I’m sure someone’s going to ask me if I think that authors just shouldn’t write about teenagers dying of cancer or suffering through treatment thereof, but as always, I find that question boring. No, I don’t advocate censorship. Anyone should be able to write (almost) whatever they want. Free speech. Next.
A question I find more interesting is: Do authors who write for young people have a responsibility to try to write in a way that makes their lives suck less rather than more? I think the answer is yes. And as a young cancer patient—so, exactly the person that these books are supposedly for—I can tell you that irresponsibly-written cancer narratives contributed to making my life an unbelievable living hell when I was first diagnosed. I was having flashbacks to stuff that never happened to me or to anyone else. I still do, sometimes.
So much of the pain and misery that comes with a cancer diagnosis is unavoidable. This was completely avoidable.
Miri on fictional cancer.
While it’s not quite comparable to the experience of actually having cancer, I have been told that, when I was little, I was so traumatized by government anti-smoking ads that, upon learning Dad used to smoke before I was born, I immediately burst into tears screaming that I didn’t want him to die (because “smoking = cancer = death” was the message I’d internalized). On the other hand, I’ve never smoked,1 but… still.
On the other other hand, I do have certain types of cancer running in my family and I’ve always had that “culturally absorbed trauma” about chemo that Miri describes. So to hear that the actual chemo itself (as opposed to the side-effects) is actually not supposed to be that bad, is… reassuring.
- Although, weirdly enough, I frequently have quite detailed, lengthy dreams that I do. Brains are strange. ^
I bounced through some some the popular couch-to-5k style apps, but none of them really stuck. I got better at running–when I started, I could barely manage a thirty-second jog–but I would still plateau out fairly quickly. I don’t know what it is. Maybe there’s just Something About Me that means I’m not a natural runner, but the point is the gamification aspect of the apps dried up pretty quickly, making it harder to keep at them.
And then I decided to bite the bullet, and download Zombies, Run. That review is from Kadomi, and it pretty much sums up my experience with the app. Apart from the weight loss part. I just don’t, apparently, really lose weight by doing exercise, which is kind of a shit of a thing but also means I need another motivator to get me out and moving. And working my way through the story of Zombies, Run is apparently that thing.
Over a year later, and I still can’t run through an entire episode. But I can run in bursts and, more importantly, I actually have some defined muscle in my legs for the first time in my life (I’ve always hated my legs, for a number of reasons, but I’m learning to live with them). And, the thing is? I just like the story of Zombies, Run. It’s interesting. The characters are, variously, engaging and adorable and infuriating. I talk back at them; cheer at their victories and cry at their losses.1 And I do like the gamification element of building up the little township, even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on the story missions per se.
So the app works for me and, it seems, it works for a lot of other people as well. At all fitness levels. And on that last note, I think it’s important to note that the app’s lead writer, Naomi Alderman, is (in her own words) fat. I was never a fit or athletic kid but–as mentioned above–I’ve always liked self-paced, non-competitive activities like walking.2 I’m fairly convinced now, as an adult, that a lot of my ingrained inactivity and “hatred of exercise” was instilled in me by high school P.E. lessons created both by and for the fit and aggressive. I loathed them,3 and it’s basically taken me a lifetime to even start to unwind the long-term emotional, mental, and physical damage they caused.
It’s kind of ironic to realize, after over two decades, that you don’t actually “hate exercise”; you just hate the way it’s commonly taught and presented.4 But go figure, I guess.
- Thankfully, I’m usually the only person in our apartment’s gym. ^
- Or DDR. One of the fittest times in my life, my late teens and early 20s, was basically because I spent a lot of time playing bemani games. Again, I always seemed to plateau out on fitness and coordination faster than all of my friends, but it didn’t really matter; we could still play together and I still had fun. ^
- Except for that one time we walked to the local gym and did Boxercise lesson. That was fun! And so much more enjoyable than every other class that I still remember it nearly twenty freakin’ years later! ^
- It’s also why I find “have you tried yoga?” so freakin’ infuriating. Because yes, I have, and yes! I even enjoy it. I just freakin’ hate yoga classes; they’re too long and too intense for me. And also tend to talk too much about fishslapping. Basically when I’m a millionaire the first thing I’m going to do is hire a nice, gentle, woo-hating personal yoga instructor–i.e. that one instructor I had in like two Yin classes before she moved to Melbourne, but man she was the best–to run me through a daily half-hour routine and it will be glorious. ^
Seriously. I get that you love your pet and find it emotionally comforting. I do too. But unless you actually have a legitimate, trained, function-performing service dog from an organisation that specializes in providing them, don’t just whack a vest on your own animal and call it a day. Seriously. All you’re doing is making things a little less accessible for people with actual medical needs.
[Dietician Renee] McGregor’s main concern about clean eating, she added, was that as a professional treating young people with eating disorders, she had seen first-hand how the rules and restrictions of clean eating often segued into debilitating anorexia or orthorexia.
“But I only see the positive”, said [“clean eating” advocate Madeleine] Shaw, now wiping away tears. It was at this point that the audience, who were already restless whenever McGregor or I spoke, descended into outright hostility, shouting and hissing for us to get off stage. In a book shop after the event, as fans came up to Shaw to thank her for giving them “the glow”, I too burst into tears when one person jabbed her fingers at me and said I should be ashamed, as an “older women” (I am 43), to have criticised a younger one. On Twitter that night, some Shaw fans made derogatory comments about how McGregor and I looked, under the hashtag #youarewhatyoueat. The implication was that, if we were less photogenic than Shaw, we clearly had nothing of any value to say about food (never mind the fact that McGregor has degrees in biochemistry and nutrition).
Bee Wilson on the “clean eating” cult.
As Wilson mentions in her article, I suppose if there’s one upside, it’s that the prevalence of bullshit clean-eating fad diets has made it much, much easier for people who have actual food intolerance and allergies–particularly ones gluten- or lactose-related–to access a broader range of tasty and appropriate options. So, yanno. There’s that.
Also known as the “why don’t most people who get given morphine in hospitals turn into heroin addicts?” experiment. Spoiler alert: because drug addiction is just as much, if not more, about the social context of the user as it is about the chemical effects of the drug itself.