Do you know what a “bro nod” is? No? Well, click away on that there link and get yourself educated. (Editorial note: I have never encountered, nor do I recognize as valid the second definition given at that link.)
Typically, I don’t experience the bro nod (in its strictest sense) in my many daily contexts. But it’s important to know that there are also subgenres of the bro nod. Mostly, I’ve found them to be acknowledgments of a kind of minority status in very specific contexts despite my otherwise decidedly majority demographics. For example, walking through the streets of Taipei, Taiwan, at a pale, 6 ft. 3in. tall, I stick out pretty badly. This tends to elicit a version of the bro nod from similarly sized white (probably American?) or otherwise “western” dudes (and yes, it’s always dudes). In case you’re having trouble visualizing the nod itself, it typically looks like a quick upward flick of the head, almost like you’re knocking back that last little warm sip of beer from your Bud Light bottle. Oh, and it’s important to maintain eye contact for the duration of the nod.
Remember how at least some of this blog is about cancer? Right. So, today in the elevator at MGH, I experienced a new subgenre of the bro nod which I’m just going to call the “cancer nod.” A (probably) late 50’s gentleman sporting a green Red Sox cap (oh, Boston!) covering his hairless head stepped into the elevator, looked me in the eye, smiled, nodded, and initiated this exchange:
Him: “That’s a nice one you got there.” (pointing to the side of my head)
Me: “Thanks, I think it’s healing up nicely.”
Him: “How long’s it been?”
Me: “The surgery was about a month ago.”
Him: “It looks great!”
And that was it. Let me tell you, I am about the last person you could expect to be interested in talking to a rando, however briefly, in a hospital elevator. But, there was something kind of nice about being on the receiving end of a “cancer nod.” I guess it’s probably a stretch to call it a “nod,” but that acknowledgment of our shared status, our common struggle, the unspoken fear and sadness that has been unexpectedly foregrounded in our lives made me feel just a little more connected to my fellow humans today.