In Godblog, Dag hears about a young woman with cancer, the admin assistant of one of his regular corporate executive customers. We don’t know his personal past experience with anyone with cancer, (though there is some). Even though he hasn’t any apparent personal connection with this young woman, suddenly, the Hero of the Teeming Masses comes up with the Cancer Anger Kit, a package he describes in a post:
1. A box of black crayons. To those who are asking the obvious question: Yes, this means you will have to buy 8 boxes in order to put it together and Yes, you will have 56 other colored crayons left over. Spend the bucks at the dollar store, dickweed, and let this be the first of many opportunities you take to be thankful it isn’t you that has cancer. Give the leftover crayons to a day care, or a kid you know. Maybe give them (plus an apology) to that nice little girl you paid the dollars to for the dirty words. Yes, the Hero knows you went and did that. Shame on you. That was a test. You failed. The Hero sayeth thou shalt not do every fucking thing you’re told.
2. A pad or wadge of paper to draw on. Make it *big*, to allow for big, wild, angry strokes.
3. A CD of your head-bangingest music, be it Tool or the 1812 Overture, to encourage venting. It doesn’t have to be good, just loud enough to drown out the recipient’s shouted fury at the unfairness of the world. Better her neighbors think she’s inexplicably become a metalhead than hear every word of her personal rant against the fates through the wall.
4. Something smashable. It has to go in one good hurl. A piece of crockery, something mechanical, anything that breaks just so long as it will be rendered useless and come apart into smithereens when it is heaved at the wall or floor in rage. People hate busting up their own stuff. And don’t make it too heavy or too sturdy an item, because some of these people don’t have their usual strength and maybe don’t have the energy to keep bashing away at it.
5. A stuffed animal (any type) that can be ripped to bits. Make sure this intent is made clear in the note (yes, you will include a note with the Cancer Anger Kit), or the entire point of this item will be lost and you will be in unoriginal pink-ribboned teddy-bear territory.
6. A calendar for at least the next two months with the days circled that you will be calling this person to listen to them rant. They do not have to want to rant on those days, but it is important to let them know that you will be calling and you will be available, and they do not have to be hopeful or brave or inspiring. Then fucking DO IT.
Now you’re a Hero to somebody. Was that so damn hard?
In an e-mail exchange with a friend yesterday about Barbara Ehrenreich, I suddenly remember exactly what the insipration for the Cancer Anger Kit was from. Journalist/author Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 or thereabouts, and wrote about it for Harper’s Magazine. But not the usual uplifting survivor’s journey. That’s not her, nor Harper’s style. She wrote “Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch” and took issue with, (among other things) the infantalizing culture of pink ribbons and teddy bears around breast cancer. She describes one item she received:
“A tote bag distributed to breast cancer patients by the Libby Ross Foundation (through places such as the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center) contains, among other items, a tube of Estee Lauder Perfumed Body Creme, a hot-pink satin pillowcase. an audiotape “Meditation to Help You with Chemotherapy,” a small tin of peppermint pastilles, a set of three small inexpensive rhinestone bracelets, a pink striped “journal and sketch book,” and-somewhat jarringly - a small box of crayons. Marla Willner, one of the founders of the Libby Ross Foundation, told me that the crayons “go with the journal-for people to express different moods, different thoughts …” though she admitted she has never tried to write with crayons herself.” *
This really struck me and I started thinking of how angry I’d be if I got cancer and how pink doesn’t really go with my primary colors, skull and crossbones, dark sensibilities. And maybe relentlessly “brave” and “uplifting” attitudes just can’t be borne by some people. So Dag created a kit that reflected the right to be angry, not serene about the condition. He kept the crayons, but he made them all black. He kept the stuffed animal, but only for ripping to shreds. But the rest of his box is about the right and permission to rant at the fates that bring these things upon us.
Dag, as a character has anger issues. He has to be nice in the coffee shop every day to people and he created the Heroblog to have a place to vent his negative thoughts that he had to keep bottled up while he was “on” all day. So it’s natural that he would want to create a way for someone in a bad situation to give their own negative feelings an outlet.
Later, of course, he fucks it all up. But it was a really good idea. I’ve even though that in real life, the Cancer Anger Kit would be a great thing to make and sell, but I’m not into small business entrepreneurship. I think it could be popular, though.
* Barbara Ehrenreich, “Welcome to Cancerland”, Harper’s Magazine, New York: November 2001.