Recently I ran into an old acquaintance of mine at the theater and he told me he heard from a mutual friend that I had written “some stuff on some diabetes blog,” and he checked it out. He was amazed. Not at what I’ve been writing (I guess my words haven’t been THAT amazing thus far), but that he never knew I was a diabetic! How dare I withhold this information from him!
As paranoid as most improv actors typically are, truly, it’s not just him. The fact is, with friends and strangers alike, I don’t lead with this info. I don’t work it into small talk at parties, unless I’m offered big bowls of sugar and carbohydrate-infused drinks, and then I politely decline with some subtle joke about not needing a diabetic coma right then. I think, years ago, I mentioned my condition on a first date after my dinner companion told me that she was a type 1 diabetic. My delusional dating-self at the time decided that this made us “perfect for each other.” Alas, my high sugar count didn’t get me any action – nor even a second date. Poor, poor pitiful me.
The look of shock on my friend’s face and the strange “Enough about you, what about me?” attitude got me thinking about how I define myself. I’m lots of things – where is “diabetic” on the list? Do I need to tell everyone I meet – and if I do, will it somehow color the relationship? Just how do you “come out” about being a diabetic?
I wish I’d kept better track over the years of the reaction and non-reactions to this news. Most of the time I tried not to make a big deal out of it. I was living in Chicago at the time I first found out and told my folks in NY over the phone. I could hear their faces drop with concern, but I told them that it was “under control.” My favorite catchphrase with my folks is “don’t worry” – which is extra-frustrating for them because as Jewish parents, I’m denying them their G-d-given right to blow this news out of proportion.
My wife doesn’t remember when or how I told her, but I’m sure I downplayed it, as is my norm. Luckily she’s sticking with me as I do battle against myself to solve this problem. I told some close friends and family early on, to supportive reviews, but otherwise, I don’t feel I’ve felt the need to wear my sugar numbers on my sleeve. I’m not ashamed of being diabetic mind you, but I’m not ecstatic about it either of course. I just am.
Now that I think about it, I have gotten a range of responses. My bosses at the time were very concerned and definitely hucked me about trying to get into better shape. Sometimes I got the common-ground reaction; “my grandmother is a diabetic… my friend’s girlfriend is diabetic, so I totally know what you’re going through… etc.” That always came off to me like a well-intended; “some of my best friends are diabetic.” One specific comment I do remember. Years ago I was at a bar with other members of the cast of our hit show CO-ED PRISON SLUTS: THE MUSICAL; when, between Diet Cokes, it came out that I was diabetic. His response (granted he’d had a few beers), was; “I don’t know what you mean by that.” Well, sometimes I don’t either, but I’m working on it. There I said it.
I’d love to hear from people how they tell people – or have told people – about… you know.