Gimme sympathy: the diseases we wished we had

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A few weeks ago my friend Molly Backes and I somehow got on the topic of diseases or afflictions we yearned to have when we were young and silly. I wished I was anorexic—if I were anorexic I would be thin and quite possibly have people be concerned about me (not just concerned but urging me to eat—how great would that be?) She wanted to have leukemia: “because according to Lurlene McDaniel books, if you got leukemia everyone would realize how much they actually loved you, and feel bad about all the mean things they said about you, and the boy who always had a secret crush on you would become your boyfriend. And then you’d probably die, but who cares, because you’d have a boyfriend!” We both also agreed that at one point in our lives being blind sounded pretty good. I recalled sweet Mary, from Little House on the Prairie, Molly’s thoughts being that she’d be “able to take my dog to stores and restaurants with me.”

Apparently the affliction of being a young bored girl who is so ungrateful that she wishes for the end of her own good health was not unique to Molly and me. I asked on Facebook if anyone else ever wished that they were ill or differently-abled or the victim of tragedy in some way while growing up and I was surprised (and a little bit relieved) that we were far from the only ones: * Jessica Morgan:* I call this the Deenie Syndrome, because Judy Blume made scoliosis seem kinda glamorous in that book.

Kate Harding: I used to indulge in vivid fantasies about my entire family being wiped out at once in a car crash, so I could be adopted by famous people moved by my sob story, and given my rightful place in Hollywood. (And I get along with my family pretty well! I just really wanted to be able to hang out with people from the movies all the time.)

Sarah Davis Westwood: Thanks to Anne of Green Gables, Gone With the Wind, and Little Women, I spent a lot of my childhood pining to be dying of something: consumption, scarlet fever, they all sounded so romantic to me. Also swooning; I was always hoping someone would have to revive me with smelling salts. Like smelling salts were a big thing in the 1980s and ’90s.

Alissa Rowinsky Wright: I used to pretend to be blind a la the beautiful and damaged/perfect Mary Ingalls. I knew I was more of a Laura, who was always dirty and had messy hair and stuff, but of course, i wanted to be a blond, perfect, perfectly damaged Mary. Also, when I was VERY young, like young enough to ride on my dad’s shoulders (this memory is very specific, I think I must have been like 3 or 4) I spent an entire St. Patrick’s Day parade with one eye clamped shut in emulation of Popeye, who I thought was SUPER cool and had a special Popeye disease which made him have one winking eye. I wanted everyone to think I had Popeye disease.

Arlaina Tibensky: I always wanted to be anemic, have to eat steaks all the time and rest my pale limbs, weakly, on a velveteen settee. Now I am actually a little anemic. And it sucks. And Robert Smith still doesn’t want to marry me.

Nora Geraghty: I pretty much wanted every disease Lurlene ever wrote about. But in my version, I would always be brought back from the very brink of death, so I could be that girl who ALMOST died ohmygod aren’t we so lucky she didn’t?.

Jane Etta: I wanted my family to move frequently, to various parts of the country, because of the interesting lives of the kids in novels who were always the new kids. Also, I wanted to be In an orphanage and experience being adopted. I think also part of me thought it would be cool and heroic to get bitten by a poisonous snake or have a concussion.

A lot of other girls yearned for braces and/or glasses. As someone who had both, my only response is this:


But let me give Molly the final word: “As a teen, I sometimes thought about romantically killing myself — apparently I was encountering too much Beautiful Dead Girl imagery in whatever media I was consuming — but then I learned that most of us poop ourselves when we die, and that pretty much solved that. You can’t be a Beautiful Dead Girl if you’re covered in your own poop.”