When I was little, my mom worked as a doctor in the ER. This enabled her to bring home everything from the bacon to malaria. As a result, my immune system rarely, if ever, fails me. Another pleasant side effect is the ability to play hooky from school and work once or twice a year without arousing any suspicion. I can get extensions on assignments for days or even weeks while I sequester myself in my bedroom reorganizing my mp3 collection and concocting phone schemes to bilk the elderly out of their retirement savings.
Mom was kind of a ladies' man.
My luck appears to have run out now though. Maybe I didn't eat enough candy this Halloween. Maybe I haven't been calling my parents as often as I should. Maybe I've just forgotten how to love. Whatever the reason, I've been virtually bedridden for the last two weeks while fluids comprising every color of the rainbow trickle out of any orifice that strikes their fancy, and several that surely don't.
I should probably be in bed recuperating and drinking plenty of fluids right now instead of writing, but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to flake out and give that glitterclad tinkerbell Reid "Frolixo" Paskiewicz the satisfaction. The next time he calls in because he tickled himself too hard when he was goofin' with Mom's feather duster and pulled a muscle in that undulating Hefty bag of Bisquick and slurried Oreos he calls a stomach, he's going to think about me and what a trooper I am and it's going to drain that much more life from his face.
I've tried every remedy from chicken soup to Tang to DayQuill to NyQuil and the liquefaction of my innards has continued unabated. My motto for life has always been "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." After all, being sick isn't the worst thing that could happen to me. For example, I could have been born crippled, poor or even Baptist. All things considered, I was dealt a pretty lucky hand.
In some ways, this illness has been a godsend. A couple weeks ago, the closest thing to pity I could get from most people was a slight mitigation of contempt based on my unfortunate physical characteristics. Thanks to my constant body-racking cough, fever-induced pallor, and constant sweaty disorientation, I've been drowning in an ocean of sympathy, and if you don't believe that then maybe you can explain what all this fluid in my lungs is. My goal is now to ride this thing for as long as possible, and I've picked up a couple of tips along the way.
Symptom: Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
Benefits: Making strangers uncomfortable, being able to disappear into the bathroom for hours of quiet reflection without anyone asking questions
How to hang on to it: Two words here: Milk fat. It's filling at first, but if you stick with it for long enough it will also become disgusting. Mom always said to drink plenty of fluids when you weren't feeling well, and guess what buttermilk is. Dairy products are the cornerstone of your diet now, but don't neglect other forms of animal fat. Here's a quick meal idea for you: Eighteen strips of bacon crumbled over a casserole dish full of gas station nachos. You'll be shitting Pennzoil before you swallow the first bite! Ladies, looking for a shortcut? Consider a pregnancy!
Dairy of a Madman
Symptom: Coughing, congestion
Benefits: Getting worried looks from your neighbors on the bus or subway
How to hang on to it: Mucous production shouldn't be a big problem for you now that you're on your all dairy diet, but it's hard to fake a wet, rattling cough. Hard, but not impossible. You need to find a constant source of acrid smoke and breathe it in as often as possible. Let me guess, you can't stand cigarettes! Are you out of luck on this one? Of course not! All it takes is a little ingenuity on your part. Been meaning to check out that tire fire down the street that's been burning for over 7 years? Why not get a job giving tours of it? You get the idea. See how far your creativity can take you!
Symptom: Skin lesions
Benefits: Shock value, convincing the skeptics
How to hang on to them: People are plenty willing to feel sorry for you during the first two weeks of your illness, but after that they get suspicious. By the sixth week, the fact that you're still able to drink is likely to give them reason to doubt you, but when you roll up your shirt and show them a back covered in tender red sores, it's check and mate. That's why it's so important to make sure these babies don't go anywhere, and lucky for you it couldn't be simpler. The only two things you need to remember about skin lesions are to keep 'em moist and keep 'em irritated. Make sure to pick at them if they scab over, too. A lesion that isn't weeping is a lesion that isn't doing you a bit of good.
Damn dog you MUST be sick!
Symptom: Fevers, chills, sweats
Benefits: You can convince a girl to touch your face!
How to hang on to it: Of all the symptoms I've discussed, this one is probably the most difficult to manage. We all know of ways to fake it, but I believe in a little thing called honesty, so that isn't an option. Although there is no direct way to ensure a fever, you can prolong nearly any illness by simply abusing the shit out of your body. For ideas on ways to achieve this, take a few minutes to channel surf and see which people strike you as having the most physically punishing occupations, and then try to emulate them. After a brief scan of the channels, I was able to come up with astronauts (The Discovery Channel), athletes (ESPN), and prostitutes (The Simple Life).
Obviously I don't have time to cover every symptom under the sun because I am currently too busy lapsing in and out of consciousness in front of my television and having fever dreams with background noise provided by VH1, but this should at least be a step in the right direction. If you follow my advice, prolong your symptoms, and come up with a heartbreaking reason for why you are unable to visit a doctor ("It's too expensive", "I can't miss work/school", and "I just haven't had the energy" are always winners), you'll be manipulating your friends, family and strangers all the way to the bank. And that's news you can use!
Finally: an advice column for the rest of us! (Who seek to enslave humanity.)
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