We Don't Like Perfect People

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Surviving History

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My friend Caroline is brilliant.  She is brilliant because her mind works differently from anyone else’s in the world, and the things that come out of it on a daily basis are the types of things that are so preposterous you laugh until you get a cramp in your side, and you have to stop laughing or you will die.  Only then, as you sit clutching your side and wheezing, do you realize how true and serious that silly thing Caroline said is.

Caroline is terribly sensitive.  She thinks the courtship montage at the beginning of The Swan Princess is bittersweet and affecting, and loves Anne of Green Gables with every fiber of her being. She also loves Arrested Development, although she is preoccupied with worry for Michael and George Michael.  She once clutched my arm and asked me seriously if I thought they were going to be okay someday.  Yet she endured a full two years of our writing teachers’ ceaseless teasing about her (incredibly strong) Southern accent—and she did it with a smile, because she thought it was funny, too.

Caroline is hilarious.  Though I can’t vouch for it firsthand, I’m inclined to think she’s always been that way.  When she was very young, she says, she dreaded going to a restaurant that was apparently one of her parents’ favorites.  There was, you see, a gravel road in front of the restaurant.  No matter the circumstances, every time her family went to the restaurant, Caroline was punished for being out in the middle of the road.  The way she tells the story, it’s as if she teleported into the middle of the road; as if going there was a thing inevitable and entirely out of her control, a switch flipped.  Caroline’s family arrived at the restaurant, therefore Caroline arrived in the road.

When Caroline writes her autobiography, I will laugh until I wet my pants, and then I will cry until my tears have rinsed away my urine.

But I digress.  Today at dinner, Caroline said, “Sometimes I think I would like to have lived in Jane Austen’s time.  But that would have been terribly unfortunate.  I would have been fat, pimply, and snaggle-toothed.”

“And blind,” I said, helpfully.

(Caroline is, in fact, legally blind without vision correction.)

This, as we say in the South, got me to thinkin’.  How on earth did anyone manage to survive before the advent of modern medicine?  Humans, as a species, have far too many ailments even in this age of compulsive hygiene and technological wizardry.  We die every day, zillions of us, accidentally or on purpose, expectedly or unexpectedly, and always too soon.  (Except for my great-grandmother, who died at age 99, thirteen years after she was ready.)

What the hell did we do before?

Case in point:  without modern medicine, I would probably not exist.  My father was born so prematurely that his fingernails were still soft.  My mother was born with two clubfeet and a hemangioma on her neck so large it looked like a bullfrog’s throat sac.  She is allergic to everything, with the unfortunate exception of the sound of her own voice.

Even if my parents had managed to make it, my brother and I would probably be kaput.  We were born fat and healthy, but had pneumonia several times when we were children.

And even if that hadn’t killed us, we’d be squinty, zitty, and supremely snaggle-toothed now.  So we probably wouldn’t be reproducing any time soon, unless they’d already invented paper bags in the Middle Ages.

Written by Estie

March 31, 2010 at 3:13 am