I’m out with my man and wonder if given the quality of this restaurant, I should duck out to the bathroom to take an injection. I conclude absolutely yes. When we’re at a regular pizza joint, it’s usually no problem to just shoot up real quick under the table. But at a top-hat-and-tails place like this, I have to keep my eye out. Waiters here stand and watch the patron’s every move to make sure they’re all being attended to. I don’t want to get the side-eye or make some unsuspecting person at work feel queasy because while I do suffer from Type 1 Diabetes, I’m also a decent human being who thinks of others who work long hours on their feet. You hear that? I’m cool.
I excuse myself from the table to go to the bathroom. We both know what this means—that nothing as simple and enjoyable as dinner can ever go without interruption from being a sick person who’s forced to carry around a cheesy medical device that doesn’t at least come in leopard print. The constant failure of my pancreas looms over every activity, every night out. Whether it’s getting an eyeball from the hipster bartender for ordering a whiskey-Diet Coke or crashing into a low blood sugar spell and having to chug a bag of M&Ms like it’s a glass of wine at a family event in order to survive, what has now become a routine way of life for me becomes something that’s unfortunate for my date. Have you ever seen a person drink candy? It’s not cute. Thus, I’m made aware again: No matter how well I did my hair or how even my cat-eyeliner is that day, I’m just a mere mortal with a failed pancreas.
It’s not that the bruises from my injections bother me because of the way they look—they’re actually kind of colorful, like God gifted me with my own personal paint samples that get swapped out like a rotating art show and baby, this show is exclusive. But that’s only one of the few benefits. In reality, they’re an unfriendly reminder of my fragility. While I’m currently dating another diabetic, dating healthier men was always daunting. My need to literally bleed onto a medical test strip every few hours can be a trigger to the worst of thoughts when considering a partner: I’m going to die probably sooner than whoever I’m out with. If not, I’ll either lose my toes or my eyesight and then, even worse than dying—they’ll have to take care off me. I’m like a dementor lurking around a bar. I’m the grim reaper of Tinder and nobody wants to discuss how comfortable diabetic socks are over a prix-fixe meal. I’d ask what’s for dessert, but my blood sugars are high. My bad for not thinking of that before deciding not to go a la carte.
Then, of course, there’s certain men that actually like the fact that I have diabetes. Like I should feel good about the fact that someone who never has to experience what I experience on a daily basis finds my deformity sexy. More than once I’ve been on a date with a man who said it was kind of hot when I injected. It’s as if the thing that was the weakest about me was what made me good-looking or different. Know what makes me feel attractive...When you notice how amazing I am for looking this good while also working full time, owning my own apartment in NYC and writing freelance and then say you just realized I’m basically Beyoncé. Not highlighting the very thing I hate the most about myself.
So while I can’t blame some guys for looking away while I inject or not wanting to hear about the time I hit an artery while testing my blood sugars and blood shot across the room onto a white wall at my office and I had to discretely go clean it before nobody noticed, putting me on a pedestal for my daily suffering doesn’t say “sex” to me either. I’m just trying to share this thing that’s a normal part of my life so you know what the deal is, and then I can mentally move on, go back to thinking about what does make me feel attractive. It’s kind of like when you have a cat who knocks over everything in your apartment and you bring someone over and you’re like, “Welp, that’s my life!” That’s what my diabetic body is like is: a destructive cat that interrupts everything that I need to learn to love. Then I begin to wonder if I’m just being to harsh on everyone and if I expect too much out of people. This is my own issue anyway. After all, it’s nobody’s fault that I was diagnosed with this disease except for my own damn ancestors. I just want to feel confident while dating in this spaceship of cells I’ve been given to navigate each day. I guess it starts with me.
Published April 6, 2016
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Dallas Athent is the author of Lesser Journeys, a novel which follows a woman with a chronic illness as she navigates relationships in business, which will be in stores in December 2020. She lives in London.