This month I indulged and ordered Showtime. Yes, it’s an extra expense. No, I don’t need it. Yes, I wanted it at first because of “Dexter”. Then a couple of days ago I wanted to fold laundry and decided to watch the first episode of “The Big C”. Now, granted, the premise of the show sounded superbly depressing: a woman finds out she has stage 4 melanoma and then…what? They’re going to make a series from that? Eeeek! First off, after working at Gilda’s Club, I’ve seen a lot of cancer. And it scares me. Deeply. And in the media and every women’s magazine they’re always talking about it. Cancer Cancer Cancer. It feels like it’s inevitable. So, I admit, I’m terrified of it.
Then why would I watch a show about it? Because it stars Laura Linney and for some strange reason I really connect with her. Maybe it’s her acting style, maybe it’s the roles she chooses. I don’t know. I just like her. So I pressed play, started folding clothes and within two minutes of watching the show…I was laughing. That’s right. I was laughing.
The show is fucking funny. It’s created and written by (at least a few of the episodes) Darlene Hunt. And I think I noticed one other writer, also a woman. Here’s the thing: the writing is fresh and funny. The characters are flawed and complex and likeable. It’s the kind of stuff I’d like to write. It’s deeply feminine and emotional and UNAPOLOGETIC. More importantly, it’s telling a story that I want to follow. Yes, it’s about cancer…but there’s another meaning to the story that I deeply connect with. Ultimately, it’s about living your authentic life.
I talk to my girlfriends about this. Even my ex-mother-in-law (who is now a friend.) I’ve talked to students and coworkers and other women about this. And there seems to be some unwritten rule that women follow, a caregiver rule, to put everyone first, everyone but themselves. I’m phrasing this awkwardly. What I mean is when you’re a mom and a wife, you put your kids and husband first. You give and give, and care, and tend to and that feels good. It feels right. At the end of the day, though, there is little energy or time left over for yourself. I know this from experience. How many times has there been something I wanted or even needed and I said “No, don’t worry about it.” How many times have I been quietly polite instead of saying what I really think? How many times have I been quietly invisible so that others are comfortable? Too many to count. But not anymore.
I connect with “The Big C” because it reminds me about living authentically. A couple of years ago when I was still married, I started doing small rebellions. I joined Facebook, and I realized that I had nothing to post about my status that didn’t involve my husband or kids. I had nothing to post about ME. So, I got a narration gig. Then I started writing again. I remember one day buying a shirt for myself because all the ones I had were stained. I bought myself flowers.
Later, these little rebellions led to big ones. I realized that in my marriage, I wasn’t an authentic person. I was playing a role.
Now, single for over a year, I feel a bit like the character Cathy in “The Big C”. She takes joy in little rebellions that aren’t really rebellions at all: she’s simply doing things she wants to do. She’s stopped apologizing for everything. And while she still cares about people, still tends to them, she’s also tending to herself.
This is why I ordered Showtime. A little gift for myself. I’m not going overboard. I don’t think I’ve been narcissistic. I’m just balancing out my life, living more deeply and fully. Last night, I ordered Indian food for myself. I ordered it because I wanted it and I love it. I could’ve made it. It would’ve taken me two hours to do, but I could’ve…but I didn’t want to. So I ordered a cauliflower curry and naan and papadams. I put on pjs and I watched TV.
Then I did something crazier. I slept in just my underwear. What an act of rebellion! What pure craziness came over me? See, I’ve always been really sensitive about my body. I’m always a little overweight. Always a little pudgy. My tummy sticks out. I have lots of moles. I never look at myself naked and I never, god forbid, sleep naked, not even with a lover. Why? I think I’m uncomfortable with myself.
Then when I look at pictures of myself from a few years ago I think “Wow, you were really pretty. Why did you hate yourself so much?”
Last night I decided it was high time to feel what it’s like to be in my own body. I took off my bra, stripped down to my panties, and checked myself out in the mirror. And you know what? I’ve got a nice rack. I do. I like my boobs. And I like the gentle curves of my body. I’m not skinny, but I think my body is a body that can be warm and comforting to my kids…and also very womanly and sexy (when I want to be). I slipped under my silky sheets, noticing how the fabric felt against my bare skin.
I like these little acts of rebellion…and I like in my life I’m finally strong enough to do them. So, “The Big C” has encouraged me to live a little more fully. I hope more women are watching or listening…or in the very least…taking a minute for themselves. We spend so much time telling ourselves we’re not worth it. Whoever started that phrase I’d like to challenge to a duel. That’s right. I’d like to smack them across the face with a glove. We are worth it. Our little wants and needs…they aren’t little. They’re important. We’re important. You’re important.
Rah rah rah.
Do something for yourself. Something huge like living on your own, or something small like ordering Indian food and checking out your boobs for the beauties they are. Why? If no one else will tell you this, I will: because you’re worth it.