Saturday, February 28, 2009
Now, anyone who's ever heard Rush speak - political affiliation notwithstanding - can attest to his utter lack self-awareness and reservation. This guy gets riled up. So I was less than surprised when the usual rant turned into a liberal diatribe, particularly in the area of big government. Rush argues that liberals seek complete control in the government, under the guise of compassion. We have huge hearts, and that's why we need to raise taxes and take money from people's pockets and give it to those who, for whatever reasons, couldn't get it themselves and we tell them it's OK because they're useless and incapable of achievement anyway so we'll help them along and control what happens in their lives because they obviously can't and yay Welfare State!
As for conservatives, they're just misunderstood. They don't hate people; they love them! See the difference? They believe that people are capable of doing great things if we just let them and stop getting in their way. People make their own choices in life and some do better than others in this respect; so be it! It is a core value of capitalism, that sacred institution, that some will have better outcomes than others. Why punish the achievers? Congratulate them! If you choose to work hard then you'll reap what you sow and there's a pot of gold and a little leprechaun to bring you good fortune. But you have to be motivated to do it, and you have to choose to do it.
(Interesting "choice" of words, Mr. Limbaugh. Indeed.)
Rush wants people to make the right choices to better their lives. Rush wants Americans to stay true to the creed of elbow grease and keep on truckin'. Rush wants not to restore this country to its former glory, but to keep it glorious from the get-go. Rush also wants women to have lots of babies, because women work well under pressure and what doesn't kill you builds character and strength, and that's what we Americans are all about, yes? Yes! OH GOD, YES!
At this point the crowd begins to chant: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" I love it when large groups of people chant, because it demonstrates unity and inspiration and passion. I was so geeked. I even raised my fist to pump it triumphantly in the air with my fellow people-lovers, to the beat of my feet hitting the belt. U-S-A! Just then, like a siren alerting me to some imminent danger, the treadmill beeped and declared my workout over. I shook my head vigorously, then glanced back at the TV screen, blankly. The moment was lost, the reverie broken, and I returned to being just another lowly liberal who loves people in all the wrong ways.
I guess I'm OK with that.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I had the most awful dream. I guess it was a dream about the ruthlessness of time.
Somehow I realize I am pregnant, even though I have been having normal periods.
Oh no, what bad luck! Actually yes, I have heard of that. Believe it or not, it happens to about thirty percent of women during their first trimester. It's not an actual period, it's something called implantation bleeding; but it can happen at monthly intervals, so if your normal periods are pretty light, this light bleed can fool you into thinking everything is fine.
Well, my dream-self reasons, since even implantation bleeding is limited to the first trimester, I can't be more than twelve or thirteen weeks pregnant by now, and I can still have an abortion.
So I get myself down to the clinic and start my sonogram. My manager, who in real life is not a sono tech, is doing the scan. But in the dream this makes sense because she is like my aunt and I am being taken good care of. But the sonogram machine is not like a real-life machine: it has a "BPD counter" on it that is ticking upward like an odometer, telling me how far gone I am.
That's B-P-D: B as in boy, P as in Peter, D as in David [I always pause to wonder why these appellations are so male-centric and spring so quickly to mind]; it stands for bi-parietal diameter and it's a measurement of the size of your pregnancy. It's something you might hear if you're in your second trimester, when we go more by the actual size of your pregnancy than by the literal number of weeks you've been pregnant.
The counter clicks rapidly like I am pumping lots of gas, and I start to stress. It goes up and up, past numbers I am used to dealing with, and it finally stops at 70. "Seventy millimeters! I've never seen that before! What does that mean?" And they tell me, "it means you're seven months pregnant," and then slowly filter out of the room. I panic, realizing that no doctor in the country will provide an abortion for me at this point; "what am I going to do?!", but people tell me I'll have to "figure something out" and walk away from me.
I'm so sorry for the bad news. I know this isn't your ideal option, but at this point you may need to take some time to think about carrying to term and arranging for adoption.
In my dream I went around like a condemned woman after that. People either wouldn't look me in the eye or didn't understand why I couldn't just accept it. All I could think about was the fact that I was, somehow, a prisoner to this thing inside me, and I couldn't do anything about it, and the idea of waiting two more months to be free was intolerable. In my dream I knew I would rather die.
Most of the time when I start to talk about getting prenatal care and carrying to term, the response is No, that's not an option at all. Even when a woman is facing a travel time of twenty hours to the next provider, or a procedure fee of thousands of dollars -- sometimes, she just knows she can't stay pregnant. I can't fault her. I've had pregnancy dreams a few times per year since starting in this field, but this is the first time I felt the visceral panic and despair that I hear in so many voices every day.
Today on the bus every woman I saw was a woman who might be pregnant at that very moment, who might be calling me for an appointment in a few hours or might not know yet that she was pregnant. And today at work I signed off on the chart of a woman who said "have had regular periods during pregnancy" and who then had a sonogram reading of twenty weeks. I didn't even know that was possible, except in my nightmares.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I was raped...4 weeks ago, 2 months ago, in August or July, it was a while back and now I’m pregnant.
I'm really sorry you went through that. Do you want the Number to the Rape and Incest National Network hotline number?
Are there any family members you have told about your situation?
Is there anyone you feel comfortable telling?
No. My mom kicked me out when she found out I was trying to get an abortion.
Are you able to explain to her what happen to you?
No she doesn't believe me.
Can you lie to anyone to get money?
I want to help you figure this out but you will have to find a way to scrape together the money if you want to get an abortion.
These words seem completely illogical given the circumstance. When someone is raped they don’t need to be reminded they are responsible for handling the outcomes of this violation. Often that is my role. I have to acknowledge that this situation is not their fault. But, it will not go away unless they find a way to make the appointment, get the money, make the numerous phone calls, find the ride and someone who will go with them, and do whatever else is needed to coordinate services that should be accessible no matter what the cause of the pregnancy.
I've been raped before. I did not have to worry about being pregnant or obtaining an abortion after. I felt lost, confused, hurt, and a deep emotional and physical pain. The months after I was violated are a blur of emotions. I was no longer present in my body. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand how women are 5 or 6 months pregnant and didn’t realize it. Each time is not necessarily a result of rape. However, I believe this is a result of dissociation from one's body for a variety of reasons often related to some form of violation.
It’s hard to hear women's rape stories. I have a fear that their story could happen to me. Even when a woman shares the most difficult of stories with me I have to be the stern yet supportive voice on the other end of the phone saying, "You have got to get this money in order to get an abortion."
Often times, women do not offer their stories of rape for any number of reasons. When I ask them, "What about the man involved in your pregnancy, can he give you any money?" the story spills out of them. Sometimes they become angry I asked such a seemingly senseless question given their circumstances. Other times, they are searching for a listening ear and someone who will let them cry or yell or be sad, or just be ok with the realization that this is really happening.
Women are left physically and emotionally scarred when assaulted and when it results in pregnancy they are also left with the responsibility of making a choice about what to do about that pregnancy. Then they have to find the means to handle their choice to have an abortion or carry to term. When an abortion is out of reach there really is not much choice involved in the matter. In many states Medicaid will cover abortion in the cases of rape and incest. Most often to use Medicaid in these circumstances a woman needs to have reported the assault with in 24 hours and have obtained a rape kit at a hospital. Sixty percent of rapes are not reported to the police. This means that a huge number of women who are pregnant as a result of rape did not report the rape and many of the women who do report it do not necessarily do so in the 24 hour window required for Medicaid to cover abortion care.
Personally, I spent the first year after being assaulted in denial that what happened was rape. When the person who assaults you is someone you know or even love it becomes more difficult to recognize that this person violated you and it was not ok. Seventy-three percent of rape victims know their assailant. As women tell their stories it is clear they usually know the man who violated their body. It was their father, a nineteen-year-old cousin, a man at my cousin’s wedding, my best friend who committed suicide when he realized what he had done, a friend of a friend at a party, my brother’s best friend, my neighbor, a man I was dating who left me for dead afterwards. When a woman’s assailant is someone she knows intimately, reporting rape may be even more difficult and even dangerous.
Abortion is a service that should be available to anyone who wants or needs it. The financial hardship, logistical difficulties, and social stigma involved in obtaining an abortion are violations of women’s rights. As someone who is a rape survivor I must desensitize myself in order to help women navigate through all of these challenges to obtain care. These obstacles create an environment that makes it even harder for a rape survivor to heal both mentally and physically.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Every day is a snap shot. So hauntingly concise. A few minors (at least one alone), a few women over thirty-five. Most are in their twenties. Most have children, jobs, school. Some have boyfriends, husbands, fiancés and some are single. Some bring friends/ some laugh/ some cry/ some rage/ some all of the above.
There are moments when there are so many patients and significant others, lovers, mothers, fathers and friends waiting for surgery and pills that I imagine the doctor is the Wizard, that abortion is a rock star and I do her bidding. I want to scurry to the kitchen to shake some martinis, dole out gingerbread and kisses until people start warming-up to this, red-nosed/rosy-cheeked, not staring, not hungry, not pregnant, not waiting, not heart-breaking. But alas, it's an abortion not your holiday and we don't give those kinds of kisses.
We do, however, talk to you about your abortion like it's not The Plague. We describe an incredibly safe and generally dignified process and reassure you just how quickly you'll recover--physically, how the uterus is a most-fascinating! muscle. We'll talk to you about birth control in realistic terms, as it applies to you and your lifestyle. And we won't use strange scientific language, nor judge you if you decide to negotiate a path free of synthetic options. We may suggest you use spermicide, or in some cases, emergency contraception (can be purchased over-the-counter tomorrow for next time). We will remind you that abstinence is not 100% enjoyable and then we will all laugh about how men could stand to learn a thing or two.
Most importantly, it's okay that you hate the word abortion, that you don't want to know what the surgery entails, that you believe you're killing or have made a mistake. It's okay to wish you weren't here, to pretend you don't know us when you see us at the grocery store. But oh, how we wish we had more to give to you, that abortion was a wellness check-up and that you left with a basket full of everything you needed to know about your body. How we wish you'd tell a few good friends, that you'd celebrate all the months in your life when your menses flow freely, that you'd pat yourself on the back.
Wordle image, entitled Abortion is Love, can be found at http://www.wordle.net/.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
What does it mean to have the right to choose? You hear this phrase thrown about like having “the right” is the end all. Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in having this right. But what is this right if you can’t exercise it? What does it mean, if you can’t afford to exercise it?
In the last post I made, I did a spotlight on a particular abortion fund. I want to take this time to talk about abortion funds more generally, what they do, and how all of us can support funds in our local areas. There are some small, local and a few national abortion funds scattered across the US, part of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). These funds are run by volunteers, with their own day jobs, who spend many of their evenings and weekends fundraising, working hard to help poor women exercise their right to choose.
For some women, it is hard enough just to find a clinic near them that does abortions. They may not own a car or have reliable public transportation, so they have to find a ride. Maybe they have kids and have to find childcare because some clinics are not able to accommodate small children in the waiting rooms. Then they make an appointment and find out the cost that could be or seem completely out of their reach. Unlike other countries, we do not have universal health care that covers abortion; so many women are uninsured or have insurance that doesn’t cover abortion. In some states Medicaid does cover the cost of an elective abortion, but even then some women have to jump through hoops to get on it and have to hope they can get on the right kind (I believe there are states where certain types of Medicaid do cover and certain types do not cover elective abortion). Then there are women who have the Medicaid or get the money together, only to find out they are further along than they thought and have to travel out-of-state (where their Medicaid will not cover them, and they have to get travel expenses together as well). I can only imagine how personally devastating all these barriers must seem.
Luckily there are individuals out there like the volunteers of these local funds, who will answer questions, brainstorm, and do what they can to fundraise. They do this work for women they do not know and will never meet, but they do it because they believe that every woman, no matter her financial circumstances, should have the right to choose. She should have access to the same health care that those of us who are lucky enough to have insurance coverage or various resources, have.
If you are interested in learning more about donating to or volunteering for a fund in your area, please go to the NNAF website. By donating to one of these funds you can make a huge impact on women’s lives all over the country and where you live.
Monday, February 16, 2009
President's day reminds me of all the old boys--the lawyers and doctors, farmers and merchants that gathered to sign this government's birth certificate. The pioneers and differently devout that claimed a land mass when they felt unsettled over the Atlantic. Of all those years when mere boats full of settlers, and the natives they maliciously impressed upon and invaded, speckled the east coast.
Pregnancies after pregnancies were welcome into families going forth and multiplying and termination and birthing processes were virtually unregulated and performed by women specialists.
President's Day reminds me of a government virtually completely full of wealthy white men with questionable roots making decisions about a potent muscle I happen to have that they don't. It reminds me how they cop regulations on my ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, ass and breasts like these precious things should be reported on my tax forms, like they rear their children like god and their wives are still virgins.
We call them the men involved. Though currently, they are involved in virtually all the wrong ways.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
She writes that she recently was discussing the question, do women who "just plain old get pregnant from having unprotected sex and end up aborting made it harder to defend the pro-choice position, as opposed to say the 'worthy' women who either through no fault of their own (rape/incest) or in grave medical peril (their own or that of the fetus) end up electing abortion"? Her answer in a nutshell, and mine, is that this shouldn't be relevant.
You could say that this is the sort of thing that people might ask when they are just theorizing abortion, casually chatting abortion, strategizing advocating abortion [rights] -- but not when they are having an abortion of their own. And you'd be right sometimes, but also wrong sometimes.
A commenter on that post wrote: If any reason is valid, are all valid. Normally when girls I counsel want to be the exception to their own "I don't believe in abortion" rule, they're not there because of rape, incest, or health.
And it's true. You'd think that a person might stop drawing lines around Good Abortions and Bad Abortions when she is there, in her own shoes, having an abortion. Sometimes she does. Other times she doesn't. Maybe she wants a way for her abortion to be good, without having to admit that she was wrong about Abortion the concept -- Abortion the Republican vote, or Abortion the thing that trashy girls do.
I can't count the times I've heard "I don't even believe in abortion but...". What does that even mean??, I want to say. (I also want to say "this isn't like do you believe in angels or do you believe in aliens! Abortion is a fact." But I don't, because that is not what she thinks she means. But she sort of reveals what she means without meaning to: do you believe in the existence of abortions had by decent women. Other than yourself.)
What I do say is "Yeah, it can be hard to know exactly how you'll feel about a situation until you're actually in it...". And, as I trail off, what I hope they take from that is both sympathy and a nudge to have some sympathy for others. Is that mean?
One of my favorites: "I don't believe in using abortion as birth control" -- often spoken from a seat in the counseling room at the clinic. Again, what does that mean? You don't think abortion should be used to prevent childbirth? Because that's what it does, you know. Yes yes, I know: really she means she doesn't think abortion should be used frivolously. Oh I see. Because there's nothing more frivolous than using birth control! When you feel your Good Girl status slipping away because you are choosing abortion, make sure to divert attention onto the Bad Girls who are not you, the girls who use birth control -- some of them every day.
Another: "Do I have to sit with all of them?" Ugh. Yes, you do. Them are women just like you, except some may be less judgmental. Sit yourself down in the waiting room and stop stressing that their abortion stain might rub off on you. You're having one of your own anyway!
Once we had a woman ask if she could come in through the back door. Like a VIP, I guess. Don't worry, every woman in this clinic is Very Important to me. You don't need a special entrance for that.
Another, sadder thing: a woman told me that she had always given her mom a hard time over an ancient abortion. "I could have had a brother," she would reproach. She got a pile of stickers reading "abortion stops a beating heart" and put them everywhere. Now she is twenty and pregnant, too young and too poor to have a child, and scared. She has believed all of the lies about her future fertility and mental health, told them to her mother, is invested in them, and now she doesn't want them to be true but doesn't want to have been a liar either. And she feels really guilty. I can tell you the facts about infertility or depression, but I can't undo the judgment you passed on your mother and all "women who have abortions."
These are all of the things I don't say, because it is not up to me how quickly a woman processes what is happening to her, or the fact that this very common thing that she thinks "nobody does" is happening to her own unique self. She is joining the crowd -- she will be one out of three -- but maybe right now she cannot see that as okay.
Monday, February 9, 2009
There are no elephants in the room.
There are fetuses, embryos, sacs, pregnancies, products, monsters, aliens, sicknesses, mistakes, its, babies, contents, angels of god, precious children, living things, ghosts.
To throw away. Remove, discard, shed, let go, kill, contract, bleed, deposit, bury, pass, terminate, flush, destroy, massage, suck. Abort. Exalt. Move on. Feel relief. Cope.
No. I do not understand. No. I do not have those friends. The ones who have so many abortions and never used birth control ever, never tried to not get pregnant. You know. Those ones. No.
No, I do not know and I work with women who have abortions daily. Day in and day out. I don't know that perspective. I don't feel the need to insert information or education about pills and patches and rings and rods somewhere always around a sentence that includes abortion. Prevention. Ho hum.
Prevention is a glossy magazine, a wedding registry, the house in the nicer school district where all the kids are white.
Abortion wrote the book.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Now, lest we forget, I have recently steered my life in a completely different direction. I have, however, carved out a nice little slice of my week to rejoin the masses. Just a taste, but enough to satisfy my need to "stick it" to the opposition. Everyone needs to do a little sticking every now and then, and so I feel pretty good about the degree to which I stick. But what I never would have expected was the twinge of envy (of all things!) to see another's name where mine used to be, of nostalgia to see my back-slanty handwriting everywhere, and of grief to know that my clinic friends would soon be back to business with a new partner in crime.
Ah, sweet sorrow!
I guess I had taken for granted all I had learned, all I had done, and all I had changed during my time in The Movement. Well spent, I should say. Amidst all the screamy angst I supposed I had learned a thing or two - about others, about myself. And who can forget an experience like that, or detract from its significance? So while my long-term plans no longer involve The Movement, I will always feel the unity and the strength of everyone who contributes - docs, patients, supporters - and recall that for a time, I too was making history.
Bon voyage, Abortioneers!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The anti-choicers feed everyone lines about how abortioneers are just in it for the money. I’m sure I could earn more by working at a pizza joint, but that makes me look sort of selfless and caring and things that abortioneers cannot possibly be. And when an abortion is your first exposure to the wide world of reproductive justice, you, the client, are going to believe the hype. A disproportionate amount of our clients are women of color without much money, which doesn’t surprise anyone who does know RJ. And then there I am: a professionally-dressed (when I’m not wearing striped knee socks and a mini skirt) white woman asking them to hand over thousands of dollars that they probably don’t have.
A coworker recently mentioned to me that she couldn’t see herself working as a counselor because she’s not the “nurturing type.” I don’t know about “nurturing” as my primary descriptor, but I’m empathic, caring, and concerned. On payment days, I consciously have to shed that layer of myself as I walk into work. I rarely have backup on payment, and I’m responsible for keeping the clinic flow going and making sure clients are seen in a semi-reasonable amount of time. I have five minutes, tops, with each of our thirty-plus clients, and I have to be friendly (“I love your hat! Are you doing OK?”), efficient (“I’m listening to you. I’m just entering this information into the computer real quick.”), and the biggest bitch (“No. We are not haggling. I’m sorry the sonogram measurement was further than you thought, but I need your payment within the next fifteen minutes or you cannot be seen.”) all at the same time.
And I’ve had boyfriends wearing rosaries around their necks literally throw cash at me, I’ve been “cussed out,” as they say in the south, I’ve been scammed, I’ve been threatened, and I’ve been flat-out told that I “don’t want to help; [I’m] just trying to take people’s money!”
I’m a small person and I look a good eight years younger than I am, and I’ve learned to recognize where I really do need to act “tough” in order to be taken seriously. And of course, I understand that my post is collecting payment, and that’s a huge bone of contention for our clients because it represents a good deal of their struggles pre-appointment. And my reactions and the clients’ reactions aren’t personal. I’ve also come to terms with “difficult” clients. I would not still be working there if I didn’t realize that just because I’m risking my life (to a degree) to work in the clinic doesn’t mean that the clients don’t have every right to treat me however they want to. They don’t owe me anything. But it also doesn’t mean that I don’t resent being treated like dirt when I ask for payment. I sometimes almost hate my coworkers who are counseling that day and who never take money, when they talk about how much they were able to help and connect with a client.
The other day, I called taking payment “the most passive-aggressive counseling session in the world.” I am the face of the enemy; the client gets an opportunity to lash out; when it isn’t acceptable to yell at the woman who’s aborting “your” 24 week “baby,” it’s acceptable to yell at the person who’s taking your money. And in those cases, I’m not making a noble difference in women’s lives. I’m one of those inflatable clown punching bags. And it doesn’t matter that I’m even wearing a button that says, “Don’t let politics trump medicine,” because I’m just in it for the money.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Sex has changed since working at the clinic. So have meals, long stares, idle thought, light conversations about happy things. I can have anything have to do with abortion. I do not have to try. I do not need six degrees.
I would imagine things will begin to change in Washington. Someone will be willing to listen. If I could talk to the president about anything, I'd talk to him about abortion. Basically sacred, an instrument all its own. Let it be. We who wish the best for the women having them, who never ever fall short of empathy--let us dwell in it. Let us usher the women having them. Let us make it beautiful and right. Better for them and for health care and motherhood and the earth and spirituality and arts and publishing and advocacy and counseling and families and babies and local farmers and birds and christmas carols and...
Sign what needs to be signed. Veto what needs to be vetoed. Call me if you have any questions. Have your friends call me. Give them my number. Pleazzzzzesss.
The time to share has come. The outlook is good. Beyond the vow to protect confidentiality. The gross resistance. The heartbreak that leaves you sobbing, coping in unfamiliar patterns, laughing at things others will not get and feeling so sweet and so wicked. There is a woman, a patient, who deserves a dignified solution to her medical plight. A story. A mother. A daughter. A really good reason to have an abortion.
I was on my way home from a conference where a Planned Parenthood representative did a presentation on the lack of access to information in marginalized communities, specifically communities of low income people and people of color. My cousin calls to tell me that she has something to tell me..."I'm pregnant...". "Nooooo!", "ok so you have options..." I was 20, she was 19. Seven years earlier we got our periods in the same month of the same year. I had my ovary removed just a few weeks prior and now she got pregnant in the same month I had major surgery on my reproductive organs. Her daughter is two years old and the light of both of our lives.
One of my best friends has a son who will turn 1 in April and she is pregnant again. In her text message announcing her pregnancy to all of her best friends from college, she says "and yes I am keeping it or else you would have received a personal text message, Sparky." She will be a mother of two children within the coarse of 2 years and if anyone can handle the responsibility I know she can. Not everyone can handle this kind of challenge. Women should be able to choose to have children when they are ready to commit their lives to giving that child every possibility.
I am surrounded by pregnant women and mothers. I am constantly reminding them they have choices beyond bearing children and yet most of them make the choice to give birth and be mothers. Recently, I talked to my roommate about the possibility of moving in with a friend of mine who has a kiddo. She commented on living with kids and the change that would mean in our 20-something-year-old lives. I responded that I have pretty much accepted that my life consists of children and helping parent, mentor, and raise children.
Another friend of mine who is a mother and I were talking last time I was home; she assured me that if she got pregnant again she would not keep it. She never said the word abortion, however we both knew what she was implying. If she decided to have another child I would love that baby and accept them as one of the many wonderful children in my life, but we both know she is barely able to support the kids she already has. Most women who have abortions already have children. Each day someone says to me..."m'aam I already have a 9 month old son", "I already have 2 kids, 4 kids, 6 kids, and the only person working in my household is my oldest son. I just can't afford an abortion, and I definitely cannot have another baby, not now." Making the choice to have an abortion is a pro-family decision.
Many, many, many women have abortions simply because they want to be able to provide for the children they already have. Women who have abortions and the people who assist them in accessing this necessity are not baby-killers. We are people who love babies and want to provide fulfilling lives for the children who are already in our lives.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Mom and dad make chili and we place our family bets. The entire experience is a warm ring. I think I won once by intuitive chance. I have celebrated, tail-gated, worn a jersey, and waved in the stands, and I'll be damned if I ever understand a thing about football.
People kept wanting to talk about killing babies this week. The woman who gave birth to eight babies despite the obvious terminal complications.
Sometimes I have Saturdays where I am convincing women to have their abortion without falling apart. They think they are killing their babies. They won't leave or take more time. They feel they have no choice, nor heart. The guilt will follow them regardless--stinky. They ask me to tell them that it's okay. I don't see why I wouldn't tie a bow on it. Abortion is such a catastrophe to some people that it breaks my heart.
Tonight. A bunch of men will dance on a painted field in shiny tights with synthetic armor, black lines painted beneath their eyes. They will tap butts and climb all over one another, and millions will watch intently, supportive, passionate, involved.
I digress. As I was contemplating said visit to the boyfriend's fam, it dawned upon me that we may begin to get along better from this point forward because I no longer have to lie about where I work. While my current job entails various tasks associated with public health and social marketing research, my previous job consisted of abortion counseling and fundraising. Needless to say, not good news for the folks to hear. This is not to say that I really give a fart what they think about me. I've always been proud and headstrong and the like (a vestige of the strong female history on my mother's side), but out of sympathy for the isolation and condemnation that would rain upon the boyfriend had his parents found out what I did for a living I thought better of it. I mean, when they found out we had moved in together they prayed for months. So I figured we should drop our bombs once at a time. This, my friends, was not an easy secret to keep. Those who know me know that I speak my mind and say things that are frequently inappropriate. It took everything in me not to blurt out a dead baby joke.
So I quickly found my personhood value decreasing, while the fam's grew. I was a liar. I was a sneak. I was less-holy-than-thou. I was bad. They, however, were protected, innocent. They were content in their ignorance, a condition under which I think we'd all be better off. All this to protect my dear boyfriend from their slings and arrows. Which made sense I suppose; I had zero obligation to these people, whereas he was their blue-eyed baby boy (they still sent him Valentine's Day cards, for cryin' out loud). I couldn't ruin his relationship with the dad who taught him everything he knows about baseball, with the sister who asks for homework help, with the uncle who makes a mean rack of ribs. But the personal costs that this lie had for me were pretty big as well. I felt shame. Shame! I don't think I'd ever felt ashamed before. Embarrassed, yes. Humiliated, oh yeah. Awkward, at least twice a day. But to question the kind of person that I am, that I want to be, and feel somehow responsible for the fall of Western society? This was certainly new to me.
And so this begs the question: to what degree are we willing to sacrifice our personhood for the sake of others? To what extent do we second-guess ourselves because of the biases of others? When do we stop worrying about other people's hangups and just be who we are? Because at the end of the day the big umbrella question is: WHO CARES? Who cares what people say, think, do? Don't we have enough going on in our own lives? I don't feel the need to yell from the mountaintops all the things that other people are doing. Do you know how many people are in this world? Hundreds! If I were to worry about all of them I'd never get any of my regularly-scheduled worrying done. By the same token, how can they spend so much time worrying about me? Or you? Or [insert name] from [city, state, zip].
Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare a day. Not for choice, not for life. But a day for indifference, in which we go about our business and do nothing else. Sounds crazy, yes? On this day, we dedicate our minds and our hearts to ourselves and our best interests, and we save the meddling and even the reaching out for another time. Because every now and again we need to stop and reflect on who we are and what we do, and begin to determine with a little more certainty what it is that we plan to accomplish.