When I was a kid, my mom liked to remind my brothers and me that as our mother, it was her job to embarrass us. She excelled at this self-appointed vocation.
I’m pretty good at embarrassing myself now. Beyond seizure-related incidents, even. I have a tendency to fall in public in a dramatic, banana-peel fashion; I occasionally snort coffee out of my nostrils; I spill ketchup on light-coloured pants. I say things I later realize I shouldn’t have shared but blurted out anyway because I am a shameless, horrible human being. Still trying to learn the difference between inside and outside thoughts.
Though I think I’m justified in feeling a certain degree of mortification about situations such as these, things that should objectively not embarrass me inevitably do. The other day, for instance, the cashier at the grocery store—incidentally a very attractive male, not that that’s relevant—glanced at the MedicAlert bracelet that so elegantly adorns my wrist. “What’s that about,” he asked. I panicked. “Allergies.”
I was almost immediately angry with myself. The ideal response probably would’ve been “none of your goddamn business.” Second best would’ve been the truth. I wonder what it says about my relationship with my illness that my instinct was to straight out lie. Maybe it was a desire to avoid an uncomfortable conversation with a Loblaws employee—allergies are, after all, more commonly understood than epilepsy is. Or maybe it was the fact that at the core of it I’m still a little embarrassed by my seizure disorder. And yes, I’m ashamed to admit that.
My initial reluctance to purchase my MedicAlert bracelet is indicative of this unease. Even when my husband tried to woo me by suggesting that I buy an expensive, undeniably attractive model, I resisted for several months before finally agreeing to get it. I’m normally completely unopposed to online shopping, but I don’t like the idea of sporting an external symbol of the fact that I have epilepsy. I don’t want to be “sick,” and a part of me considers the bracelet to be a public announcement of my alterity. Even if I know it’s a safety thing, I sometimes take it off for a few days before coming to my senses and putting it back on.
But put it back on I eventually do. Better to wear an extra piece of jewelry, I suppose, than to walk around with my skirt tucked into my underwear, an image to which I often return in my more humiliating moments.