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Awareness Awareness

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There is a walk, run, dance, bracelet, and color to raise awareness for just about any and everything. Diseases, syndromes, and situations have their own ribbons, websites and events. “Awareness” is the word. Though to be excruciatingly precise it’s not the best word to use. There are very few of us who are not “aware” of cancer, domestic violence, suicide, autoimmune diseases, etc. A more apt word would probably be “Attention”. The goal of these public relations campaigns is to draw attention to the subject matter. Often it is the case that where there is attention paid money follows. And that is good.

What all this attention has created of course is a culture of extroversion that might not be reflective of the culture at large. People who perhaps feel inclined to experience their illness, hardship or loss in relative privacy can feel pressured to come out. There is almost a forced gaiety surrounding some illnesses. Female reproductive cancers are assigned a color and a cloak of sisterhood that can feel demanding to an introvert. Of course even forced gaiety is better than the quiet shame of yesteryear. With the pink feather boas comes an abundance of information and support.

It’s not clear if any awareness has an impact on the individual. Do people seek detection and treatment at a significantly higher rate now? Does any of that result in longer healthier lives? I don’t know. When a newsreader has a screening on national television does it change the disease statistics? Certainly when a colonoscopy is broadcast it makes an impact on the national discussion. And that is good. Does being pressured (by producers) to have a mammogram on air change anything? Are there any women who need to be told what a mammogram is? Does anyone still discuss breast cancer in hushed tones? And when that broadcasted mammogram results in a woman’s worst fear, does it help or hurt? (For the record; has there ever been a man being tested for anything on air?) That the newsreader’s life has most likely been prolonged is a wonderful thing. But does it have a significant impact on the people who witness it?

Eradicating shame and fear is always a worthwhile pursuit. There are many diseases, particularly those of the mind, which could use some bracelet wearing awareness. Expanding our understanding of the personal challenges around us increases our humanity. However part of that understanding should be an appreciation that not everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, let alone for their colon. And not everyone wants to wear pink and belong to a disease sorority. Extroversion (or attention/awareness) is no more laudable than introversion. Being ill, or surviving a loved one’s suicide or any other personal horror is just that: personal. In a world of walkathons and editorial confessions, shouting may feel like the only means to support or care. Somewhere between the shame and secrecy of the past and the exhibitionism of the present is a place for everyone.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Well-Being

 

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#ThreeMinutesApart

Would you give birth in an art gallery?  On purpose?  I’m guessing no.  Nor would I.  But then again I wouldn’t post a photo of my fetus on Facebook.  Call me a traditionalist, but I consider medical tests to be somewhat personal.  Sonograms and birthing are two sides of a similar coin (and not just in the procreational timeline.)

Birthing as “art” is pretty low on the Gypsy-Rose-Lee-having-no-talent rung of performance art.  Unless the “artist” did it while playing the trumpet, dancing, or adorned in light bulbs, I’m not sure it counts as a talent.  I’ve seen enough bad acting in my life to know that talent often need not get in the way of being on stage.  I would venture that our Lamaze performance artist is a subscriber to the “if it happens to me, it is interesting” school of thought.  But all art is some form of exhibitionism, isn’t it?  I’m less concerned with her personal display than I am with the sonogram as baby photo.

Medical test photos on Facebook are creepy.  A) it’s way too personal b) it’s a fetus, not an infant, anything could happen g-d forbid (which is why the test was done in the first place!) c) what in the world is the poster after as a response? “Oh your blurry blob looks just like you!”  After seeing one of these test results posted I started counting the years to my first colonoscopy.  Brace yourself world.

There are some out there who may not be ready to share their sonogram photos with the world.  Why, you ask?  Well because they conceived last night, so for them it is a photo of the pee stick.  That’s right.  Every friend and virtual friend can now see the results of a pregnancy test.  (I so wish I was being facetious, but oh my dears, I am still scrubbing my eyes.)  Remember when you didn’t discuss your pregnancy until the end of the first trimester?  Pish posh and rubbish.  I’m willing to venture that right at this moment, someone is updating her status with; “my temperature is elevated and the lights are dimmed.”

How did we develop this insatiable need for an audience?  When did the miracle of life diminish in its gravitas?  How is creating a life, not enough?  I struggle to resist my knee jerk reaction of pinning this on immaturity.  But I simply can’t help but equate this behavior with a toddler announcing to a group of adults that she successfully went potty.

 
 

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