Category Archives: Personal

Chivalry on the Subway

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Chivalry has never been my thing. Even when I was little and deeply invested in fairy tale Disney movies, I remember thinking that if I were in life-threatening danger, I wouldn’t want some Prince to come rescue me. I grew up with adults shouting “stranger danger!” to instill crippling fear and suspicion of basically anyone I had yet to encounter in my ripe 6 years of life. So: some dude tells me he wants to kiss me so that a “spell” can be broken? I’ll pass, creep. As I got older and started realizing that “Princes” are usually the ones us ladies need saving from in the first place, Law & Order: SVU became, and remains, my favorite fairy tale of all time.

Nonetheless, aside from the couple of times a year when various magazines declare “Chivalry is Dead!”, I never really think about the term. There was one time a couple of years ago, when I did that insane thing girls sometimes do and went on a first date. I dutifully noted throughout the entire night that he kept opening doors for me. Even if the door was out of his way, like my car door, he would zip around the car and open it. If there was no door, he would step aside and gesture with his arms that I walk in first, flight attendant style. On the ride home I observed, “You open doors a lot” (you can tell how great the conversation was flowing at this point). He asked if that was a problem and I said it wasn’t, it’s just kind of weird because I know how to open a door. And he said, “You’ve just never experienced chivalry like this”. Then I believe I told him that opening someone’s door is polite, not full-blown chivalrous, and he asked me if I was “one of those feminists”, and now we live happily after.

The next time I thought about chivalry was today, on the subway. Now, it should be noted that on NYC public transportation not only is chivalry dead, but so are all rules of human morality, ethics, and decency. The subway is to behavior what Twitter is to opinions: mayhem. So, to put it mildly, I don’t expect much “chivalry” whilst on the F train. This morning I was on a full train, but I boarded early enough to get a seat (such a rare occurance, it almost made me believe in God). Right before the doors closed, a very pregnant woman walked onto the train. Once we started moving I looked at the mostly men sitting around me, who could all clearly see the pregnant woman standing in front of us. “Excuse me, miss, do you want to sit?” As the words came out of my mouth I have to admit it felt odd. I fancy myself a feminist but kind of felt like I was saying what a guy should be saying. I’ve never called another girl “miss”. Before the woman could respond, the guy next to me stood up and proudly gestured towards his seat like a true gentleman… just as my flight attendant date did for little ol’ me. The girl sat down, turned to me, and said, I shit you not: “They open your door but god forbid they give up their damn seat on the subway.”

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I realized what chivalry really means, to me at least. It’s not being kind, or polite, or gentle, or helpful. It’s doing something that puts another person’s well-being before your own, possibly by sacrificing your own well-being, and without the promise or expectation of getting anything in return. So, chivalry is not a guy buying you dinner or opening your door. Trust me, he thinks he’s getting something out of it. Chivalry is altruism I guess… but that spirals into the philosophical debate of the existence of altruism, so let’s let that slide and just get to the bottom line:

Chivalry is giving up your damn seat on the subway.

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My Last Breakup

I had been seeing my new therapist for five months or so when I started thinking about the movie Pretty Woman.

The notion of paying someone in exchange for affection and understanding was unsettling, and yet unavoidable. I was drowning in my newly diagnosed mental illness and the myriad of issues that came with it. I was a shattered version of my former self when I walked into my new therapist’s office.

I knew from the moment I met her that my life was going to change. I can’t pinpoint what it was about her that made me see light after such a long period of excruciating darkness. Maybe it was that, just as Richard Gere looked at Julia Roberts like a person and not a prostitute, she looked at me like a person and not a patient. When I returned to my apartment after our first session I felt a pressing need to initiate lifestyle changes: I bought inspirational posters, made the decision to give up alcohol (I will be two years sober this September), joined a yoga class, and suddenly felt faith in my ability to construct a future. I no longer felt doomed.

I saw her two to three times a week, and told her things I had never even admitted to myself. I began suffering panic attacks as a result of confronting my own reality, and she bought me frozen eye masks, stress balls, and rubbing stones to help ease my pain. Logically, I knew she was just doing her job. Yet, it wasn’t long before I broke the proverbial “don’t kiss the prostitute on the lips” rule by uttering the words, “I genuinely think she loves me”. And I meant it. I am not one that lets people into my heart or my soul or my mind very easily. But my guards were down.

Nevertheless, she was my college therapist and I was due to graduate in December. The date loomed over every session as I would study her face, take in her mannerisms, and realize that the safety and security of this person that saved me from myself would soon be gone. We wouldn’t keep in touch on Facebook and I wouldn’t be able to stalk her Instagram… she was a medical professional that I hired to help me. In Pretty Woman Richard Gere says, “My special gift is impossible relationships”. I knew that that was what my therapist and I had: an impossible relationship. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

The months following the “termination of my treatment” were the most agonizing of my life. It felt as though I was hanging off of a cliff and the person who had been there to catch me for a year and a half was suddenly gone. I phoned her off and on in my darkest moments, until I realized I was not Richard Gere, and I couldn’t summon her into my life no matter how hard I tried. She was in Atlanta, I was in New Jersey, and it was over. There was no strut down Rodeo Drive in our future. Our arrangement was finished.

It has been six months since we have spoken, and I impulsively e-mailed her this morning on my way to work. Although I worried it would trigger dormant sadness to reach out, I needed to let her know that after all of this time, I am okay.

And, that my new therapist is great.

Personal Archives

My favorite thing to do when I come home for a few days is to look through the drawer in my bedroom that contains all of the things I wrote in high school. Sometimes I am amazed at how much I’ve grown as both a person and a writer, and other times I am shocked at how strangely poetic the simple way I viewed life as a teenager seems so many years later.

Tonight as I was going through the stack of papers on the floor of my bedroom,  I found a poem I wrote during my short-lived emo phase in 2009 (either inspired by Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides, or Angela Chase). Other contributors to my teen angst: Edward Cullen had just started stirring up inner feelings I couldn’t quite articulate, I listened to Paramore on a loop, I dyed my hair black with red highlights, and had started memorizing Sylvia Plath’s poetry and reciting it to my family members (we’ve all been there, right guys?). Anyway, here is the poem entitled, “The Pursuit of the Sun”:

I woke up early, to see the sunrise.

My eyes were still tired, as I stood on my porch.

My eyes felt raw, I was blinded by the light.

I went back inside, and fell into a dream,

where my eyes were not swollen, and I saw the sun.

When I woke, I glared out of my window, and saw the moon.

————

The next night, my friend stood with me on the porch,

we had no trouble watching the simple moon.

We decided to wake up early, and watch the sunrise.

The next morning, we saw the tip of the sun,

but our eyes were puffy as we stood on the porch.

Why don’t I have trouble staring at the sunrise in my dream?

We went back inside, we were blinded by the light.

————

The next morning, I tried to resist the light.

It was easier to stare at the moon.

I went back inside, and in my dream,

I imagined myself running into the sunrise.

The next morning, I sat alone on the porch.

It was hopeless; I began to hate the sun- –

————

yes, I began to despise the sun.

How could anyone love that bright light?

The next morning, I wanted to give it one last chance on my porch.

I still hated the sun, I loved the moon.

Why should I strain to look at the sunrise?

I kept the sunrise in my dream.

————

That night, I saw the sun in my dream.

I decided it was impossible to really see the sun,

or the sunrise,

or the light.

But that night, I saw the moon.

I felt comfortable that night on the porch.

————

I fell asleep on the porch,

and had a nice dream.

It was not about the sun, it was about the moon.

I never even thought about the sun.

I began to hide from the light.

I began to fear the sunrise.

————

I miss those times sitting on my porch, looking at the sun.

I now only see light in a dream.

If I only had the strength to reach for the sunrise, instead of settling on the moon.

…well, besides sharing an extremely upbeat poem with all of you, the purpose of this post is to encourage all of you to keep a drawer of writing, art, pictures, etc. throughout your lifetime. I have laughed, cried (just moments ago at a beautiful letter my brother wrote me for my 18th birthday), and found insight when looking through my little drawer of memories. More often than not you will wind up being your greatest source of inspiration.

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