Since I have started this blog I have been asked numerous times about the title Pity Face. Some people immediately get it, while others are concerned that I am being mean, and that my sarcasm will push people away.
As someone who has experienced a lot of challenges in my life, I have occasionally been looked upon by friends, family and strangers with a very specific sort of look. It's a head tilted, sad eyed, pouty lips look and it is often accompanied with a whimper or no words at all. This my friends is what I call Pity Face.
So when I was diagnosed two weeks ago, almost immediately I became the recipient of Pity Face many many times. And I became angry, tired and snarky with that face. My response to those feelings was this blog.
I do understand that people are sad, and concerned, and that they don't know what to say about such a scary thing as cancer. I get that. But when someone looks at me like I am a puppy in a pound and says nothing, I don't get that. Pity Face is not a look that you should EVER give a person. A puppy in a pound? Sure. A kitten with a bad paw? Sure! But NEVER a person. I am in a shitty situation. Yes, cancer SUCKS and YES! Why me? BUT I am not cancer, I am still alive, and I will get through this scary time as Lisa. The slightly altered but still same fiesty, live out loud, often happy, easy to tear up, no BS mama bear that I have always been.
One woman looked at me and said "Oh my goodness! Cancer is so horrible, I can't imagine what I would do?", followed by a 10 second pity face stare! And to her and others like her, I respond with a smile and say "Hey! Be happy! You don't need to imagine that, because you don't have cancer!"
Another person just tilted her head and made slumphy sounds and then walked away. Huh? What was that?
So, friends. Here is the deal. If you don't want be the jerk who gives Pity Face, just remember that making me feel like there is no chance to get better, that i am to be pitied and shamed, that what i have is inconsolable is really crappy.
Instead, simply say something. Anything. An "I am so sorry" followed by "I don't know what to say" works. Don't be afraid of hugging me for real. Ask me how I am. I know that your face might still be sad and pouty and a bit lost, and that is okay if coupled with words that express care.
The world that we live in is sometimes a scary place, and stepping into the unknown is extra scary. But please realize that seeing pity face after pity face is honestly depressing. Pity Face makes me feel weak, and full of fear. Pity Face is no good for anyone.
The week before I was diagnosed, the lady from the local flower shop, someone i know only a little bit, found out that I had had a biopsy. I was about to perform a piece from my one woman show, and I was feeling unfocused and shaky. She came backstage, saw me, and hugged me in that safe, warm way that makes you feel like all will be good. She looked me in the eye and said, "I have been through this, and you will get through it too." And then she walked away. I did my show, and I felt good. Supported and hopeful.
So next time you meet someone who is dealing with crappy situation, please remember that saying nothing does nothing, but simply, honestly, asking them how they are, how they feel, that you don't know what to say, will be a welcome welcome change from the dreaded stupid Pity Face.