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It's everything I want to tell people when they make small talk and profound talk, but I often can't. Sickness, sex, and the process of dealing with aging parents feel unspeakable and sometimes unreachable, but they sure aren't here.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Slobber Like a Pro

drool2 Originally uploaded by Perfecto Insecto.

No one wants to be in a position where people see them as a drooling freak. My reality is that I am sometimes freakishly drooling – in front of 40 law peers, an evaluator, and a camera, for all of posterity. Awwwwww, yeah! My response to bodily pain throughout law school, in particular, was to continue a longstanding tradition of literally gritting my teeth. I received what is called “injection therapy” or sometimes “injection surgery” over a period of nearly two months in order to manage what became a bad case of TMJ, complete with broken teeth that required intervention. At one point, the pain of the TMJ became just as unbearable as a tooth I wrecked during that flare, so I hit the pain meds. The next day, two things were happening: my appointment with an oral surgeon in the morning and a major presentation that evening in my sports law class. I called my group to let them know I very well might not show up for my portion of the presentation, but I would drop off somehow my handouts. I was sick from lupus and jaw pain, sick from painkillers, and sick from a doctor poking in my mouth with a instruments. I couldn’t stand the idea of not showing up and essentially admitting in public that before a major presentation, my body had punked out on me in another way, and I had "consented" to it by staying home. I can't stand this kind of failure. It is soul-crushing. I wondered if this truly was one of those times that I had to give into the realities of my complications. I realize and accept that there will be those inevitable moments of having to "take it easy" that are not about character but about body malfunctions. I don't, however, accept it gracefully.

I decided that I would figure out whether I should stay home or whether I should push…as I went along. I reminded myself that I could pull out at any moment if things nose-dived. I drove to school, my face swollen, in my suit. Right before I entered the room, I ran my hands over my body, checking for upturned hems and untucked edges. I glanced down briefly to see that there was a darkened spot, smaller than a dime, on my collar.

I had forgotten but suddenly remembered with a thud:

I. Was. Still. Drooling.

And then the full reality hit: In. Front. Of. People. I whispered to my group as we filed in: “I’m drooling.” You can file this line in the folder of statements that I thought I would never utter, including, "Do you believe I can still smell elephant poop on my leg?"

B., ever a gentleman, a Boy Scout, and a sweetheart, handed me an entire packet of tissues. “Do you want to go home?” J. asked. Yes, I wanted to go home, but the thought of not being there and even humiliating myself set my jaw further on edge against itself. My blazer would have to be cleaned for the drool as it was already – might as well sweat it up, too. And I did. I had put on baby powder as a means of absorbing the results of my jagged nerves. I can speak in front of groups; it’s been a professional necessity over several fields and jobs. However, I truly don’t like it most of the time, particularly in an evaluative setting when I am not feeling up to snuff, but that’s the transcendence right there: doing it anyhow. Regardless, my sweat output was beating my slobber output by about two parts to every one part. 'Twas a night of clear fluids - mostly...the powder had already turned to a wet, cement-like mixture, as if a first-grader smeared paste on my skin. My group was wonderfully supportive. I was the second person in our group to speak. By the time I had to stand before the room, the evaluator, and the CAMERA, I simply stated for all, bunched-up tissue in hand: “I’m coming from a dental procedure and experiencing some issues from that, so I’ll be pausing occasionally.” There was a weird energy in the room for a moment, and I charged into my speech, wiping all the way and swapping tissues as they became saturated. My material was decent to good. My delivery: adequate, possibly not bad. It accomplished the job. Was it an event where the evaluator came up to me afterward over refreshments to give me congrats on the performance, like other times? No, hell no. But he did come up to me afterwards and patted me on the shoulder for getting through. That was plenty.

I felt sticky and gooey all over by the time I came home and fell asleep that way.

Photo credit: "Drool 2" by Perfecto Insecto on flickr (click photo for more work by this artist). Permission obtained for use.

4 Comments:

Blogger Maria said...

These are the stories that make me think you are such an amazing person. I really don't think I would have been able to go through with the presentation. I admire how you just continue to move forward through any situation.

1/14/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Maria, thank you, though I assure you there were plenty of days in both grad and law school and in jobs where I decided I had to stay in bed and where I thought about leaving everything. While this presentation went okayish, I can think of another one where I tanked and another one where I excelled. I guess everyone can say that about their years in school and in their careers: some really big wins, some huge loses, and a lot okays in the middle, lol.

I can tell you I think about the professor who evaluated me and knew what was going on, and to this day, I still feel ashamed in a weird way even though I am otherwise tickled with myself for accomplishing a personal goal (showing up while knowing I wasn't looking or feeling my best - I'm vain).

1/15/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jami said...

I have to second Maria's kudos! Having had more than my share of dental work done, I know that the aftermath of some of that alone would have convinced me to pass on the presentation. And as an egomaniac who actually enjoys getting up in front of people and lettin' 'er rip, that's saying something. You really are awesome!

1/16/2006 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Jami, fanks! Sometimes the fear of "What if I can't, and then what goes next?" can be quite compelling. I try to make it work for me rather than against me, though I have plenty of failures on that count, lol.

1/17/2006 08:30:00 AM  

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