claim your cancer barometer now! (Or: why you should start stalking* your friends)

Now that I’m going through chemo, I’m having a hard time differentiating between symptoms caused by the chemo (which I apparently need to report to my oncologist) and symptoms caused by my ordinary, everyday body revolting against me. Is this stuffed up head just allergies, or CANCER? Does my stomach hurt because I ate lentils of a certain age, or because of CANCER? Am I tired because of the stupid neighbor’s car alarm waking me up every night, or IS IT CANCER???

Lucky for me, I have been stalking keeping track of my friends’ illnesses for years. I now have a significant catalog of pals who react to things in the same way I do, which allows me to determine whether or not my symptoms are cancer-related or not. My friends haven’t caught on yet, because I keep it cool and casual. For example, a phone conversation I had yesterday with my friend Zoe, who tends to have the same seasonal allergies as me:

Me: Hey is there a lot of mucous in your face today?

Zoe: What?

Me: Allergies. Mucous. In your face. Are there?

Zoe: Oh. Yeah, my allergies have been pretty bad lately. What’s up? Wanna hang out—

Me: OK. THANK YOU. GOODBYE.

After my phone conversation with Zoe, I could rest assured that the chemo probably wasn’t melting my sinuses. Without my pre-cancer tendency to pay uncomfortably close attention to my friends’ sneezes, I’d be left googling my symptoms to see if I need to worry about them. You know that phenomenon where every symptom you google leads to a cancer diagnosis, catapulting you into an existentially painful universe where a scaly elbow means you have two months to live? That doesn’t go away once you actually get cancer. If you start keeping track of your buddy’s reaction to Taco Bell now, you’ll spend a lot less time screaming “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?” into a pillow if you ever do get the Big C.

You have to get on this early. See, your friends might think it’s kind of weird if you all of the sudden have an interest in their bowel movements or their watery eyes just because you have cancer. You can pull the cancer card for a lot of things (not limited to the last chicken nugget in the 20 pack), but some people are just reluctant to hand over their medical history to you regardless of what uncontrollable cell division is occurring in your lymph nodes. They think it’s “creepy” or “rude” or “an invasion of trust and privacy,” which is why you need to plan ahead. Without further rambling, here’s my quick guide to creating your very own symptom catalog. You’ll need three things: friends of any sort (acquaintances will do in a pinch), notebook to keep track with, and a complete lack of inhibitions regarding social norms.

  1. Start small.

The next time you get bad seasonal allergies, test the waters a little. Throw out some bait to the first friend that sniffles—I like to cough and say, “Ugh, allergies, am I right?” If they respond with a, “yeah, they’re KILLING me today,” you’ve caught one. Take them out to lunch somewhere with a questionable health score. The next day, call them up complaining that the Pad Thai made you sick. If they’re sick as well, GREAT! You’ve found a two-fer! If not, rinse and repeat with a new friend. Keep going until you have one friend for every malady.

  1. Get organized.

“But Kelsey,” you ask. “There are so many symptoms to keep track of! How do you remember which friend is which?” Honestly, I don’t have a clear answer to this question—organization is a very personal thing, and everyone has a different system. Directly labeling the person with their affliction can be messy, and costs loads in tattooing fees. Personally, I find that color coding is an efficient and effective way to remember my friends’ medical history. If sensitive skin = purple, and my roommate Alexandra has the same sensitive skin I do, then I just yell “PURPLE!!!!!” every time she walks into the room. Easy peasy!

  1. Take early action.

Establish yourself as the paranoid one now so your friends won’t think anything of it when you start questioning their health habits. Claim you’re allergic to gluten. Pretend to break out in hives every time you touch a polyester blend. Dress up in traditional Indian mourning garb and sob uncontrollably whenever you walk past the onion section at the grocery store. Your goal is to make yourself seem as hyper-sensitive as possible so that it only makes sense when you ask your pal whether or not they, too, get achy joints in the cold. Your friends will understand that you, a perpetually sniffly person, just want someone to sympathize with. They’ll humor you and you’ll get the details in no time.

There you go. The quick-start guide to creating a living ailment library. I hope you never get cancer, but if you do, you’ll thank me when you’re wondering whether or not your forehead rash is eczema or another horrifying side effect of chemo that no one told you about.

*Do not stalk your friends. I am not responsible for any restraining orders, nasty looks, or wedding un-vites you receive as a result of this blog post.

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f*** this cancer

HELLO PEOPLE.

I’ve taken a hiatus from wedding planning in order to accomplish my life dream of getting cancer. I’d like to thank the Academy, my loving fiance, and my doting mother for allowing me to microwave Styrofoam for the first 18 years of my life. I woke up a few weeks ago with some giant lumps on my neck and thought “Finally! The larval state is over and I’m completing my transformation into a pile of mashed potatoes!” But alas, the doctor said I was no mashed potato— I WAS CANCER.

Well, I’m not cancer, but my neck is. I have been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is like the misunderstood bad boy of cancer. If all of the other cancers are sitting around the cancer water cooler, sippin’ cancer juice and talking about their kids, Hodgkin’s is spiking the coffee pot with cheap rum and calling in sick to trip balls at a bluegrass festival. I’m not really sure where this metaphor is going, but the point is that all of my nurses and doctors have told me that Hodgkin’s is a) one of the most curable cancers given I respond well to treatment and b) a super-cool young person’s cancer.

I was diagnosed on my 26th birthday. I don’t recommend giving anyone cancer for their birthday; not only is it in poor form, but it’s hard to gift-wrap and more difficult to care for than a newborn puppy. This god-awful gift did, however, really ramp up the speed at which my quarter-life existential crisis was barreling down the tracks. Two weeks before my birthday I woke up at 2 AM and ended up staring at my eye wrinkles for a full half-hour; I went back to bed and immediately ordered retinol cream. I was terrified of getting old, of wasting my youth, of my forehead taking the shape of a confused pug’s. The most pressing worry in my life was that I might never get to meet Tony Danza and then BAM. CANCER. Life is short, eat pray love, smell the roses before you die, etc, etc. Every idiotic platitude that has ever been plastered on a pixelated shot of a Hawaiian sunset and shared by soccer moms on Facebook was filling my head. Not only is life short, it could be a lot shorter than I thought.

Now that I know my full diagnosis, I feel more confident that I’m not going to immediately keel over. Cancer has also cured my fear being old. Not because I now expect to die, but because I am constantly surrounded by people that were alive when Hitler was still a jaded art school reject with a doofy haircut. I am the hippest person in the room for the first time. I stroll into that oncology waiting room like a hungover rock star on the third day of the European tour; all the old people watch as I snap the collar on my leather jacket and click my stiletto heels on over to the sign-in sheet. I saunter to the blood lab, hitting the Greatest Generation with the scent of Jameson and a Parisian nightclub as they admire my devil-may-care attitude and badass fashion sense. “Ah,” sighs one old man, “reminds me of my nights in Cuba with Hemingway.” I wink at him, let the nurse draw my blood, and then look her in the eye with a devilish smirk on my face. “Grape juice, please,” I say, laughing, “make it a double.” Everyone in the oncology blood lab giggles at my nonchalance in the face of death and we sit there, eating our peanut butter crackers and drinking our Welch’s and talking about artsy and edgy and awesome I am.

Now, if you asked my parents how my oncology visits have been going, they might tell you that I show up in sweatpants and sit in the far corner of the room and bitch under my breath about how this place sucks and it smells funny and I hate that stupid jigsaw puzzle and WHY CAN’T ANY OF THESE PEOPLE FIGURE OUT HOW TO STAND IN A DAMN LINE IT IS NOT THAT DIFFICULT. And they might tell you that I get very excited about hospital catfish when I’m under the influence of intravenous Valium. They might also tell you that I spend most of my time watching Netflix and ranting about why I think Dr. Watson and Sherlock totally wanna make out. None of these things are true. I am a cool, young, hip cancer patient. I have very little hair and lots of giant scars. I spend a good amount of time choking down pills and sleeping all day.

I AM A ROCK STAR.

Five Alternate Uses for Dumb Registry Must-Haves

“must-have” is a phrase i’ve come to resent unless it’s between the words “i” and “four-ish glasses of wine.” it’s a phrase that i’m pretty sure The Knot invented in order to convince us that the flatware we currently own magically becomes obsolete on our wedding day. as a result of this sentiment, i thought i was immune to the wiles of the “registry must-have” list.

i was wrong.

it happened the same way as most of my major regrets: one day, i decided i should spend my free time doing something besides re-watching that episode of Gilmore Girls where Luke and Lorelei kiss. i thought, “hey. my two favorite hobbies are hating my body and overconsumption. why not combine them?” in college, this would have resulted in a really weird Admiral Nelson-fueled night at a pirate-themed party at the hippie school across town (which, incidentally, is how i met my fiance). this particular evening, however, it led to the dumbest pinterest search ever: “healthy diy chips”

this brought me to a paleo blog run by a lady who has three kids and dresses like she’s at Coachella even though she lives in Michigan. the recipe called for two large zucchinis, extra-virgin olive oil, and a mandolin slicer. because i was still a bonafide Carefree Single Girl, i felt that a questionably intact butcher knife was good enough; i wasn’t going to let this spray tanned mommy-blogger who was an obvious shill for Big Mandolin Slicer rule my life. i grabbed a zucchini, pinned it on my cutting board, raised up my knife… and promptly sliced off a respectable chunk of my flippin’-off-in-traffic finger. this was my sign. i felt like Joseph Smith after those angels told him to wear that special underwear– it was my destiny to spread the registry message. i now know that registering for a mandolin slicer is something that a Responsible Married Woman would do.

so, fellow brides and grooms: go forth and register. find a Dillard’s or a Macy’s or a really nice Wal-Mart. scan all the china and flatware and crystal you can; people will buy it for you anyway, so you may as well pick out the things you’re never going to use but are too lazy to return. to make things easier for all of you Quirky Brides, i’ve come up with some practical alternate uses for all of the dumb things on the registry must-have lists:

1. A Stand Mixer

stand mixer

woooosh. wooooosh. wooooosh. what is that? the calming waves of the Florida gulf coast? nope, that’s just the sweet sound of registry ingenuity. for brides like me that don’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder, a stand mixer is best used as a soothing $250 wave machine. fill the bowl with water, pop on the dough attachment, put it on low, and bam: you have the beach vacation that your mom told you it would be tacky to register for, which is the whole reason you have this ridiculous contraption in the first place.

2. Fine China

fine china

“but i’m not planning on hosting Thanksgiving in my studio apartment!” fine, whatever. leave the holiday planning to your sister who seems to return to veganism every year just in time to make cooking annoying– you never mastered Tofurkey anyway. however, this does not mean you should forgo fine china in your registry! in the words of a mimosa-drunk junior leaguer i once met in the Dillard’s homegoods department: “it’s, like, super, super important to register for nice plates.”

i have to agree with her. i mean, have you ever broken a bone china dinner plate? those things shatter magnificently. i promise, the throw-down, blow-out fights that will scar your kids for years to come will be a thousand times more exciting if you’re breaking the good stuff. in thirty years, your son will have way more material to pad his trauma-inspired stand-up comedy routine than his friends whose parents didn’t splurge; no good cringe-inducing joke ever started with a stoneware mug going “clunk” and breaking into four neat pieces. and even if you don’t plan on emotionally stunting your children, fine china will give them a lot more cash to fight over once they sell it all off at an estate sale when you kick the bucket.

3. Rose Gold Everything

rose gold appliances

do you remember all those times as a teenager that your mom walked into her kitchen and said “ugh, I hate it in here. everything is so outdated!” as a child of the early nineties, my mom was probably talking about her brass accents, linoleum floors, and country patterned crockery. so when i saw that every imaginable kitchen accouterment is currently available in the sophisticated sheen of rose gold (or The Color Formerly Known as Copper), i thought “perfect! i won’t have to deny my children the chance to watch me complain about this in twenty years!” legend has it that after completing this ritual, the only thing left to do in order to enter the Sacred Circle of Middle-Aged Momhood is to pick up a habit writing grocery lists on the back of discarded envelopes.

4. Fancy Wine Glasses

tour-wine-glasses

look, you already know that you find the company of most people who aren’t your future spouse intolerable; that’s why you’ve chosen them as your partner-in-social-aversion. don’t let all that cynicism go to waste! fancy wine glasses are the perfect way to express to each other that you find other people so dull that you’d rather leave the party early and chug Bota Box Pinot Grigio out of a Waterford crystal chalice than listen to one more story about how your coworker, like, totally find himself in Taos. Get four. No, not because you plan on using them with company; your darling love will inevitably break two of them because they can’t understand that you don’t put crystal in the goddamn dishwasher and if you don’t have back-ups you’ll end up doing all your hate-drinking out of your ironically kitschy Goodwill mugs. trust me, it’s much harder to feel smug when your cup has OVER THE HILL AND OFF THE PILL!!! printed on the side.

5. A Cast Iron Pan

castiron

it’s very trendy right now to never wash things and pretend like you’re sophisticated because of it: laundering raw denim is a mortal sin, shampooing your hair is “like really, really bad for your scalp,” and washing your cookware removes all that shiny goodness that my mother called “nasty old grease” but millennials call “seasoning.” cast iron pans are perfect for showing dinner guests that you are the perfect combination of down-to-earth and ultra-hip.

bonus points:  jump in front of the sink right before your helpful friend tries to wash the pan and quip “oh, hey! yeah, sorry, you actually aren’t supposed to wash that. no, it’s fine, i should have told you!” this does double-duty by making you look like a gracious host while also revealing to the guest that they don’t have the kind of down-home sensibility required to appreciate wallowing in filth. complete the elitist evening by complaining about our “throwaway culture” and mentioning that you “just don’t understand why people don’t invest in good things.”

so, there you have it. five uses for the dumb stuff you’ll register for even if you don’t want it. if anyone comes up with another use for a mandolin slicer, let me know.

five wedding signs that make me wish I couldn’t read

let’s be honest: we’ve all been to a wedding and thought, “boy, that was nice, but there were just way too many correctly placed punctuation marks.” lucky for us, the vaguely-rustic-wedding-sign trend is still going strong. if anything has made me regret my ability to recognize strings of letters as representations of abstract concepts, it’s these bad boys:

1. Signs that insinuate the ring bearer is on the prowl

i'm still single

oh, thank god! i was so tired of having to slyly ask the flower girl if the ring bearer was single. you know what they say: all the good ones are either taken or in kindergarten.

guys, this is weird. this is a weird thing to do.

bonus: bride appears to be worried about getting bored while walking down the aisle and has provided herself with plenty of reading material along the way.

possible theme inspiration: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, sassy t-shirts your great-aunt buys you for Christmas.

2. WIVES ARE BOSSY, AMIRITE?!

bad chair sign

you have made that very, very clear.

bonus: burlap in a formal setting, bows that appear to have been tied by a badly trained chimpanzee, all set against fake gold fake bamboo.

possible theme inspiration: middle-tier sorority house living room.

3. cutesy schmoopsy signsey winesies. 

dumb seating sign

the dr. seuss sign trend is the primary phenomenon that makes me believe that the world really did end in 2012 and we are all living in a computer simulation organized by reptilian overlords because no one else would be this cruel.

and can someone please explain the quotation marks? is this from the art of war or something? cite your sources, jesus.

possible theme inspiration: being drunk at a public access children’s show.

4. quirk quirk quirk-a-rific

mutual weirdness

this sign is a great way to tell people that you watched two seasons of Dr. Who and, are, like, a total nerd now. because last halloween’s matching Stranger Things costumes weren’t enough.

here’s a hint: if you’re wearing your weirdness like a badge, you probably aren’t that weird.

possible theme inspiration: wubba lubba dub dub, that time you played WoW and never made it out of the Barrens.

5. Grooms that are apparently terrible athletes.

HERE SHE COMES

oh, come on, james. you’re telling me you can’t manage to run the thirty feet it’ll take you to get to your ’99 accord and get the hell out of there? it’s a six-cylinder, james. it’s getting old but it still has some get-up-and-go. sure, you didn’t run a 4.4 40 in high school, but you’re decent enough to escape someone wearing enough tulle to start a mosquito nettery. i believe in you, buddy.

HERE SHE COMES 2

this is the only scenario where this sign makes sense. in this case, james, i got nothin’ for ya. i hope you’re into really big lizards.

bonus: apostrophe after “cause,” cause’ everything is terrible.

possible theme inspiration: silent bathroom crying, your really dumb third grade teacher.

fun wedding twists for the quirky bride

did you have a fun “drinking” version pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at your 21st birthday party? does your idea of a good time include going to restaurants where the servers have (more than one, but less than four) facial piercings? do you read Infinite Jest on the bus? if you’ve answered “hah, yeah, that’s so me” to any of these questions, congrats! you are a quirky™ bride! next time you and your quirk-a-rific pals get together for a night of ironically cheap wine and wedding planning, consider these fun twists on outdated wedding clichés:

1. Cliché: Releasing butterflies after you say “I do.”

butterfly release

as much as i hear butterflies love being stuffed in a box, disoriented, and released into an ecosystem to which they may or may not belong, it’s clear that the post-vow butterfly release is best left in the last decade.

Try this: Releasing a swarm of bees after you say “I do.”

BEESSSS

being the quirky bride that you are, your liberal friends have no doubt shared a few facebook posts about how the bees are, like, dying, or something. do your part to help save the environment by replacing those boring old butterflies with nature’s little helpers!

possible theme: swarms of things

decor ideas: epipens, wickermen.

2. Cliché: Professionally choreographed first dances.

firstdance1

i know, i know. a professionally choreographed “goofy” first dance is one of the most important parts of being a quirky bride. but anyone can learn to salsa. let’s face it: the second you saw your basic sorority sister’s Rocky Horror inspired first dance pop up on snapchat, you knew you were in danger of having your “zany” title pulled out from under your chaco-clad feet. but you’ve worked hard for this. don’t let Ashley win. IT’S TIME TO RECLAIM WHAT’S YOURS.

Try this: Professionally coached wrestling match.  

bride wins

look Ashley in the eye and show her that you are READY TO RUMBLE if she even thinks about starting an etsy store. this isn’t about the groom; this is about reasserting your dominance as the pledge-class pseudo-hippie by demonstrating that you are not afraid to bodyslam your spouse in front of his great aunt in order to prove your weirdness.

possible theme: debilitating self-consciousness

decor ideas: staged crowd fights, broken chairs

3. Cliché: Throwing birdseed as you leave the chapel.

Wedding-Exit-Bird-Seed

awww, you’re a princess! you’re a fairy! you’re literally Snow White, and all the birds and squirrels will come running up to you to congratulate you on finding true love! birdseed may make for some nice photos, but there are better ways to incorporate the natural world into your wedding. pigeons get enough free meals, anyway.

Try this: Releasing wild raccoons as you leave the chapel. 

raccoon love.png

did you know that in some culture, probably, raccoons are a sign of great love and prosperity? give your wedding pictures that certain je ne sais quoi with the dignified touch of live raccoons. lots of people try to have woodland fairytale weddings, but few actually commit to the idea. show your friends and family how much you and your fiancé love nature and stuff by incorporating these fun little bandits into your ceremony, and also by registering for things you don’t know how to use at REI.

possible theme: things that hiss

decor idea: garbage artfully strewn around the cake table

five terrible things: wedding planning for idiots

there are a lot of cliches to mock in the wedding world, but they aren’t all inherently awful. and then there Truly Terrible Things. these wedding trends make neck tattoos look like a mark of great intelligence. for your enjoyment and disdain, five Truly Terrible Things:

1. std clinic table toppers

actual worst 1.PNG

nothing says “committed relationship” like the smooth graphic design sensibilities of a sexual assault prevention seminar. no, the picture isn’t blurry. that’s your eyes tearing up at nikki’s basic-ness. 300 pages in one sitting? slow down, nikki. you’re liable to get paper cuts flying through Little Women at that speed.

THEME INSPIRATION: campus health clinic waiting room.

pair with: the scent of generic lysol, teal vinyl bridesmaid dresses, codeine addiction.

AWFULNESS RATING: f***

bonus points for rustic log

2. diy money aquariums

 honeyfund

for the tacky and tacky-at-heart: now your family members can directly provide the $20 bill he’ll stick in that costa rican stripper’s g-string after you’ve passed out at the hotel from too many mai tais.

THEME INSPIRATION: things that would kill my mother.

pair with: forgotten thank-you notes, a wacky processional dance

AWFULNESS RATING: f******

3.  castle doctrine cake toppers

 guntoppers

if you’ve ever drank so much bud light that you woke up with the lord’s prayer tattooed on you back, you might have found your cake topper. these hyper-realistic trinkets will remind aunt cecilia and uncle rob that you will END THEM RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF THE CAKE TABLE if they so much as look the wrong way at your property line. these are truly the trucknutz of wedding accessories.

THEME INSPIRATION: state’s rights.

pair with: a token gay friend, freemasonry, overcooked pork

AWFULNESS RATING: f****

4. life choices complaint box

what should we name our kids.PNG

let your overreaching relatives get it all out on your wedding day. other card questions include “what will i do with my mfa degree?” “why can’t I be more like my brother?” and “why don’t I ever call you now and again, would it kill me?”

THEME INSPIRATION: seething resentment.

pairs with: a cake you didn’t pick out, a dress you didn’t pick out, and a groom you didn’t pick out.

AWFULNESS RATING: f**

bonus: makes great kindling when you decide to burn it all down, collect the insurance money, and flee to Mexico.

5. giving fate the middle finger

ladder altar.PNG

there are lots of wedding superstitions: don’t let the groom see the dress, wear blue, don’t make out with the best man, etc. etc. these people think that’s all some real weak shit. they don’t just tempt fate; they tell it to SIT DOWN and SHUT UP while they say the most important vow of their lives under not one but TWO ladders in a ceremony presumably officiated by that talking cat from Sabrina. i’m not sure what happened on these apparently blood-covered ladders, but the memorial flowers that got left behind are a great budget saver.

THEME INSPIRATION: really bad luck

pair with: the strangled cries of the underworld, a pinata full of salt, seven years of listening to his nazgul-cackle snores before you file for divorce.

AWFULNESS RATING: f****