It was one of those beautiful New York City December Saturdays -- sunny, not too cold, perfect brunch weather. I was midway through my spinach and cheese (NO MUSHROOMS, THEY MAKE ME GAG) omelet when my phone gave the universal iPhone doogle-deet alert. Everyone is familiar with this doogle-deet.
I ignored it.
I don't need to be that guy at brunch constantly checking his phone. But then doogle-deet, and then doogle-deet, doogle-deet! I had to check. What if something horrible had happened? Diane Keaton had finally responded to me on Twitter!?! What I got once I glanced down was some damn sobering news: HILLARY CLINTON FELL AND SUFFERED A CONCUSSION!
My first reaction: pounding the ground screaming, "WHY HILLARY?!?!" -- was this an overreaction? I was genuinely worried. So many horrible thoughts raced through my mind. What if she never recovers? What if she doesn't remember who and/or how awesome she is? What if she thinks it's 1998 and decides to divorce Bill?
I was surprised and touched that as soon as the news broke people reached out to me to see how I was holding up. I'd like to thank everyone for the well wishes and kind words. I'm handling this as best I can.
There's been so much talk about Ms. Rodham Clinton -- her resurgence in popularity, how she's got a lock on the 2016 nomination, that history will look back at her and scream, "Whoa!"
I subscribe to all of these, but there's a much more simple and, for me, personal reason why Hillz is the shiz: Like every other teenager of the '90s, she defined what every woman in our lives either was or strived to be. She had the helmet hair like Mom, the independence to do what she wanted to better her family and herself (which is why Patricia Richardson's character on Home Improvement could go back to school or Suzanne Somers on Step by Step could have that hair salon in the garage), was sometimes annoying (enough about the Village and how it has to raise me!), but nevertheless was always a tower of strength and powerful reserve during tough times (take that, Monica!). She spoke like a feminist that owned a pair of pleated jeans and wore a scrunchie.
So with that fresh in everyone from my generation's minds, it's no surprise that she's so popular now, and will continue to be a source of fascination for years to come. But all of that awesome talk about Hillz has nothing to do with this piece.
Because for me, well, I hold the very special distinction of saying that Hillary Clinton got me through chemotherapy.
Love It or List It
I've written extensively about the experience of undergoing chemotherapy (still waiting for that reply, Oprah!). Needless to say, it's just as you'd imagine: shitty. After six hours sitting in a chair getting pumped full of life saving medication, I was exhausted, drained, simultaneously tired AND wide awake (thanks, steroids) and unable to process simple questions like, "Paper or plastic?"
I'd walk into my house, greet my dog, think about exercising (I convinced myself that if I just thought about exercising I'd stay in shape), and then head for the couch. Many friends suggested shows to watch -- Friday Night Lights, The Wire, American Horror Story -- but being unable to make a decision about if I indeed wanted fries with my meal, the deciding on which intricate storyline to follow on which TV show was too much.
As I channel surfed, I avoided going anywhere near the Food Network (thanks, nausea), I'd pass Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow along the way, find myself confused by the existence of The Nanny on Nick at Nite (am I that old?) and long for a channel devoted entirely to The Golden Girls 24/7.
Then, as if it were calling my name, I came across "Love It or List It." What's this? I thought. The premise is simple, a couple is unhappy with their current home, one wants to move while the other wants to stay, in comes Hilary Farr and David Visentin to renovate (Farr's job) or find a new home (Visentin's). Before you set your DVRs, let me tell you now, every episode is exactly the same, right down to the script. It goes something like this:
Person A: I hate this house, let's move.
Person B: But I love this house, I want to stay.
Farr: This house has potential, I can work with this.
Visentin: In your dreams, I'm going to find you something better and BIGGER!"
(After looking at a few houses, the couple comes back to check on Farr's work)
Farr: Listen, I'm sorry, but I can't give you a third wing to your existing home on a budget of $500.
Person B: But you promised.
Person A: We can't live here, I was right all along.
Farr: I promise you you're going to love it when it's done, but you're going to have to trust me.
(The couple comes back to their existing home after looking at three houses Visentin showed them)
Person A: Oh wow, I'm really surprised.
Person B: I... had... no... idea.
(Couple talks in private)
Person A: Hilary did a great job, maybe we should stay.
Person B: But the other houses were so nice. I mean, a bidet!
Person A: We have a tough decision.
Person B: We certainly do.
(Farr and Visentin join the couple)
Farr: Well, have you decided to love it?
Visentin: Or list it?
Person A: We've decided to... (begin extreme slow motion to heighten the tension of the scene and thus make it more dramatic) love it (end slow motion)
(Couple hugs. Farr and Visentin look at each other playfully. Cue credits)
This is exactly the kind of mindless entertainment I need during chemotherapy! But why? What is it about this show that is so appealing? I'm not a homeowner (I live with my writing partner's boyfriend's mother. Don't ask, it works), and I missed the week in Homosexual 101 that covered decorating. But without fail, every night I'd watch it in silence, enjoying the same dialogue from show to show, sometimes quoting it, sometimes forgetting the nausea and depression that had become my #Chemocation.
For a while I accepted this as just a quirk. Watching "Love It or List It" was just my thing, stop judging me! Then one morning I opened my web browser and immediately went to my "Hillary Clinton" Google Alert. I couldn't believe my eyes, could it be true? Was Hillary just quoted in the New York Times as saying that she finds "Love It or List It," "...very calming"? An hour later, once I picked myself up from having fainted (don't worry, no concussion for me), I finally realized what drew me to "Love It or List It" and thus helped me through some of the hardest weeks of my chemotherapy: Hillary Clinton!
I didn't know how sick or hard chemotherapy was going to be, and there was nothing available to me that could accurately prepare me for what was to come. After connecting with people in my own cancer center and online, I quickly learned that everyone's experience is different, and that the things you do to manage that experience, and cope, are basically the cancer center's version of meeting that dude in prison who "Knows a guy," that can get you the goods. You learn the candies that work to get the metallic taste out of your mouth, or the lotions with scents that don't make you want to barf, or in my case, the shows that can distract you from crying, if only for an hour.
Sure, Hillary Clinton doesn't know me (yet), and she'd probably laugh at the idea that her liking "Love It or List It" was what guided me to the show and thus got me through chemo, but that's not really the point. The point is that I'm able to attribute something that gave me momentary satisfaction during a very difficult time with someone that gives me endless satisfaction. Hillary Clinton, you will always hold a special place in my heart. If this were the end of an episode of "Love It or List It," it'd go something like...
(Farr and Visentin join Hillary Clinton and H. Alan Scott)
Farr: Well, have you decided to love it?
Visentin: Or list it?
Clinton: We've decided to... (begin extreme slow motion to heighten the tension of the scene and thus make it more dramatic) love it (end slow motion).
Scott: I always did!
(Clinton gives Scott the "Hillary 2016" hat to cover his bald head. Farr and Visentin look at each other playfully. Cue credits)
I thought ending with a cute bit on Hillary and I on "Love It or List It" would be funny, but it doesn't come close to this .gif of Hillary that I look at daily for inspiration and direction. Enjoy.