I have Tourette's syndrome. It runs in my family. It isn't the classical variety of Tourette's that we are all familiar with. I don't shout obscenities at random or anything. What happens is I sometimes say incredibly stupid things under the worst possible circumstances, it's like some kind of evil verbal diarrhea.
My grandma had it too. Once she told my brother Tom, "Tommy, you got a big old nose!"
My mom once told one of Tom's dates, "Thank you for dating my homely son."
It goes way back for me.
The first instance I remember happened when I was in the first grade. There was an assembly where we watched some high school students perform scenes from Taming of the Shrew. There was a kissing scene. Afterwards I asked the male lead, "How can you kiss like that? Is she your sister?"
Another time in sixth grade I went from being on top of the world to utter misery in the course of an hour due to my Tourette's. Here's how it went down: My brother was popular. I wasn't. He "went with" girls. I was totally under the female radar. Then one day a girl named Kim Byrne (not her real name) came to my house. I didn't even like her, but the fact that she showed interest was so exciting. Before I knew it we were "going together." This actually meant nothing, but it meant everything to me. I was so excited that a girl liked me!
I decided to have a dance on my back patio to celebrate and invited the whole sixth grade. A lot of people came, but nobody danced at first. So for some reason, I shouted from a second story window, "Everybody start dancing or I'll pee on you!"
My girlfriend started dancing allright. . . with Richard. Her friend informed me that it was over between us. I wept bitterly.
After that, just to twist the knife I suppose, the girls would make up nasty cheers about me during recess every day for what seemed like the rest of the year. They came up with classics like, "Who's the dumbest kid in the class? David Retardo. . ."
It was not a good year. Moreover, it set the tone for my entire adolescence. I was a loser.
I really should have peed on her.
Last week my sister, who is sensitive about her hips and butt, was telling me about her new job editing medical journals. She said something sarcastic about how much fun it is to read about cancer all day. A co-worker of mine overheard and said in jest, "You have cancer?" Before my sister could explain I said, "Yeah, she's got butt cancer. Two huge tumors." I was trying to be funny, but there was nothing funny about that. All efforts at explaining myself made matters worse. My sister will probably never speak to me again.