The other day, I walked into work and made a small complaint about indigestion. “Or maybe it’s heart burn,” I said to one of my co-workers, Shannon. “I don’t know since I’ve never had either.”
She froze in her tracks. “You haven’t?”
“No,” I mused. "Which is lucky, I guess, since I’m almost 40 years old.”
Suddenly Shannon was grabbing at my arms, yelling into the next office. “Donna! Come quick! Shay’s stroking out!”
“Wait—" I started to protest, but then I stopped and allowed Shannon to raise both of my arms into the air. Was I stroking out?
Shannon let go of my arms as Donna rushed into my office. They both studied me for a moment as I stood there, arms above my head.
“Well,” Donna mused, “she’s able to raise her arms up, so that’s good. Now say something, Shay.”
“Just give us a sentence. Any sentence.”
“Um…I hope I’m not stroking out?”
Donna looked satisfied as my boss, interested in all the commotion, walked into my office. “Her speech isn’t slurred…” Donna said.
“Well, no more than usual,” my boss contributed. I shot him a dirty look.
“Can you smile?” Shannon asked. I gave a big, toothy grin with no trouble.
“Maybe it is just indigestion,” Donna said. “What did you have for dinner last night?”
I didn’t have to think too hard about it. I have the same thing for dinner every night. “Two rum and Diet Cokes.”
“Well, that definitely wouldn’t have done it,” my boss said. He looked at Shannon and Donna. “In fact, she’d probably be sick if she didn’t have them. Have you ever seen that show Intervention and how those alkies get when they don’t have a drink?”
Donna’s and Shannon’s eyes widened. “Oh my gosh, YES!” Shannon said. “It’s crazy. One time there was this one guy who was shaking so hard he had to drink hand sanitizer to make it stop and—"
“Um, excuse me, you guys,” I interjected, still standing there with my hands in the air and a goofy smile on my face. They looked back at me and I could tell they had forgotten what the point of our little impromptu meeting was. I brought them back to the subject by saying, “Maybe I didn’t make my drinks strong enough last night?”
Donna, Shannon, and my boss ignored my suggestion. “Well, if it wasn’t what she ate, maybe she is stroking out.” Donna looked at me worriedly. “Did you take your blood pressure pill this morning?”
Interesting fact about me: I’ve had to take blood pressure meds off and on since I was 22 years old. Back then, it was what I considered a funny little tidbit. Yeah, I know I work out an hour a day and I’m fit and young and you wouldn’t expect a person like me to have high blood pressure, but it makes sense when you look at all of this hard living! A 12-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes a night will do that to you!
It’s not so funny anymore, you guys. As a 39-year-old, I'm still fit and active, but I don’t live so hard anymore. There’s no nightly 12-pack and cigarettes. I’m lucky if I can sneak in one ciggie a month with one of my responsibly-consumed rum and diets. I was off of the pills for over 15 years before having to go back on them last year for no apparent reason except that I felt like my blood was going to squeeze out of my skin.
Now, instead of hard living, I blame genetics. I blame someone in my past even though I don’t know whom to blame because we can’t find an example of anyone—not one goddamned person—in my family fucking tree who could take one for the team and make me look good by having had high blood pressure.
Which sucks, because my dad loves to say things like, “Ya pansyass. If anyone should have had high blood pressure, it should have been your grandparents, who came to America via Ellis Island straight off the boat. What do you have to get all worked up about? That your LulaRoe leggings didn’t come in the mail on time?”
I still blame genetics. People will say things like, “But Shay…you eat so healthfully and work out constantly…how is your blood pressure high?”
And I’ll shrug my shoulders wryly and sigh and look pitiful and be all like, “Genetics. You can’t choose your bloodline.”
I mean, it’s got to be genetics, right? Someone waaaaaaaay down the line had to have given this shit to me. It couldn’t possibly have been the hard living at 22 and then, years later, the shaker of salt I have to replace once every 6 months because I pour that shit on everything including salad.
In the break room one day, I was eating a humongous, healthy kale and greens salad. As one of my co-workers pounded her way through a Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich, I shook some salt onto my salad. She stopped chewing for a moment to openly laugh at me and say, “Oh my gosh, you’re salting your salad? Who does that?”
I do, motherfucker. I do.
And guess what? Just for that, I’m no longer blaming the hard living of my past, my family, my salt habit, or my age for my high blood pressure.
I’m blaming lunchroom bullies.
You guys, I’ve got to admit: This blame game is kind of fun. No wonder all the cool kids never take responsibility for their own shit. It’s so much more fun to find someone else to toss the blame on!
By the way, it really had just been indigestion/heart burn that day. And just to make sure it didn’t happen again the next morning, I made my 2 rum and diets extra strong that night.
Because it’s never rum’s fault.