Wednesday, February 07, 2007

DSC_0104 - Little Red Riding 'HooWhat etiquette deals with happening to be in the same town as one's mother when she goes to give blood, and thereby informs one that one is going too. At which point should one mention that one hasn't so far been to give blood because A. It's scary and all. B. They won't take mine. C. There might a reason for B.

Because I wasn't sure, but possibly mid-afternoon in a supermarket car park is not really the best place for coming out.

"When did you last give blood?"
"I haven't"
"Why not? Come now, you haven't anything wrong with you, you haven't been aboard recently, you haven't got AIDS, and you haven't had sex with men, have you?"
[Pause while the question registers and I fail to decide how to deal with it] "Mother!"

While carefully not confirming or denying the last clause, my reply does nothing to improve the long term situation.

She thinks I'm offended she even had to ask, I think I'm offended because of the way she asked, and her presumption that it was not anything a reasonable, sane, normal person, such as either of her children, would even consider doing. Possibly I'm worried because in the back of my mind I assume my parents almost know as they always have done. Yeah, I know there are comments about inevitable children, but that's just the same part of her as believes that because she was taught to ride as a child then so were her children.

I can't believe she doesn't at least suspect enough not to press it. She isn't an idiot yet is firm in her conviction that it's not an option. How? How can she know so little? I'm a useless liar and for a fair while I've been trying not to lie outright. I know they have suspected; my father was paranoid about it in the past, enough to have quiet words with my mother about me (hey, you guys, sound travels) which led to me being firmly discouraged for doing certain things (I just liked the way it moved).

I think what really scares me is I don't even know which of them will cope and which won't. My mother likes to think she's the younger, modern one, but reads the Telegraph, quotes from it, thinks the world is a complete write-off nowadays, has far too many faded blondes for friends all of whom seem to be a mix of Puritan, Victorian and Daily Mail (and none of them would even consider attempting actual thought any longer; HRT apparently exempts them). I'm worried she'll use the existence of her gay/bi/no-noticeable-girlfriends-yet/look-it's-all-a-bit-a-continuum-anyway son to prove her tolerant, liberal credentials and thereby make her immune to charges of Fascism, using non-sequitorial logic along the lines of "he can't be racist; he's black". Either that or use it as a mark of martyrdom; see how she has suffered, the poor woman, with such Job like trials in her life. You nearly died of cancer? Pah, that's nothing; she's got a gay son. Oh, my poor dear, how awful for you.

I do worry that she won't see anything wrong in either of those two roles, that she won't realise how damaging, how caustic either of them are, just how much they let people confirm ludicrous opinions and actions.

And what did I do? Be a complete coward. Work out certainties and probabilities. Deny everything. Intentionally misread. Negate. Lie.

How the hell am I supposed to deal with reading the warnings on the importance of honesty and the guarantees of privacy and complete confidentiality throughout the process when my mother is telling me to what to put and reminding of operations I had when I was six?

And why the hell is there a blanket ban on oral sex between males even with protection? Is the advice of every sexual health resource I've ever come across completely misleading? There are risk factors, but am I really more at risk than anyone on a university rugby or hockey team (who of course revel in sleeping with every member of every other sports team)? It's not even as if I could leak the news to a nurse while having the first check, as I'd already seen them come out of the completely unsoundproofed, not very well screened areas and mime the reasons for rejection to other staff across the room. Data protection apparently extends to not telling the donor about the broadcast.

Never have I hoped more fervently to be anaemic.

But no, my blood sank and with it everything else. Out to sit and wait, then get called. Onto the bed, swabbed for the statutory thirty seconds, arm pumped and patted, then yet another little prick (would doing lewd innuendo here be unbecoming? And would it cast doubt on that earlier slash in the safe, blue, normal 'No' column?). Except it wasn't a little prick; it was clenched bungee snap of pain. I'm told that the slight stinging is the alcohol. And of course not wanting to draw any more attention to me than necessary I tried not to let on that it was more than a slight sting.

Looking the other way, she lessens the pressure on the cuff and tells me to open and close my hand. And she's still standing with her groin about an inch from the end of my palm, fingers near enough to reach inside her, too afraid to uncoil properly (is this a test? Do I have to prove I'm straight by groping her?). I'm trying to do it, when there's bong from some machine. She gives the pressure band an extra squeeze and hands me something to twiddle in my hand, telling me to move it with my thumb. Which would be fine, if only I could keep my face from spasming with pain each time I pull my thumb back. I try to carry on, the machine apparently chiming the hour, one hand trying move without pulling the needle sideways through the other tissues, while the other arm is clamped deep against my side, trying to halt the heat shedding and incipient shivering.

Eventually at about seventeen o'clock and she decides that the rhythmically contorted face is actually me putting a brave face on it and as no more blood is forthcoming she'd better give up.

And then I'm given a little pad to hold on the hole, while she puts my donation, which was about the same as the milk rations we used to get for break in school (and thus left rather a lot of air in the bag) into a little plastic box, which is a different colour to every else's (to presumably be 'filed'). She leaves my lying, suppressing shivers, before coming back with a timer and giving me the proscribed ten minutes of staring at the ceiling (but what about the time I was lying down before you started timing?).

So either I have no blood, or the needle overshoot the vein (hence the pain), or I have really poor circulation which shuts down completely when I'm cold (oh, and I'd been sitting motionless in the unheated hall for an hour and half before disrobing to try to donate beneath a large, ill-fitting, single-glazing window on the coldest day for ages), or some combination of the above. But given the sundry biology undergrad experiments which convinced lecturers the probes must be in the wrong place because no way could someone's core temperature fall that rapidly especially not as the same rate as their peripheral temperature, which they believed until they came to check, started looking rather worried and telling us to abort now. Apparently they'd never seen anyone get as cold as me as quickly as I did.

And should the nails on the fingers on the hand on the arm which is being tapped be blue? Because they were and it wasn't a sign of my declining taste in nail varnish.

But at least I know I am capable of hibernation.

So what did I learn? I don't like not being me, I don't like my mother for being so certain, and there's probably a reason people make comments about my cat-like nature to occupy any space regardless of form and comfort as long as it lets me bask in the warming sun. But most of all I don't like being an outcast, being told I am not good enough, being informed I am so odd I am danger to myself and others.

And for whatever it is worth, I know what I've done and with whom I've done them, and for those with a greater degree of contact I believe I know background and past status. Perhaps it's not one-partner-for-life stuff, but there's a difference between hazard and risk.

I hate my mother for treating me like a child, for her blind assumptions and instructions (I was driving her somewhere earlier in the day and it's like being back learning to drive; she tells me to do things, and start I obeying before realising how idiotic and dangerous they were. The best was telling me to overtake a dangerously incompetent cyclist on a nearly blind bend with the words "nothing coming" as the oncoming, speeding Audi hoves into view).

But more than that, I hate myself for acquiescing, for not challenging her, for not telling the truth, for not being honest, for letting her cling to the failed, flawed vision of her second favourite surviving son, the accidental replacement, rather than letting her know it's not that bad, I'm not that pathetic, I'm not that inept, I'm not that pointless; I hate myself for not daring to be me.

So not terribly surprisingly there was a slight dearth of cute guys, or even remotely good looking men (can they all be gay?), despite the prevalence of not wholly unattractive females (how can the straight guys be missing such a perfect pick-up opportunity? Chat them up while waiting, boosting their confidence, showing yourself to be generous and altruistic, and then meet them again while they feel weak and light-headed, where you can tend to the sweet things, charmingly sharing your custard creams. Yeah, thoroughly sexist, but females largely tend to be quite willing to abandon feminist orthodoxy whenever it suits.
The update, even though I've kept this post concealed until the results came back. You'll be pleased to know I am not the fifth horseman of the apocalypse the National Blood Service had held me to be (I'm not even the fifth pony-trekker of the scene of mild peril) as the letter contained no "Please contact your local health care provider for further details". You'll probably also be thoroughly unsurprised to hear my blood group is A+. I thought the days of getting results like that in tests were long past, though that's usually because my planning and time management skills, combined with my motivational ability (we won't ask what I should be doing instead of this), usually mean that revision becomes revi...oh hell.

So now I have a red card and a letter inviting me back in May, assuming no further notches. Which is a bit presumptive given the treatment last time would probably have put me off the whole thing anyway, were I not such a tolerant fellow. The best was being assured at the end that if I had an appointment I was guaranteed to be donating within 15 minutes, which given some booked in people were kept hanging around for 3 hours...

In the letter it says only 5% of those who could give blood do. Which as they've already stripped out the red-box-tickers (hmm, suddenly those surprisingly large statistics about men who have experimented with other men come to the fore), makes me wonder who the many are who don't. My brother's one of them, but that's because he fainted impressively and was asked not to come back because it was putting the other donors off. But who else doesn't? I think most of my friends do (well, those not outcast as unclean), stressy jobs and related illnesses permitting. I was about to suggest you lot go in my lieu, before remembering that for the most part the readers of this are red-boxers (and in the wrong country), with the possible exception of one regular, and even then I'm not entirely sure he is true blue.

So in summary, dishonesty crushes something deep within me. I understand the usefulness of classification by risk, but to suddenly be told that I am a danger is profoundly unpleasant. To be treated generically is insulting. In a land of tea and sympathy to be told to take a number and stand out of the way just feels wrong. It's finding oneself torn between the pragmatically rational and suddenly flung into the debarred camp with no further questions. I suppose partly what irks is that I have to tick to be disenfranchised, I have to mark myself out as damaged, I have to complete a form to show just how wrong am must be. And the form leaves no doubt that what I have done, my life, is grossly irresponsible and downright wrong; it's not what anyone sane would do. I must be malignant. Now of course any woman I sleep with now will have to mark herself down as soiled and acceptable and thus be eliminated (assuming she knows; it's the unfairness that the sensible are banished and the forgetfully flagrant are admitted which truly rankles). It's also interesting to note that the NBS questions seem to assume that HIV is time limited. You've not been theoretically exposed for 12 months? You must be fine, come in, welcome to the club, drinks are free, fun and sunshine for everyone.

But I suspect there are too many conflicting aspects for this to be succinctly précised, to be appended 'FIN', and so I should halt the dwelling delve before I find myself once more examining abnegation of the cruellest form.


Oh dear. Wow, what an honest and gripping post. Future advice when being treated for things: generally medical advances mean that things don't really hurt that much, so don't put a brave face on it, remember that pain is your body's way of telling you there's something wrong. Especially when giving blood: I can confirm that it really is painless, yes virtually sensation-less. (Maybe that answers one of your musings, but if it does, you understood less of me than I thought you did.)

As for your turmoil, I really feel for you. In view of all the issues involved, I think I still would advise coming out, quite soon, but on your terms, preferably on your territory, and in your timing. I agree that not being the real yourself is one of the worst things you can do to yourself.

I wasn't allowed to give blood in the UK for two 12-month periods following my return from malarial areas. I am permanently forbidden to (from?) give/ing blood in Germany, as I have lived in BSE-ridden England (I kid you not). So I have suffered arguably sensible exclusion and arguably senseless exclusion. Either way, I think you should try hard not to view it as a value judgement on what is right or wrong (ask me if you want one of those :P) but simply a statement of risk. And in that case, apparently, the risk is provably higher.

The fact that they exclude the honest ones and not the reckless fools does admittedly still rankle, but at least if they're excluding people quite readily it's less of a stigma for reckless people to own up and be excluded too. And the fact that they're not prepared to rely on your assessment of what is high- and low-risk saves them having to make a value judgement about your own abilities of judgement. Which can save some embarrassment along the line. It also means the dippy nurse who was unable to find any blood in your body doesn't have to make any important decisions, she simply follows black-and-white rules.

I know the last paragraph or two probably aren't much comfort, but they are an attempt to help you see it's nothing personal.

And do go on and come out. My innate hope in humankind means I can't wait to see how in some way their reaction will surpass your expectations (in a good way) and thus ultimately be a good experience all round.

WV: flmnte. Amen to that.
WV2 (I presume the original one expired or something while I was typing): fawym
Understanding less of you than you thought I did: Assuming we're on the same musing, I didn't consider you because I remember you complaining about the long posts, then heard nothing more so assumed you'd stopped reading.

I did try not say I disagree with their methods - understand why they have to do it the way they do - but still it's not pleasing to find you are one of the untouchables, ticking off a form in which homosexual acts are equal to hepatitis and malaria, thereby implying it is yet another illness, something which befalls people. I suppose it was the muddle of the form which arbitrarily mixed illnesses with behaviours that partly upset me. That and finding myself in that situation.

As for coming out, I need it to be incidental. I need to be a good thing, when I'm happy, confident enough to be resilient, buoyant enough to convert, I need it happen when I'm on a roll, when it's yet another good thing and just another good thing. I don't think I can do that now; my life is too 'woe is me' and so it'll be seen as yet another failing, something else I need to fix, to correct, to overcome.

And no fair, because it's my blog I don't get a WV.
I agree with your plans and required conditions for coming out - they sound wise. And though I agree with your feelings about an insensitive and muddled form, technically, homosexual acts are equal to going to a malarial place, i.e. you have put yourself at higher risk.

I'm going to stop because I fear I am sounding unsympathetic, when in fact the reverse was my intention. I hope that woe is not you for much longer.

Personal Word(s) Verification provision service If you choose to reply to this comment please be sure to include the following text to prove that you are not a robot:
"I am not a robot"
Pedantry: some of the questions were on specific diseases and some on risk factors, so hepatitis was classed in the same group as oral sex or foreign travel, which is a rather unfortunate way of putting it. But that's sort of getting away from the main point of the post.

As for the PWV: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
Oh malignant one,

You have been busy. I am reminded of the scene in 'Being There' in which Peter Sellers' character, Chauncey, is given an injection:

Doctor: "This won't hurt a bit."
Chauncey: (PAUSE) "That DID hurt."

My two experiences of blood donation contrast sharply. First time was a pleasant hour out of the office. Attractive nurses; no pain; tea and biscuits. Second time I was thrown onto the bed by a butcher version of Nurse Ratched, and then stabbed repeatedly with a rusty needle before being left to drain in a cold room. Retiring to the refreshments area I fainted, taking the tea urn crashing to the floor with me. Bewildered, embarrassed and bruised, I returned to the office some three hours later, and have not 'doned' since. Of course, this was prior to my own malignancy.

Are you planning on sleeping with a woman then?

I'm another advocate of incidental coming out, although in my case it turned out to be yet another bad thing rather than yet another good one. The principle is the same, I'm sure you'll agree.
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