 

In case you saw the previews for Deadpool and were wondering if you should go see it, here is a handy moviegoer’s guide.

 

DO NOT GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE if you:

 

  1. Are under the age of 17. Seriously, parents, Deadpool is rated R for a reason. See the other items below.
  2. Dislike profanity. The creators of Deadpool really felt like the character needed to be in an R-rated movie, and they made sure that they would get an R by filling every other sentence with such a variety of cuss words and crude references that I don’t think they’ll ever be able to show this movie on broadcast television. They’d have to bleep half the dialogue.
  3. Dislike nudity in movies. There is not as much nudity as there is profanity, thank goodness, but there’s enough.
  4. Dislike sex in movies. See item #3 and the note in #2 about the creators making sure they got an R rating. Boy, did they make sure.
  5. Dislike violence. There is A LOT of violence. Also a lot of death, dismemberment, and over-the-top CGI action sequences. I don’t want to give anything away by describing some of the fight scenes, but a detailed description would involve using the word “decapitations,” a plural that usually only gets used in movies about the French Revolution.
  6. Dislike crudity. Sometimes it feels like the movie was written by 12-year-old boys trapped in adult screenwriters’ bodies. There are some extra non-PC moments/characters, too.
  7. Prefer movies that have multiple female characters who talk to each other. This movie has two female characters who punch each other—does that count?
  8. Prefer movies with sweeping cinematography and storylines that explore social issues and the characters’ innermost fears and desires. This is a raunchy action movie starring a comic book character.

 

 

If you made it through the list above and are still here, then Deadpool is for you!

 

I really enjoyed it. It was fast-paced, funny, and full of references to other comic book movies (including Wolverine, in which Ryan Reynolds previously played Deadpool, and Green Lantern, where Reynolds played the lead). For people like my husband and me who’ve seen a lot of comic book movies, the references were fun, but they’re done in passing (so you don’t have to be a comic book fan to like the film).

 

Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the foulmouthed super-anti-hero. He’s charming and believable, and his comic timing is great. The writers gave him (and all the other characters) snappy dialogue that really works for the irreverent, over-the-top tone of the movie, and all the actors seem to really get into their characters. Ed Skrein, the British actor playing bad guy Francis “Ajax” Freeman, is delightfully loathsome as a supervillain, and Morena Baccarin (formerly of Firefly) is excellent (and surprisingly sweet, given the kind of movie it is) as Deadpool’s girlfriend.

 

There are a bunch of fun side characters, including X-Man Colossus (who is pretty much the opposite of Deadpool in every way), and the action sequences are good. The action was sometimes a little too CGI-heavy for my tastes—I really prefer solid stuntwork over camera tricks and computer graphics—and I would happily have cut out most of the cussing (although it was interesting waiting to see what off-the-wall combination of cusswords they would throw together next. It was almost like they had a profanity slot machine and were pulling the lever to randomly assemble terms).

 

However, overall it was exciting and fun, with characters you end up rooting for, a solid plot, and a satisfying ending. I’ll see it again, and it’s definitely good enough to deserve a sequel.

Mono Log

My dance school ran a competition the second weekend of July. Partway through the weekend, I started getting a sore throat and a cough, and by Sunday afternoon I was so hoarse that I sounded like I’d been drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes on a month-long bender.

I spent the next several days in bed.

My annual physical was scheduled for Thursday of that week, and I dragged myself to the appointment even though I felt more like dragging myself to the morgue and saving everyone the trouble. But I’d had to wait three months for the appointment, and I didn’t feel like waiting another three months, so I went.

I told my doctor (hereafter referred to as Doctor #1) that I wasn’t feeling well, and she looked in my ears and throat and told me that I probably had a virus. She didn’t sound worried. Get some rest and drink some fluids, she said, and I would feel better soon.

We did the rest of my annual physical stuff, including a blood draw at the end. Doctor #1 told me that she would be out of the office the next day (Friday), but if there was anything unusual in my blood work, one of the other doctors in the practice would call me. I’d never had abnormal blood work at my physical, and I don’t think either of us thought anyone would be calling me.

So I was very surprised when I did get a call.

I’d dragged my carcass to the dance studio office on Friday to finish up our quarterly taxes before the due date. It took me about five times as long as usual to do them because I kept zoning out in the middle and just staring at the numbers on the screen. All I could think about was finishing up so that I could go home and go back to bed.

About 2 o’clock, my phone rang. It was my doctor’s office.

“Hello,” said the receptionist on the other end. “We have the results of your blood tests from yesterday, and your white blood cell count is abnormally low. The doctor says you need to go to the emergency room right away.”

“Um, what?” I said.

The receptionist repeated herself. Nope, no mistake–she really had said that I should go to the emergency room.

“Um,” I said.

It didn’t seem real. I mean, I felt absolutely terrible, but I was at work and moving and not bleeding or screaming or anything. It didn’t feel like emergency room material.

“I’ve got a virus,” I said. “Could that possibly have affected the blood test results?”

“Maybe,” the receptionist said.

“So maybe I don’t need to go to the emergency room?”

“Let me double check with the doctor and get back to you,” the receptionist said, and hung up.

My sister was in the office with me, and I told her what had happened. “Weird, right?” I said, and then I went back to the taxes, but it was even harder and slower than before, since now I was worried about my abnormal blood test results.

Surely it was some kind of mistake. Maybe, since my doctor (Doctor #1) was out of the office, this other doctor in the practice (Doctor #2) had called the wrong patient or something.

The receptionist called me back fifteen minutes later.

“The doctor says that if you’re feeling sick at all, you need to get to the emergency room right now.”

Oh, geez.

Well, it looked like I really did need to go to the ER. But I just wasn’t feeling…emergencyish. Even after my sister looked up low white blood cell count online and found out that it can indicate some REALLY bad stuff, part of me was having trouble taking it seriously.

Don’t get me wrong; the rest of me was freaking out. But our taxes were due the next day, and I really needed to get them done, so I decided to go ahead and finish them. I mean, I wasn’t feeling any worse than I had yesterday, so an hour or two longer couldn’t hurt, right? And I knew that Ray would worry if I told him that I wasn’t going to the ER right away, so I just decided to wait a little before telling him about the situation.

Was that bad?

By the time I’d finished the taxes, I’d actually decided that I could go home and wait for Ray to get off work. Then we could discuss whether or not I really needed to go to the ER at all. Maybe I could ask one of my doctor or nurse friends what they thought before making a final decision. I was still having a hard time taking the situation seriously.

But when I finally called Ray to let him know what was going on, he told me that I needed to go to the emergency room RIGHT THEN and he would meet me there the second he got off work. He was so worried that he didn’t even want me to drive myself; he told me to get my sister to drive me instead.

So that’s what I did. On the way over, my sister (also very worried) told me about all the bad low-white-blood-cell medical problems she’d read about online. I felt a jumbled-up combination of worry, sickness, and humor. Man, this was going to make a GREAT blog post.

When I got to the ER, I kind of expected to get hustled back to surgery or something, given the urgency with which my doctor’s office had sent me there. Also, one of the judges at our dance competition had told us a story about how he’d had a stomach ache once and went to the ER, and the second the ER docs looked at him they rushed him back for emergency surgery and he was in the hospital for a week. That story was forefront in my mind as I checked in.

I was not hustled back into surgery. When I told them why I was there, the nice ladies at the front desk could best be described as “non-plussed.”

“Your white blood cell count is low?” the receptionist repeated. “We don’t get a lot of people coming in for that.”

The nurse who took me back was even less impressed. “You look fine to me,” she said, eyeing me up and down.

I started to feel like I should have gotten a note from my doctor to prove I wasn’t a hypochondriac. I kept wanting to whine, “But they made me come here!”

The ER doc (Doctor #3) who came in to look at me didn’t think I was a hypochondriac, but he also didn’t understand why Doctor #2 had sent me there. “The low white cell count was probably a lab error,” he said. “Even if it wasn’t, there’s not much we can do for you here in the ER.”

Arg!

However, since I was there, he decided to re-run the blood tests and also do a chest X-ray to see if I had pneumonia. I didn’t.

“See? Everything is normal, honey,” said a nurse, handing me a printout of my blood test results and patting me on the shoulder, again like I was a panicky hypochondriac. “Just go home and get lots of fluids and rest and you’ll feel better in no time.”

So I spent two hours and $1200 in the ER, and all I got was a lousy printout.

(And actually it turned out that they’d accidentally given me someone else’s printout, and I had to come back the next day to get mine—which was normal, too).

I spent Saturday and Sunday feeling frustrated and confused (as well as sick), and then on Monday morning I called my doctor’s office (Doctor #1) to find out what was going on.

I was put through to a nurse who listened to my story and then said that she would have Doctor #1 give me a call. But when the phone rang an hour later, it wasn’t Doctor #1; it was the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center calling to make an appointment with me at, they said, my doctor’s request.

Ironically, this phone call freaked me out way more than the original phone call on Friday. Cancer center? But the ER said I was fine! OMG! What was going on?

Sounding much calmer than I felt, I explained the situation to the woman on the phone and asked if it was possible that the request from my doctor’s office had come on Friday, before my ER blood test. She said she didn’t know. I said that I’d talk to my doctor and then call back if I needed to make an appointment.

Now I REALLY wanted to talk to Doctor #1.

Sadly, the feeling wasn’t mutual. The person who finally called me back in the afternoon was the nurse I’d spoken to that morning, not my doctor, and she said that Doctor #1 “had no idea what had happened” with my blood test. I was instructed to come back in a month and have a follow-up.

Have a nice day.

I was very upset. It seemed to me that, having sent me to the ER for an expensive and apparently unnecessary checkup, the office could have at least let me talk to my doctor directly on the phone instead of giving me a secondhand brush-off.

I decided that it might be time to find a new doctor’s office.

Using my insurance company’s website and a variety of online reviews, I did a lot of research over the course of the next several weeks and eventually found a doctor who was close to me, took my insurance, and got good reviews. I called and made an appointment for a day in August in order to do my follow-up blood test and get a second opinion.

Unfortunately, the office of Doctor #4 did not live up to the reviews. The waiting area was made up of metal folding chairs on a bare tile floor, with a TV in the corner showing a daytime talk show where the hosts were discussing the morality of wearing yoga pants in public (no, seriously). The two young receptionists at the front desk seemed like they were already disenchanted with the reality of being adults, and the middle-aged nurse who took me back was surly and hardly said a word to me. When she took my pulse and blood pressure, I had a close-up view of all the stains and torn places on her white lab coat. Ew.

Doctor #4, when she came in, had a friendly, professional manner, which made me feel a little better. She took the time to explain why she thought the low white blood cell count from my original blood test was a lab error, and she talked to me about how lab errors like that could happen. She went ahead and ran another white blood cell count for me, but she said that the results would almost certainly be normal.

I mentioned that I was still feeling lousy, although the cough had finally gone away. Doctor #4 did not seem concerned about that. I had a virus, that was all, she told me, and the fatigue and general crapiness I was still feeling would eventually go away with rest and fluids. She also very kindly told me that I should go see my psychiatrist, because some of the symptoms were probably depression-related.

Ugh. I left feeling like a panicky hypochondriac again, and like no one was taking me seriously. It was funny—when I’d gotten the initial call about the abnormal lab results, I hadn’t believed that anything was wrong, but now that everybody kept telling me I was OK, I was becoming more and more convinced that I wasn’t. I was willing to believe that the lab results had been an error and I shouldn’t have been sent to the ER, but I did not feel right. Something was the matter.

Doctor #4 had told me that her office would call me within three days with my lab results. I didn’t hear from them, so I called back on the fourth day after my appointment. The bored receptionist said that, yeah, they had my lab results and they were normal. Sure, I could come pick up a copy if I really wanted.

Check. STILL needed a different doctor’s office.

Since online reviews hadn’t done the trick, I decided to ask friends if they had a doctor they would recommend. I got several recommendations, but all of them were either far away or didn’t take my insurance. I waffled for a while, trying to decide if I should give one of the recommendations a try anyway, and a few weeks passed. I continued to feel tired, faint, and very discouraged.

Then, at the end of August, I got another call from the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.

The nice receptionist who called me said that they had a note that I was supposed to make an appointment, but they hadn’t heard back from me. Did I want to make an appointment now?

She sounded so friendly, and I felt so generally frustrated, that I told her the entire situation. “I don’t know what to do,” I said at the end. “What would you suggest?”

“Well, I’m just a secretary,” she said, “but even the numbers on your repeat blood tests look pretty low. I would go ahead and come in.”

So, after talking to a number of my friends (including several nurses and a doctor) who all agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to go, I went.

The facility was lovely, and the front office staff was warm and welcoming. It was everything that the office of Doctor #4 hadn’t been, and I breathed a sigh of relief. My relief, however, was short-lived.

“Why are you here?” asked Doctor #5, a brisk, no-nonsense woman who seemed extremely competent but not exactly cuddly. “Your numbers are completely normal. The first white blood cell count was obviously a lab error. You do not have cancer.”

I fought against the urge to slink out of the office with my tail between my legs. I was there, and I’d already gotten the panicky-hypochondriac treatment; what else did I have to lose?

“I wanted to double-check that there wasn’t something actually wrong,” I said, with as much confidence as I could muster. “I’ve felt terrible for six weeks, and because of that first lab test, I was worried.”

“What are your symptoms?”

“Originally, I had a bad cough, and I had a fever for about 24 hours. The cough and fever are gone now, but I still have a sore throat, and I am completely exhausted. I have trouble getting out of bed. I have trouble working. I have trouble even thinking straight sometimes.”

“Do you have trouble sleeping?”

“No.”

“Do you suffer from depression or anxiety?”

“Yes.”

“Ah.”

The knowing tone in her voice made me angry. “I know that fatigue can be a symptom of anxiety,” I said, trying not to snap, “but I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, and I have never felt anything like the exhaustion I feel now.”

She looked at me consideringly. I looked back. “Well,” she said, “let’s go ahead and repeat the blood work and see if anything shows up. I’ll also run a test for mononucleosis. I had a patient once who had similar symptoms, and that’s what it turned out to be.”

And guess what? The mono test came back positive.

Doctor #5 called me with the results herself, which I was super impressed by (she was the first doctor in this whole process who had called me herself). She said that I had a very bad active infection, and that’s why I was experiencing the fatigue and malaise. There wasn’t any kind of treatment for mono, though; just rest and fluids, and it would eventually go away.

Kind of ironic that it took an oncologist to figure out that I had mono. But I guess everybody had been right about the rest and fluids, anyway.

Even though there wasn’t anything I could do about the mono, I felt better knowing that there WAS something wrong, something with a name that I could tell people about. When I finally did find a new primary care doctor (Doctor #6), being able to tell her that I had mono meant that we could skip the why-are-you-here stage and go directly to the what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it stage, which was great. She told me that people with mono could sometimes be sick for 6 months, and to help with recovery I should cut back to working half days until I felt better. Because I had mono, my employees and students were happy to help me figure out how to do this, for which I was extremely grateful.

Knowing what I had also helped me read about the condition so that I could answer people’s questions. Many people wanted to know how contagious I was, for example (usually expressed as, “Stay away from me!”), and I was able to tell them that mono isn’t as contagious as the flu or the common cold, so as long as they weren’t kissing me, they were probably fine. Ray was pretty worried about getting it, especially since it was mid-September before I was finally diagnosed and I’d had it since July, so he called his doctor and asked if he needed to get tested.

“Have you kissed your wife since she’s been sick?” the doctor asked.

“Yes,” said Ray.

“Then you got exposed. If you’ve never had mono before, you have it now. But don’t bother to come in for a test. You don’t have any symptoms, and we couldn’t do anything to help you even if you did.”

That sounds callous, but I knew from my reading that most adults are immune to mono because they’ve already had it. The #1 question that people had was, “How on Earth did you get MONO?” I could tell them that 99% of the population has actually been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mono) by the time they reach adulthood, and they still have the inactive virus in their systems. Only about 50% of people exposed to the virus have any symptoms at all, and most people with symptoms have a mild case and think it’s the flu. Only a relatively small percentage of people end up with a serious case like I have. Once you’ve mono, the virus can activate again from time to time, but you don’t get sick again.

So I could have gotten mono from anywhere, really. The strange thing was that I hadn’t had it before.

Oddly, one of Ray’s employees had mono at the same time I did. What a strange coincidence, I thought. At least, that’s what I thought until Ray came home one day and said, “Um, don’t be mad, but I think I might have gotten you sick.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you know how Tommy has mono, too? Like you, he had it for a couple months before he knew about it. And when we’re working together hanging up a white board or something like that, we usually put our shared pile of screws on the floor between our ladders. Then, to make sure our hands stay free when we’re on the ladder, we grab the screws that we need and put them in our mouths….”

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes, while I was lying on the couch feeling like an energy-sucking vampire had been draining me of my will to live (because that’s what having mono feels like), I would think about Ray’s unhygienic screw-sharing practices and wish that he could feel what I was feeling as punishment. But he’d apparently already been exposed to the virus and was immune. He could just pass it on to innocent, unsuspecting people like me, a kind of Typhoid Mary. His name could be Mono Ray.

It’s December as I’m writing this, and I’m on the mend. I’m not 100% (some people who have had serious cases of mono said they didn’t feel 100% for about a year), but sometimes now I actually have energy, which is great! For months, I was so exhausted I could hardly even write, but now I’m back to writing, and I made it through our big Regional Championships in November, which was quite an achievement.

The ironic thing about the mono is that it sometimes gets caught because your white blood cell count gets abnormally HIGH, but mine didn’t. The low blood cell count on my original blood test must have been a lab error, so the thing that kicked off this whole adventure was a mistake. But I guess it turned out OK in the end, and now I have a doctor that I like in an office that I like, which is good.

And I was reminded to trust my instincts where my health is concerned, which is also good. Because nobody knows YOU like YOU do, and nobody cares as much about YOU as YOU do either. So sometimes you have to be your own advocate, and that’s OK.

So if you feel like something’s wrong and everybody is treating you like a panicky hypochondriac, keep talking to people until you find someone to listen. It’ll be worth it.