To Tide You Over

I’m still working on the Big Holiday Post of Doom–not to hype it up too much, I’m just attempting to make a bunch of pieces fit together coherently and am on Draft #2. In the meantime, it’s The Week Between Christmas And New Year’s, when traffic is light! and no one does any work! and life is good! So I thought I’d just go on ahead and depress everyone.

For something to do on Christmas Eve Day, I took the kids to our neighborhood kiddie gym where they were having one of their free-for-all “open gym” sessions. Parents were sitting on benches watching their kids run around. About 25 feet away from me, a woman sat reading a newspaper. And then, all of a sudden, she was crying. She was probably making some effort to hide this, or to stop it, but there was no doubt about it. I felt terrible for her, because I have been there.

I envisioned all sorts of possibilities. She could just be having a bad day. She could be having a surge of hormones (just regular cycle stuff, or she’s pregnant, or she’s postpartum, or she’s menopausal). Maybe she just suffered a terrible loss (the loss of a parent perhaps, or, again, a pregnancy) and is barely holding it together for her son (who looked to be about four). The more important thing to determine was whether I should pretend I did not see her tears, or go over to her and ask her if she’s okay. I have had situations in which I could not stop tears even in public, but was all the while hoping no one would notice (in fact, just this morning I was reading this on the train; it is enough to move anyone to tears). I have also had situations in which a person did show me some sympathy, and it helped–at least to pull me temporarily out of the func so I could funktion. Which way to go for this complete stranger?

During my hesitation, the woman’s son came over. There is really nothing better when you are sad than interacting with your child, I thought; not only are children generally great cheerer-uppers, they create a necessary distraction because you can’t help but parent them and push your personal worries to the side. She talked to him and he left again. I was still unsure. She found the tissue box they always keep on the counter–that’s progress, I thought. The son came back, and asked her to come help him with something, which she did. The immediate crisis was placed on hold.

Not long after that, we had to depart for a date with Daddy. But I continued to send out my sympathy vibe to the nameless woman who doubtless has her own story to tell. Perhaps I could have given her a bit of needed strength, had I not frozen. What would you have done?

2 thoughts on “To Tide You Over

  1. I have several feelings about this post.

    First, I had an experience recently with Ari in a store that made me lose it once we left. The reason I cried so much was not that Ari had the meltdown, I’m kind of used to them happening every once in a while and know that it’s his brain chemistry. What was so hard about that event was watching others around me, most of whom pathologically avoided eye contact as if I were a leper.

    I’ve written about society being largely disconnected and becoming more disconnected as time moves forward. Paying a masseuse has taken over our need for touch. Instead of touching our friends, families and community, we pay to have it done in a tiny little room where no one else can see. Same thing with sharing our feelings. As time moves forward, that is becoming more private. More and more people are paying therapists for that luxury now. I do like the job security in that sense, but wish we could all be a bit more transparent. I applaud that woman for not leaving because she was having a normal, human emotion. I wish that someone, anyone would have asked her about it and given her the chance to share or to say, “Leave me alone.”

    NOTE: I don’t think less of you that you didn’t approach her. You have to be comfortable doing something like that, in addition to having time to do so. I just wish someone would have engaged with her. Just like I wish someone would have engaged with me in the store to say, “Fuck all these people…you’re doing the best you can.”

    In general, I wish we could be a society that values the public display of all human emotions. We’ve gotten so polite and politically correct that we’ve just repressed too much, in my opinion.

    Now, with regard to that article. UGH It just saddens me that those things happen in this day and age. It’s horrifying. But, going back to the theme of my comment, I feel that we’re somewhat going backwards in the U.S. with regard to little girls. You’ve got puritanical megalomaniacs insisting on teaching abstinence only and refusing methods that keep children safe (you know, like birth control for Palin’s daughter). We need to be teaching about the experience of love. We need to be teaching about love…the connection you can have when you are with someone sexually. Everything is so technical that it makes the event like, well, an event. Many emotions are tied up in sex, whether people realize it or not. I don’t know about any of you, but sex is an experience that includes more than where to put what and when. But, this female mutilation is just sick because it prevents the sensation of pleasure for a woman. I’m not quite sure why they believe Allah gave it to them just so their men could take it away. Megalomaniacs of a different sort, I suppose.

  2. Actually, Linda, *I* think less of me that I didn’t approach her. I should have. I could have made a tiny difference (which could have had a butterfly effect) and I should have tried. One day in a previous life, I got on a plane, and I was upset about it, because I was leaving someone behind. A lady on the plane looked at me with what could only be called a “knowing smile.” One second, and I remembered it forever, because it mattered at the time. I really hope this woman is okay despite my silence.

    As for the WP article, I wanted to do a whole post on that but I had no time and decided to just get it out there. I was especially moved by the photo in the “gallery,” which shows this poor girl’s reaction during the main event, as well as that of the woman holding her. That photographer has incredible strength because I could not have held a camera still during all that.

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