I don’t usually see Diabetes as having a positive influence on my social life. In fact, I would have to say it plays a mostly negative role: I have to watch how much I drink and I have to carry a purse full of medical equipment, and that’s not to mention the large bump my pump creates in that tight dress I wanted to wear.
I have, however, found on rare occasion that being a type 1 diabetic can actually help me forge connections. I remember going out to a bar with friends in Catania, Sicily and being approached by a British type 1 in his twenties, who upon seeing my insulin pump, asked me if I was diabetic. Cue the three-hour conversation about A1Cs and exercise. The beginning of one of my best travel friendships, all because we shared a rare auto-immune disease. I would have thanked my pump for being the best wingman ever, but alas my pump aims to start conversation.
My insulin pump was also useful in controlling one rowdy first year class when I was a teacher in Bergamo. I had this terrible first-year class, the kind most lucky teachers never have to encounter. They were never silent, and most of them couldn’t understand a word of English, even though they had been studying the language for at least four years. I would exit the classroom after an hour looking as if I’d run through a storm, and mulling over my reaction to their endless questions on my sex life and drugs in America. Sweat dripping down my back and my hair escaping in frizz puffs, I would collapse on the couch in the teacher’s lounge mulling over the possibility of getting fired before rushing off to my next class. This was the nightmare class for a first-year teacher.
That all changed, however, when I made friends with the leader of the gang that had tormented me for months. This all happened because of my insulin pump. I was in class one day and Luca approached me after the lesson was over. “Is that an insulin pump?” he asked. When I responded yes, he showed me his and then came a 15 minute discussion of diabetes. How long had I had diabetes? Which pump did I have? How did I manage my diabetes? Did I have a doctor in Italy? The questions streamed out, and I was happy to answer something that wasn’t “how expensive is the weed in California?”, and “are you married?”
I had made a friend, and although my class control problems were far from over, I had a new ally in the class to help shush my rowdy teens.
I can’t tell you how many times my insulin pump has beeped at me and everyone in the vicinity has wondered (sometimes aloud) if I possessed the hottest new thing in music since the walkman. I have even witnessed people do a little dance upon hearing the sounds m y pump emits when I program a bolus. All these reactions have led to both great conversations and new friends. So, yes my pump is the hottest new thing since the ipod in music and it sure as hell beats facebook for making new friends.