I am on a tear these last weeks because quite frankly I am tired of hearing about “that guy.” You know “that guy,” he’s the guy like when my son tells a story about how he maybe thinks something is a bad idea at a school club and he wants to object to the plan and says, “But I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ and complain.” “That guy” is the guy I have heard about way too many times from the girlfriends, way too many times through anguished emails sent my way lately, and way too many times from Cancerchicks. “That guy” likes to show up during cancer. Unfortunately, I have personally known “that guy.” In fact in the, “Boy I Sure Know How to Pick ‘Em” model that has been Lauren’s life pre-cancer, I have known boatloads of “that guy.”
“That guy” is an a**hole.
What makes that guy “that guy?” Secondary gain from your cancer, from anyone’s cancer really. Clean and simple. A cancer leech, sucking personal attention and kudos off the fact that his wife/girlfriend/sister/mother of his children/ex-wife/mother has cancer. “That guy” goes out of his way to garner attention and praise about his kindness and good works to the person being treated, all while simultaneously and covertly being an a**hole to the Cancerchick. “That guy” takes your cancer, anyone’s cancer really, and uses it to morph himself in a martyr and hero. Out in the world, he makes it all about you, but behind the scenes, it’s all about him. “That guy” is an a**hole.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that when cancer comes to your house, it’s most unpleasant for everyone. Everyone in the cancerhouse deserves the love and support that is showered socially. Everyone needs that sweetness of others to survive and thrive during that kind of ordeal. That is in a healthy family or dynamic however, and that is not what I am talking about; I’m talking about “that guy.”
I am talking about the guy who acts like an a**hole behind the pink curtain, but puts on the superhero cape at the office and in public.
“That guy” is a covert a**hole.
When I got diagnosed, I was dating “that guy.” Now admittedly the relationship was rocky when the lump was found, but “that guy” dumped me just after I was diagnosed. “That guy” refused to help me get home from my first chemo because poor thing, it made him nervous. “That guy” went with me to the surgeon’s office the day I was told I had cancer, and promptly left to go meet a real estate agent to look at houses for the rest of the day. Okay to each his own….. BUT……I later heard the snippet of info that catapulted him from just being a shit, into “that guy” status. Don’t you know that the poor lad was apparently just in pieces at his office about my cancer, so much so that everyone at his office had been stopping by his desk to tell him how sorry they were to hear about his girlfriend. They brought him gifts and cards and as I imagine, patted his back as he walked around in a Charlie Brown like posture, sadly telling anyone who would listen that his girlfriend had cancer. In fact, I later heard he never even told folks he had dumped me. I often wonder how much longer he “dated a girl with cancer” when he really wasn’t dating a girl with cancer? My guess is he likely rode that sympathy train round and round through the office, blowing the horn as long as he could. Yep, all while covertly being an a**hole. My guess is he still likes to still tell the tale of how emotionally impacted he was when he dated a girl with cancer and how hard it was on him…and still is sniff sniff.
Okay I’m cynical. But that guy was an a**hole.
Another Cancerchick tells me about a time when she was 6 weeks into chemo, you know, that part where we are dead on the floor with grief thinking we are gonna die because we are almost dead on the floor having been poisoned? Yep then, “that guy” (metaphorically of course) kicked her ribs with his boot to inform her that he thought she was being selfish and ungrateful and needed to get the hell up off the floor and show some appreciation. He further finished the one-two punch with a swift kick of the other boot adding that, “Oh and by the way, all your friends think you’re being self-centered and ungrateful too; they wonder how I am dealing with you acting like this.” For “that guy,” it’s all about you and your cancer and that’s just wrong darn it.
I’m sorry, but “that guy” is an a**hole.
Survey says….. that divorced women with kids have another particular brand of “that guy.”
A girlfriend of mine co-parents with “that guy.” She actually had already divorced “that guy” after figuring out he was “that guy” when he walked out on her and the little kids and somehow rewrote history and made her the villain. She, as a result of being unemployed due to cancer, was struggling financially. She, could not even figure out how to pay for a wig. So if you will, just imagine her surprise when one day she ran into one of the wife of a co-worker of “that guy” and the wife said, “Oh we hear (that guy) is doing so much to help you out! He has really stepped up it seems! He tells us all the time how he is helping you financially, and bringing food and hired you a nanny and is helping extra with the kids.” Okay people, there are no realities, only perceptions, but my er, girlfriend’s response then and still is WTF?????! Uh, no. There she stood, absolutely stunned, the sad reality setting in that there were really no limits to his being “that guy,” even beyond marriage.
Well alrighty then. Glad the superhero cape worked out so well for you at the office then… a**hole….cancer leech.
“That guy” just showed up for dinner at my friend Samantha’s house as well. She got wind that her ex had told everyone at his workplace (through an inter-office memo casting a very wide sympathy/applause net) that he needed to, “leave work early to head over to help his breast cancer stricken ex-wife take down her storm windows and store them away.” Awe…how sweet….. Not. She walked into her house from a chemo infusion to find him enjoying his free afternoon by standing in her kitchen, eating the lasagna and salad that the church had dropped off for her. Wisely she said, “Oh! I am so happy you are here to get these storm windows down, how nice of you to offer!” Let’s just say no windows were done that day or any day, but I bet everyone at his office thought so. A**hole.
“That guy” is the guy who tells the neighbors, “Oh she is fine, we don’t need a thing!” but closes the door and lifts not a finger to make dinner or do a load of laundry. “That guy” refuses to touch his wife sexually when she is bald. “That guy” berates his wife when chemo is over and she is still struggling emotionally, telling her that she needs “to get over it and get back to life,” all while at the office he is sadly, and quite publicly still struggling with his wife’s cancer…poor fella. “That guy” takes a nap on the couch the day she comes home from chemo, (leaving her to watch the kids and walk the dog,) right after turning away the neighbor who came to babysit and walk the dog saying, “No worries! I’ve got it covered!” “That guy” is the guy who suggests she call a cab for the kids to get to school if she is too sick from chemo to drive that day (true story.) But rest assured, “that guy” shines like superman in public, just ask his co-worker’s wife. That’s what makes him “that guy.”
“That guy” is also the guy we suspect is into fundraising and committee stuff for reasons a wee bit beyond good ole altruism, and a little bit more for the minor celebrity status and adoration he garners, sucking in and inflating his ego with the attention gleaned off other’s cancer. “That guy” is the guy who has an affair during her cancer treatment, or is the guy who, as in the subject of a recent email announces he is leaving just after she has a double mastectomy. The key thing about “that guy” is that no one but him, the Cancerchick, and the girlfriends (of course) know what he has done behind the pink curtain, because well, being “that guy,” people think “that guy” is the greatest guy on the face of the earth, cause “that guy” tells them he is. He, is a master of illusion.
In all fairness, “that guy” isn’t always a guy.
Suffice it to say that there were certain people who treated me like absolute crap after the surprise! divorce. They completely and quite brutally cut me off as they chose camps, as though I never existed and yes as got back to me many a time, they also frequently had some not so nice things to say about me. So again if you will, imagine my surprise at the mailbox when cards began arriving from these people (and former mean bosses) when I was in chemo. If I thought seeing myself bald for the first time was shocking, this small piece of mail had the ability to render this chick who has something to say about everything, speechless…well, at least for the last five years. Honest? I had more respect for the people who blew me off for good in the divorce and kept it that way. But “that guy” (or girl) likely felt bad for being mean to someone who was gonna die and well, they needed to fix that; to make it all right by sending a beautiful Hallmark greeting saying how much despite their past behavior to the contrary, they cared…in fact cared enough to send the very best. As the scenario unfolds in my not-so-good-intent suspecting little mind, I am quite certain too they were also telling everyone else how concerned they were about me and how they had sent me cards I never even responded to. One of that camp even offered to drive me to chemo. Imagine that! Me, the former Wicked Witch of the West, now being driven to her infusion suddenly all happy happy, like Glinda the Good Witch of the North in her own cancer bubble!
But see, that is what happens when you have a habit of picking “that guy.” “That guy” didn’t get on that fencepost all by himself remember.
Who isn’t “that guy?” Phil Mickelson. Maybe I am wrong here, but rarely am I a bad judge of character…okay, except that one time, well several times… but oh well. BUT, I will say that cancer has honed my “that guy” radar and I suspect that Phil is just so decent to his mom and wife both in front of and behind the pink curtain. Always. He never makes it about him in interviews, it’s always about them. I wish I could marry Phil, but alas, as is always the case with guys who are not “that guy,” he is taken.
Who else in not “that guy?” He’s not the guy who is at every chemo appointment with his wife, who holds her hand and who gets teary when the chemo nail is driven in. He’s not the guy who weeps quietly at home when no one is looking or the guy who remembers the last day of chemo and has flowers waiting. “That guy” is not the guy who starts a blog to support his wife, and who gladly runs interference by sending out updates. “That guy” is not is the guy who senses his wife’s grief and comes up with things to do to distract her from cancer and spoons her in the night. “That guy” is not the guy who dates a girl who has no breasts and who doesn’t care that there are no breasts and surely doesn’t mention that to anyone. “That guy” is not the guy who tells her he married her and not her breasts and means it. “That guy” is not the guy who listens to her grief for hours, or who lets her process all that happened endlessly, or the guy who brings her ginger ale when she is sick.
Good guys glean nothing from their wives and girlfriends and family with cancer, they don’t make it about them, they give, they honor, they respect.
But not “that guy.” He is an a**hole; these guys are not.
Sure, Phil and other good guys may have an off moment or two of anger or frustration when their own grief and fatigue of holding down the ship have gotten the best of them, but surely, they experience remorse. A**holes are rarely fatigued. In fact, “that guy” is immune to compassion fatigue because well, he is incapable of compassion. And they never weary of showcasing their heroics publicly, because after all, that would be like saying no to candy. “That guy” always has an entourage fueling his tank. “That guy” has no remorse because well, he has done nothing wrong, nothing but be there for you, you ingrate.
Early in treatment I was very sad about going through cancer alone. I really struggled hard with this actually. It made me cry… a lot. I would sit at chemo and watch girls with husbands who brought laptops and movies with them to keep her happy while chemo infused, guys who held her hand when the nail went in. As I sat alone, wrapped in a paper gown on an exam table waiting for the doc to come in and tell me if my tumor was shrinking or not, I longed for a guy, even “that guy” to be there at my side. I don’t know that I ever felt the ache of being alone as much in my life than when going to an MRI solo. Then, I read this game changing passage in some book where the woman talked about being single during cancer. She made a point that stuck with me to this day; that it was better to go it alone than with a husband/partner who wasn’t supportive or kind. She stressed that it was just added weight to the cancer ordeal to have to also deal with navigating someone else’s journey, especially when their journey had nothing to do with your journey. That when people assumed he was being helpful at home when he was not, it was even harder than being alone. All that glitters is not gold.
I realized then that I should be glad to be without “that guy.” It was then that I also set my sights on that one of the things I hoped to find after cancer was a guy who was not “that guy.” Because not only is the hard stuff easier without “that guy,” the good stuff is infinitely better without “that guy.”
“That guy” dropping me like a hot potato early in treatment made me think (wrongly) at the time that this was just another thing cancer stole from me. But I have come to understand now, that really, it was one of the good things about cancer, some of the clarity emerging, one of the things that cancer molted off me along with that diseased old breast. Leeches and dead weight and energy suckers and people with not so good intentions and their toxic energy have no place in my life. People who oddly (as is often the human condition,) wanted to be next to my cancer for what it did for them didn’t and still don’t have a place in my life. What I decided then and still honor to this day, was the notion that I needed only strong rowers in my boat, and dead weight had to go. There is no room for “that guy” on my boat, or even in the dinghy he tied (or I allowed him to tie) to my boat, draining me and my rowers with his narcissistic drag, distracting them by waving his hands around saying “Hey everybody look at me!” A**hole.
Cancerchicks, let me assure you, cancer is the one time, the only time, it is A-okay to say, “No. Everybody look at me.” Cancer is the one time in our relationships, where our good guys (like Phil the minute after he won the Master’s) will say, “No. Everybody, look at her.” Cancer is the one time, you deserve unbridled and limitless tenderness and selflessness. Cancer is the one time, you can let others just row row row your boat while you rest. Just know that. And if “that guy” can’t do it, you don’t need “that guy.”
First, I feel much better now having gotten that off my lopsided chest. Second, I am so happy and proud that I raised a son who does not want to be “that guy.”
So, the only question that remains is, after five years, now do I know how to pick ’em?
Let’s hope so. (I know the girlfriends have their fingers and toes crossed.)
Perhaps Phil has a (much) older brother somewhere.
No dinghys allowed.
“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” ~Will Rogers