It is a sad thing to say, but I really think that as we age, we feel less. Or maybe we still feel the same, but fail to connect with other people’s emotions.
I remember adolescence: the heartbreaks, the parties, the friendships, the fights, the countless first times. How I use to cry myself to sleep, how I use to love so hard that it hurt. How I felt like my friends and I were one, dancing and sweating on pop music in our parents living rooms. The first cigarettes and how they made me feel light headed. The first shots of vodka, burning my throat, making me burn. The first kiss, the first soft then passionate clash of the lips. The first time I felt love, the first time my heart ached. The first time I revealed my naked self, letting someone be that close to me. How it made me feel infinite. The laughs and the tears, the sleepless nights. The music in my ears. The feelings that rushed through my body, through my head, making me feel a part of the world, connecting me to everyone as we were feeling together.
Feel. Do we still do that? Or was it just the rush of hormones that made everything harder, brighter, that made us feel so alive? Or did we allow ourselves to feel and to scream those feelings because we were teenagers, and that is how teenagers are supposed to be? Sad, depressed, and moody, making bad choices, drinking and smoking too much, being promiscuous in inappropriate places, shouting louder and dancing all night. Allowed to be alive, allowed to feel. Not ashamed of saying I love you, I hate you, I want you. Not ashamed of our emotions.
But without you noticing it, you grow up. You become a 20-something. You behave, or try to. You don’t cry in public anymore. You don’t drink and shout incoherencies just because you want to. You don’t say that you are sad. You don’t say that you are happy. Why? Because you see the pity stares. You don’t want to be looked down upon. Because showing raw emotions is shameful. Because you are not a teenager anymore, so please keep it together.
So we keep it all inside, and one day, we don’t feel the same anymore. We drink less. We watch what we say. We don’t let anyone know how we really feel.We fake smiles but we don’t laugh the same. We are never too much, we don’t cross any line. We become an appropriate shade of grey. We don’t let anyone know anything. We keep it all in a convenient surface, but never go any deeper.
And slowly you are not even sure that you really want to laugh that much, that you really like him. His shade of grey is not that exciting. Somewhere along the way you forbad yourself to let anything out. The raw feelings are rotten. Well hidden inside when you can barely feel them. You become dull.
But did you really stop feeling? Did you stop being excited? Don’t you feel the chills anymore ? Don’t you want to run in the streets and scream you heart out? Don’t you feel restless at night? The world is still as brighter as it was when you were seventeen, the music can still make your heart pound, a kiss can still make you crazy, the night is not meant to sleep yet. So when did you start thinking that it was not okay to feel? When did love and anger and pain become shameful things to express? Don’t you want to be your teenage self anymore? Don’t you want to live to the fullest? Don’t you want to feel?
I know I do.
We never officially dated.
Not really, anyway. Sure, we went on a handful of cute dates over the course of a month. Sure, I remember the unadulterated joy I’d felt every morning when I woke up to a text from you. And sure I remember the electricity I’d felt when you put your hand around my waist and leaned in to whisper something in my ear when we went dancing on our third date (I still didn’t hear what you said, but I smiled and nodded anyway).
But we never officially dated. Because after that handful of dates, you pulled away. I was okay with it — he’ll come back, I figured. He just needs space. We had perhaps been texting too much — always initiated by you, I might add — and I could do with some space myself. But after over a week of barely hearing from you and waiting up to 24-hours for a reply when I did, I reached out. And eight hours later, you replied asking if we could just be friends.
I’ll never understand what happened — I know I did nothing wrong — but I agreed anyway, perhaps foolishly. Because while I knew I wanted more, we were so compatible that I honestly thought we could make it work. And besides, I was still new to the city and didn’t yet have any gay friends, of which you had a lot. I’d heard all about them, and I still wanted to meet them.
So we became friends. And things went back to normal. You started texting me all the time again and asking me out for drinks (where you were still pretty flirty, but I told myself that’s just how you are with everyone). “We almost dated” might be the weirdest type of friendship one can have with someone, but I’d be damned if it didn’t feel right.
So why did my stomach sink when you posted that picture of you kissing another guy on Instagram?
Was it because you had never even mentioned that you were casually dating anyone, let alone seeing someone seriously enough to publicly show off your affections to the entire world?
Was it because even though we agreed to be friends, I never had proper closure, and as such had retained a bit of a residual crush?
Was it because it had been less than two weeks since you asked if we could be friends?
All of the above, probably.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not mad at you. You did nothing wrong, technically. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been listening to my fair share of “Fuck Boys” playlists on 8tracks. I’d be lying if I said you weren’t still my 3AM thoughts. I’d be lying if I said every time my phone buzzes, I don’t secretly hope it’s you. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still want you in my life on some level.
But I can’t be your friend anymore. Because while I’ve started saying yes to the guys that ask me out again, I need to stop subconsciously comparing them to you. I need to stop wondering if you and your new guy fit together as perfectly as we did. I need to stop feeling insane, insecure, and irrational all at once. But most of all, I need to let myself be happy again. And you need to let me be happy, too.
So I’m sorry that I’ve stopped replying to your texts, and I’m sorry that I unfriended you on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But I couldn’t look at another picture of you smiling that smile that I had grown so fond of with your arms wrapped around someone else, or see another tweet about happy and in love you are. I hope you understand that it’s just something I needed to do to move on as you so clearly have from me.
But I’d be lying if I said I don’t still hope that sometimes you wonder about me.
Working in a call center was a completely demoralizing and emotionally numbing experience.
My first day “live” on the phones, my headset plugged in like a tether or leash, I kind of lost it.
My first call was a tag team duo, a drunken middle-aged couple, who were taking turns shouting and slurring curse words at me.
Suddenly, I forgot every single damn thing I had learned in training.
“Your phone isn’t working? Your payment didn’t go through???”
Rather than sounding like I was just parroting back their statements in a reassuring way, indicating that I got the message loud and clear, thus securing their confidence in me that I indeed understood what the situation was and that they were in expert customer service hands — my voice sounded shrill, shaky. I was losing ground fast.
There’s just something about customer care over the phone and the absence of face to face contact that gives people a special kind of ammunition to really lay into you.
That call was a blur.
I think they hung up on me after an excruciating series of minutes which felt more like time had stood nightmarishly still while I proved I had no fucking idea what I was doing.
I threw off my headset, jabbed a code into the phone so I wouldn’t get another call, and strode across the room as fast as I could without looking like something was wrong. I had to get across the room as fast as I could without attracting the attention of my fellow new hires and the stoney faced, sneering OG veterans.
Across the room was where I found the trainer. In a jumble of words that probably didn’t make any sense, I relayed my message: I needed to get the hell out of that room for a few minutes, to gather myself.
It was written all over my face. He didn’t hesitate to give me the go ahead. Almost falling down over myself to get out of the building, practically kicking down the door to the outside world, I lit a cigarette and sucked back on it hard as the tears just came rolling down.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
I was in the throes of an all out hyperventilating cry. That really embarrassing and kind of scary-for-other-people-to-witness, type of cry. My face had flushed red and was totally drenched.
This kind of crying you can’t hide, even after you wash your face. The evidence (red, puffy skin) just stays for like an hour… and I didn’t want the assholes upstairs to know I had been crying.
At that moment, they were all assholes. Everyone in the whole world was an asshole.
But that was my first day.
I actually stayed for another year and a half after that, and in my time in a call center, I’ve heard some sick things.
For example, a fellow coworker of mine was instructed, step by step, on how to fist herself.
On another occasion, a customer had wished stomach cancer on her.
Oddly enough, she was the one who had perfected a sugary sweet, baby like voice; what she called her “customer service voice”. She used that voice on customers in an effort to render them silent and to actually facilitate a productive conversation that might go somewhere. Sometimes it worked, other times it made the customers even angrier, and that’s where the stomach cancer wishers came in.
She could switch from her regular voice to that Customer Service voice of hers without missing a beat, or batting an eyelash even though they were several octaves apart. The first time I heard it, I thought “Oh God, how faaaaake” but very quickly I learned, she was on to something. She knew what she was doing, she was smart. She became a sister in arms and I grew to have a lot of respect for her.
A common, everyday sort of posture for me at work was this:
sitting so slouched down into my swivel chair, with the pneumatic adjustment set to the lowest height, neck craned, eyes half closed, fingers warping and bending a paper clip I’d found hanging around a desk. Often, I would subconsciously push one pointed end of that pulled apart paper clip into the palm of my hand, leaving tiny little pinprick marks. I don’t know why. The slight pain that it induced must have been some effort of mine to take my mind off of what was happening to me. Some kind of bizarre, crazed comfort.
At one point, I had been “promoted” to a Team Lead position, which just meant that I now exclusively talked to the angriest of people, the ones so far gone that one would have to question their sanity and wonder if they had a mental breakdown at some point during their 15 minute hold and transfer from Cairo.
I had to sometimes devote a rather large chunk of time to just calming these people down before we could get down to business. To say it was ‘mentally draining’ would be an understatement. Every time a new call came in, I had to brace myself for such hysterical hatred and ugliness, and after some time, nothing would surprise me.
This wasn’t a triumph, this was a side effect of having to adapt oneself to a soul sucking job.
But I learn, for better or worse, that I could grow a tougher skin. This was definitely a valuable lesson.
I learned that a tough skin wasn’t something that one was either born with, or not. Throughout my life, I had been told I need to grow a tougher skin, but I always thought, hey that’s just not me. I’m not like that. I can’t be like that. But it worked! and I was proud of the fact that I proven myself wrong.
I also met a handful of people who truly made my time in the call center bearable. Together we shared cynical laughter, smirks, tears of frustration and eye locked silence that meant more than words could convey — a strong bond over things that could have broken each and every one of us, had we not a good support system (i.e. each other). I made some funny memes during moments of downtime. I pushed my coffee consumption to new levels and had simultaneously created my own immunity to caffeine.
I still stay in touch with some of my call center comrades. Some still work there, and are clawing for a way out some days. Other days, their drive to get out for dear life is more muted, their day-to-day responsibilities more manageable.
Some days, it’s just a job, like any old job, in a city where very few of those exist.
- “I love your feet only because they walked upon the earth and upon the wind and upon the waters, until they found me.”
- “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
- “I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body, the sovereign nose of your arrogant face, I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes.”
- “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
- “You are like nobody since I love you.”
- “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
- “I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.”
- “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
- The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”
- “Everything is so alive, that I can be alive. Without moving I can see it all. In your life I see everything that lives.”
- “Your wide eyes are the only light I know from extinguished constellations.”
- “At night I dream that you and I are two plants that grew together, roots entwined.”
- “Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness, and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.”
- “I have slept with you all night long while the dark earth spins with the living and the dead, and on waking suddenly in the midst of the shadow my arm encircled your waist. Neither night nor sleep could separate us.”
- “If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life.”
- “I am because you are…you are, I am, we are, and through love I will be, you will be, we will be.”
- “Take bread away from me, if you wish, take air away, but do not take from me your laughter.”
- “I hunger for your sleek laugh and your hands the color of a furious harvest. I want to eat the sunbeams flaring in your beauty.”
- “I don’t know how others love or how people loved in the past. I live, watching you, loving you. Being in love is my nature.”
- “Love has to be…flowering like the stars, and measureless as a kiss.”
- “Of everything I have seen, it’s you I want to go on seeing: of everything I’ve touched, it’s your flesh I want to go on touching. I love your orange laughter. I am moved by the sight of you sleeping.”
A women’s health supporter outside of Barack Obama’s Health Care Reform speech at the Target Center on September 12, 2009 in Minneapolis. Shutterstock
I’m pretty vehemently pro-choice, but I’ve never had an abortion or known a close friend who has so I’ve always felt really removed from the vitriol of pro/con arguments. There’s so much public fervor and heated (read: exaggerated) dialogue about what abortion really is, that I realized I really don’t know what happens in real world language. I reached out to Planned Parenthood who had their senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, answer some questions that can help us understand in non-sensationalized words what her job is really about.
What is your day-to-day like in your job?
It’s probably just like the day to day of any health care provider. On days when I see patients, I get to work a little while before my first patient is ready. The whole health center team huddles to review the schedule, the staff assignments, and anything else we need to be aware of. I usually see between 15 and 25 patients in a typical day, for a variety of reasons, not just ending a pregnancy. A woman could have a birth control implant or IUD that needs to be removed or replaced. Some women are done having children and are sure they want permanent contraception. Others are looking to me to help them make an educated decision about which birth control method might be best for them.
Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all–a method that’s perfect for one woman may not be right for another. So I talk with women about all their birth control options, and give them information so they can make an informed decision about which one is best for them.
It’s amazing how so many people have so little information about birth control. So many people think that the only methods available to them are condoms or the pill. Every patient is trying to do what is best for them and their family. And so I try to help them do just that. Different patients have different plans for their lives–if they want kids, when they want kids–and that really influences what my conversation with each patient will be.
In terms of my abortion patients–I know that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision, and we carefully counsel each woman on all of her options. The patients I see experience a wide range of emotions before and after an abortion. That’s very normal. Some want to talk, others are very private. Some are very appreciative and others are very obviously having a bad day, and you can’t blame them.
There really is no typical day, or typical patient–every person I see is different and that’s one of the things that keep my work interesting. I just try to be as positive and supportive as I can for each of them in the way that’s most helpful for them.
What are some things you’ve learned in your line of work?
One thing I’ve learned is that no one ever plans to have an abortion.
Or to ever be in a situation where they might want or need to consider having an abortion. I think that’s one reason why we’ve seen so many laws restricting abortion in the last few years: people don’t put themselves in that hypothetical situation and wonder what they would do if they were faced with an unintended pregnancy. Or with a desired pregnancy that ends up having severe abnormalities or complications. So people underestimate the need for continued access to safe and legal abortion.
What is a big misconception people have about what you do?
Patients will often ask me why I became an abortion provider, and I explain that I didn’t plan my path in life to become an abortion provider. Rather, I became an Obstetrician Gynecologist because I wanted to take care of women–through all the phases of their reproductive life, whether or not they ever decided to have children.
Abortion is just one of the many things that I do as an Ob/Gyn. I do think it’s a critical part. I believe that if your goal is to provide health care for women, you’ve got to provide the whole range of services that a woman might need. The further along I went in my training, the more I realized that there are a lot of doctors who don’t feel that way. As a result, there is a real shortage of abortion providers in this country. So abortion just started to take up more and more of my time.
In my experience, my colleagues who provide abortion are concerned, skilled people who believe deeply in the health, well-being, and dignity of women. And they put that trust and care for women into the work they do every day.
In a perfect world, we could make sure every woman who needed effective contraception got it, before she had sex, and there would be no more unintended pregnancies–and that would be great. But it still wouldn’t eliminate the need for abortion. There would still be women whose lives or health are put at risk by being forced to continue a pregnancy. There would still be women who experience the loss of a pregnancy, or who are diagnosed with heartbreaking pregnancy complications.
I believe every woman deserves the right to decide–along with her family, her faith, and the counsel of her health care provider–whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child. All women should be able to get the care they need without having to jump through hurdles imposed upon them by people who don’t care enough to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Do you have moral or ethical qualms about abortion?
Qualms, no. I think providing abortion to a woman who requests it is the moral and ethical thing to do.
I trust that women are capable of deciding what is best for them and their families. And if a woman decided that ending a pregnancy was the best thing for her, and I refused, well, I think that would be unethical.
As I said, abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman. I don’t believe you–or a politician or anyone else–can make that decision for someone else. And most people in this country feel the same way–they agree that abortion should remain safe and legal for a woman to consider if or when she needs it.
Lastly, what do you think readers should know about abortion or Planned Parenthood in particular?
I would like people to know that abortion is safe. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. For women who have made the decision to end their pregnancy, it was the best decision for them, the moral and ethical choice for them. It’s not a black and white issue–we don’t know a woman’s specific situation. We’re not in her shoes.
At Planned Parenthood, we believe strongly in making sure women have access to safe and legal abortion. We work every day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and to keep women healthy. Planned Parenthood provides a broad range of services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STDs, breast health services, Pap tests, sex education, information, and health counseling. One in five women in the U.S. has turned to Planned Parenthood at some time in her life for professional, non-judgmental and confidential care. I’m proud to be a part of this organization’s work helping people lead healthier lives.