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This morning as I listened to the pitter-patter of the rain and prettied myself to go out for the day, I heard over the airways of my quaint little am/fm radio an advertisement for sufferers of genital warts. It went something like: “If you’ve ever been diagnosed with genital warts or are now having an outbreak, you are invited to participate in a study conducted by medical researchers. If you think that you might have genital warts or if you currently have a cluster on your genitals, please contact us. All calls will be strictly confidential.”
Well, I thought, that seems like a good idea, studying genital warts in hopes of putting an end to what must certainly be a diabolically unsettling affliction. But what would it be like to walk into a room full of people who are there because they’re all having an outbreak of genital warts? What kinds of looks would be exchanged? Or wasn’t it like that? Maybe you were just scheduled for an appointment and the only people who would find out you had genital warts were the receptionist and a few nurses and some doctors who had previously all been strangers to you. They would never know that you played an instrument or had two children or were considered a leader in your professional field. All they would know about you is that you had genital warts.
Suddenly, what had first struck me as funny now struck me as sad and unfair. Why should one person get genital warts and another person not? The same goes for anything transmitted sexually—why does somebody’s brother have AIDS and my brother does not?
I think we should all have to sample life’s cruelties.
We should all be required to have our heads shaved every ten years. Everyone should have to sign up for a month-long bout of absolute heartbreak at least three times in their adult lives, and everyone should have to develop some kind of “hidden” disease…like diabetes or chronic pain or alcoholism…and made to live with it for six months, at least once—without complaining. Every single person should have to walk around with a wildly infected zit on their face once every five years; I bet that would cut down on the “Oh my God, did you see that’s?” And we should all have herpes so we could just get that over with, because herpes doesn’t kill you. The things that kill us? Nobody has to sample those. Yes, we’d like to try the head-on collision, and could you give us a little lung cancer on the side? The things that kill us will all come in time.
I had a friend once with a profound physical disability—a particularly unfair cruelty for a sensitive and beautiful woman—and she wouldn’t consider dating another person with the same type of affliction. She said, “I consider myself flawed, and I don’t want to be reminded of it every day.” At first I didn’t understand that: All she had to do was look in the mirror to see what was wrong with her. And isn’t it expected that two like types come together? You would think that she of all people would be accepting of physical deformity.
But later, when I scrubbed away the slime of my shallow ignorance, I knew what she meant: Why would we seek out friends and partners with our exact same flaws? Most of us want someone to balance us out, be healthy and whole when we cannot be…to have us and hold us no matter what.
I remembered two things today, after listening to that still-disturbing but ultimately educational genital warts radio commercial: One, it’s never really the end of the world (unless it really is). Two, not everyone is always going to like me. In fact, I could morph throughout the day in an attempt to smoothly fit into any given situation with an array of people, and still, there would be people who don’t like me. At the same time, there could be people who liked me yesterday, but today for some reason don’t like me anymore.
I’m just glad it’s raining, so that all the people still dripping in ignorant slime can go outside and scrub off. I'll be out there myself, freshening up.