The Disease, by Hanna O’Brien

When I was little, I was a normal kid. I liked to run around and play pretend. I was constantly moving in and out of the kitchen. I was completely unaware of having a debilitating disease. But I did! And still do.

I can’t stand bacon. I’ve known this for a long time, in fact. Nobody told me it meant I was sick. I always thought it was kind of like not liking eggplant, or mushrooms. Some people just don’t like mushrooms! But with bacon, this is not the case. As it turns out, you either like bacon, or you have a disease. I have a disease. Nobody else I know has it, but I know people who know people who do.

There was some hope for me when I was younger. In children, it can be outgrown. So nobody was worried when I ran into the kitchen, wrinkled my nose at the smell, and ran out. “That’s all right,” my mother would sigh fondly. “She will learn to love it when she is older. She’s too young for bacon anyway.” My dad, often the one at the pan, would nod in blissful unconcern.

But as I got older, I did not learn to love it. All of my friends did, and it was a constant topic of conversation on the buses home from school. “Hanna,” my friends often asked me, giggling, “have you had bacon yet? All of us who’ve had bacon are sitting on the left side of the bus. Have you had bacon?” The right side of the bus was completely empty. But I had never had bacon. The smell of it upset me. The idea of bacon was annoying, and all of my obsessive teenaged friends were probably insane.

It is very difficult to explain to your friends when you have a disease like this. “You can’t not like bacon, Hanna,” I am often told. “Everybody likes bacon. Bacon is a universal human constant.” Some of my really healthy friends, given the choice, would take bacon over porn. I tried to tell my mother recently that I still haven’t had bacon, and that I don’t ever want to have bacon, and she didn’t believe me. She said in her very best mother-knows-all tone, “You just haven’t found the right bacon yet, Hanna. One day you will see some bacon in the street and you’ll know the time is right, and then you will love bacon every bit as much as your father and I do.” I nodded and told her she was probably right, but she was not. I do not want any bacon.

Some of my friends recognize the difficulties in living with a disease, and want to learn more. These loving friends are full of questions about my life. “How do you deal with it,” they ask, “when you are in a relationship with someone who loves bacon? Do you make bacon for them even though you hate it? How do you feel about turkey bacon?” They are always sympathetic when I tell them the truth: mine is a particularly advanced case. Turkey bacon is no good, and I do not enjoy making it or any other kind. Some friends do not believe this, and want to help. “Maybe,” they offer, “maybe we can find you a kind of bacon you haven’t seen before. How do you even know you don’t like bacon if you’ve never eaten it? Come to our house and we will make you the best bacon you’ve ever smelled, touched, or tasted. You’ll love bacon. Trust us.”

This idea is disturbing, I tell you! As a diseased woman, I am terrified of such a concept. If I don’t want bacon from my boyfriend, why would I want anyone else’s? Why are you all so concerned? Is bacon really that important to a whole and happy life?

I admit I am curious about bacon. Maybe I have misjudged it, and it is actually a wonderful thing, and I am seriously missing out here. But every time I try to eat it, I inch the fork closer and closer to my mouth, and the strip of greasy fat just glistens and crackles slightly, and…I can’t do it. There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of putting bacon in my mouth. These attempts always end with me hanging my head in shame and despair. I thought I might be a healthy person who just didn’t understand bacon, but no. Bacon is just not for me. I am clearly very ill.

Nobody ever gave me “the talk” when I was younger. My boyfriend was shocked to discover this. “You mean your parents didn’t sit you down and tell you what bacon is and where it comes from?” he gasped. “No wonder you don’t like it! You probably didn’t even know what it was until too late. Your entire bacon development was delayed until the point when your brain was no longer focused on it!” He suggested that I find a doctor who specializes in bacon, perhaps a hypnotist. Someone who could get to the root of the problem, whether it was something wrong with my taste buds, or a psychological block. I wanted to listen to my boyfriend about this. For his sake, at least, I would love to like bacon. But then I had a terrible realization:

I am comfortable with myself the way I am. It turns out I don’t mind being diseased. I am beginning to accept the idea that I may outlive everybody I know thanks to the cholesterol I’m not consuming. I am learning to introduce myself in a way that forces people to accept me upfront: “Hi. I’m Hanna. Before you ask, no, I don’t like bacon. If you are looking for a mate, look elsewhere! I will not be willing to stand in your kitchen every morning and prepare you bacon.” So far this technique seems to be working. I have even considered the possibility of finding a stand-in who will make bacon for my boyfriend, while I sit in another room. It is possible to live with a disease.

But secretly I live in terror of the day when my disease takes control, and nobody can stand to be around me, because the bacon is simply not in my blood. I feel in my bones that this day is coming. I have no idea what I will do when it arrives.

-Hanna O’Brien

Featured in Vol. 1 Iss. 3
Featured in Vol. 1 Iss. 3