"How to Impress the Opposite Sex in 7 Seconds". This is the Talk of Massive Hilarity that I signed up for just to take the piss, to find unintended entertainment in yet another dreary, sluggish day at work. Instead, I find myself suffering through close to an hour's worth of recycled cliches; cheap armchair psychology void of any scientific backing; and unintelligent, even offensive, stereotyping of men and women. When she starts talking about the different topics that men and women like to talk about - men: football, politics, technology; women: shopping, gossip, fashion - and ends her monologue with "is this true?" I feel like raising my hand and saying "that's the most fucking offensive shit I've heard all day", but I don't because I'm just not like that and I quite frankly cannot be stuffed. When she kindly identifies for us 7 mental confidence killers, one of which is the tendency to compare yourself negatively to those around you, I can't help but think, "I compare myself to those around me to reinforce my superiority complex." Of course I do that. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't.
The next piece of wisdom that she wants to impart to us is a list of topics that one should apparently avoid on the first date. At this point all I can think about is how fucking pathetic a person must be if said person cannot function properly in a social, potentially romantic setting without these trite pointers that are so obvious, they really go without saying. At this point, clearly, I'm choking on my inflated sense of self-confidence, self-importance and self-assurance; I'm thinking, "I can't believe I'm sitting in a room full of gimps."
Don't complain about your day, the speaker says. Don't do this. Don't do that. She may as well be saying "I am a fat whale who loves to fuck elephants" for all I know; I'm barely listening. I'm barely listening, but I hear her when she says, "Don't talk about morbid, depressing subjects." I hear her loud and clear when she says, "For example, 'I have cancer.'"
The room bursts into laughter and I sit there, stunned, my mind a blank. Three seconds later I feel the rage rise up inside and I want to stand up, raise a fist, shout at the bitch. How the fuck is cancer funny? We'll see whether you'd fucking joke about this when someone you love gets cancer.
I do nothing. I stand up and leave the room, taking the feedback form with me, on which I write one sentence: "Cancer jokes are not funny."
I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to contact the speaker so that I can tell her off but to no avail. It's been more than 24 hours and I still can't think about this without a sense of disgust washing over me. Shame on the speaker for making such a tasteless joke; shame on my "colleagues" for finding it funny. What is "it"? It is a tragedy. It is something uncontrollabe. It is something that happens, seemingly randomly, to good fucking people who don't fucking deserve it. It is an illness that does not discriminate in terms of age, gender, race, health, personalities, fitness. It is potentially fatal; it robs its victim of his quality of life; it plunges its victim's loved ones, everyone that's ever loved him, his family and his friends, into a world so dark, so stark, it seems like nothing could ever be the same again. It makes you feel guilt at feeling happiness while knowing that someone you love is suffering at its callous hands. It makes you feel utterly helpless, nakedly hopeless, when the person that you love sounds his cries for help and there's nothing that you can do.
It is the most heartbreaking thing that can ever happen to anyone. Don't fucking joke about cancer. I'd like to see how you laugh when it happens to you, when it's your daughter getting the soul-crushing diagnosis, your son having his world turned upside down, yourself staring death in the face and counting down the days of your life expectancy, but subtracting the months when you're barely conscious, a mere breathing corpse, awaiting the end.
This is the reality that cancer patients and their loved ones suffer every single fucking day, and you have the audacity to stand there, on the pretext of giving out cheap, useless dating advice, and joke about it. If I could relive this moment, those few seconds when the words "I have cancer" escaped from your mouth, I would stand up and shout "fuck you" across the room. I would revel in the stunned silence that would undoubtedly reverberate through the room, and I would pause dramatically for a few seconds before I follow up my expletive with this: I don't care if it was a thoughtless comment. I don't care if you didn't mean any offence. Don't joke about cancer. Don't you fucking joke about cancer.