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My Secret Reference to 'The Italian Job' in Saying 'I'm Fine'

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If you’ve ever seen the early 2000s movie “The Italian Job,” you most likely remember the scene where two characters have a discussion about what the word “fine” stands for. In the context of this movie, and oftentimes with chronic illness, “fine” means so much more than its basic dictionary definition.

To the characters of this movie, fine isn’t a synonym for good or OK – it’s a secret code, an abbreviation for freaking out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. As someone who feels that my illness is a burden – on my friends, family, peers, co-workers, etc. – I want to seem as happy and content as possible. The problem is I am the world’s worst liar. Look up quintessential ways to tell someone is lying and I’ll check every single box.

So in the midst of a bout of depression or the severe pain of a migraine or when I’m on the verge of tears, I muddle out a quick “fine” and it generally makes the conversation over. It’s not a lie because, with the movie quote, it can pretty much appropriately sum up my feelings, but the word still meets the social construct needed.

“I’m fine” hides a lot of pain, physical and emotional, as a sort of guide to protecting myself and a as social benefit to not burdening people with my illness. I’m also lucky enough to say that there are people in my life who call me out on the false happiness my “I’m fine” holds and care despite the fact that I may be broken and hurting.

So though “I’m fine” may have a hidden meaning and be a fun reference to a movie no one gets anymore, it gets me through rough days and social obligation because sometimes, as someone with a chronic illness that impacts my life from the early mornings with coffee to the sleepless nights, sometimes a little secret code can make social interactions and happy obligations go over easier.

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Lead photos via The Italian Job Facebook page.

Originally published: April 28, 2017
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