Lucy Marovitch asks:

The article was intelligent and measured, so why a cover depicting cancer as some kind of fashion choice? Watching my brother dying never felt “normal” to me. Life after his death does not feel “normal”, either.

Lucy is referring to “Cancer is the new normal”, which appeared on the cover of last week’s magazine – a phrase using the familiar format “[something] is the new [something]”. This format originated in the fashion world in the early 1980s; the earliest known example comes in the Los Angeles Times in 1983, with “gray is the new black”, but declarations that a particular colour “…is the new black” quickly became widespread.

Lucy is understandably confused by the use of a fashion-derived phrase format to dicuss cancer; but it’s easily explained: “[something] is the new [something else]” has become extremely general in its applications over the last thirty years. In fact, The Guardian has used the phrase template for everything from Sophie Dahl is the new Nigella and the iPhone is the new IE6 to surveillance is the new democracy and respectability is the new closet. So despite its origins, the phrase doesn’t necessarily imply a connection to the fashion world!

Dr Annette Hurst asks:

Who while on chemotherapy (at the stage of hair loss) is well enough to go supermarket shopping? Who would want to risk exposing their weakened immune system to a potentially deadly infection in such a crowded place? How many people undergoing chemotherapy do you see with no head covering? This bad taste image must have been produced by a chain of people whose lives have fortunately not been touched by cancer.

Only a minority of chemotherapy patients would feel well enough to go supermarket shopping; the NHS reports that 60% of patients experience nausea and 50% experience vomiting, and that extreme tiredness and flu-like symptoms are also widespread. Of that minority, even fewer would choose to go to the supermarket, since to do so would be to ignore the advice of most medical practitioners.

We’re unfortunately unable to answer Annette’s third question. We’d guess that the answer is “rarely”, but when someone on the street has neither hair nor headcovering, there’s no surefire way of telling why: perhaps it’s the result of chemotherapy, perhaps it’s involuntary hairloss with a different cause, and perhaps it’s by choice.

Scott Wallace asks:

Perhaps the blind dates should be rescheduled to non-school nights?

An intriguing suggestion! Scott is addressing the fact that some Blind Daters, when asked if they went on anywhere else after dinner, explain that it was a “school night” and so they had to go straight home.

Scott shows great consideration in trying to come up with a solution to this problem, but it’s possible he’s made a mistake in taking the Blind Daters at their word. In some cases, “it was a school night” may be functioning as a polite excuse – the daters may simply not have wanted to spend any more time together. Taking that excuse away could end up being cruel, rather than the kindness Scott intends.

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