Why are there no men in this dance?
A duet between a man and a woman: she takes a few steps towards him; he responds by stepping back, hesitant. She tries again, coming closer; he once more moves away, remaining distant and unwilling. A straightforward choreographic element that embodies my experience with men at the time of my diagnosis and treatment.
I found out a few days ago that this phenomenon is not entirely unusual. It even has an (unofficial) name: the cancer kiss-off. Apparently researchers have found that a woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced shortly after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than a man diagnosed with the same diseases. The gender disparity is striking.
After my breast cancer diagnosis, the few men in my life found ways to wash their hands of having to worry about me, take care of me, or even call. This does not make me angry or sad anymore; I have accepted that not everyone is able to step up when needed. I can’t help but think, however, that if they had been the ones with cancer–I would not have left their sides (at least at that moment), regardless of what was going on in the relationship.
Why are there no men in this dance? The duet has ended up on a heap of discarded choreography, and a saying in Spanish floats about in my head: “Brillan por su ausencia“. The men stand out–not because of their magnificent deeds–but because they are simply not there. Their most remarkable characteristic is their non-presence. Therefore, I have decided that no men shall perform in The Materiality of Impermanence. Their absence speaks louder than one thousand duets.