jessicawakeman

The relief that I wasn’t pregnant didn’t feel the way that I had expected. This relief felt different; this relief was wrapped up in guilt. It had been very, very easy for me to plan in my mind what I’d do and how I’d do it if I had an unwanted pregnancy. I would have had my husband’s complete support. All we would have to do would be to operationalize it: make an appointment, take a day off work, get the money and health insurance together to pay for it. I could visualize and execute the steps on how to handle an unhappy surprise.


Moreso than ever before, I was aware of how what I had just gone through — confusing and worrisome as it may have been — was very privileged.


I live in New York City, a state where access to contraception and abortion is some of the best in the country. Elsewhere in America, 87 percent of counties have no abortion provider and in rural areas, that number climbs to 97 percent. But it would have been easy to make appointment for an abortion — or even repeat appointments if I were forced by state law to adhere to a “waiting period” (despite the fact my mind was already made up). I could easily travel there by subway or bus or taxi. There would be certainly anti-abortion protesters outside the more well-known clinics, even in our fairly liberal city, but it wouldn’t be anything like the lying-down-on-the-sidewalk-impeding-the-entrance bullshit that patients and clinic employees have to deal with elsewhere. I can handle being screamed at by strangers about going to hell.


As a white woman, I would not have to think even once about how my decision could be interpreted as a reflection on the population growth of my entire race. A middle-class white woman like me wouldn’t be questioned in quite the same way as to how or why she accidentally got pregnant. It would more than likely be assumed that my “unhappy surprise” was really an accident because, as a white person, I am seen as “responsible.” No one would tell me, if I sought an abortion, that I was participating in racial genocide. My womb is not politicized quite in the same way.


Somehow, I would be able to pay for an abortion — though, like many women, that would have been the biggest hardship for me. But it wouldn’t be too great a hardship, because as a middle-class person, I have access to money (even if it’s not my own). I could figure something out if my health insurance would not cover it.


I could get off work without being penalized or fired; if my bosses somehow found out I’d terminated a pregnancy, they wouldn’t and couldn’t terminate my job just because it didn’t match up with their own “personal values.” As a professional woman, it would mostly be assumed that, if I took a day off work for a “health emergency,” I was telling the truth. My job would be waiting for me when I got back.


If, for whatever reason, my husband couldn’t be around during or afterward, I have siblings I am close to and girl friends who would support me. If I told my mom and dad (because as an adult, they are not required to be notified or give permission for what I do with my womb), I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be happy about it. But I also know they truly love me unconditionally wouldn’t excommunicate me or throw me out of the family. My own spiritual beliefs, and those of the people I’m close to, wouldn’t dictate how my husband and I plan our family. I may feel sad about having the procedure (especially given my wonky depressed emotions already), but I would not feel the need to apologize for it.


In short, having an abortion would have been what it is meant to be: just another aspect of women’s reproductive health care.

The intensity of the scrutiny feels misplaced. I’m less interested in whether Lena Dunham “deserves” her success than in why other people are succeeding in Hollywood under more ignoble circumstances. Why does wife abuser and locker-of-escorts-in-closets Charlie Sheen get his own show on FX, probably for a bundle of money? What about all the beneficiaries of nepotism, from Jenna Bush Hager on “The Today Show” to Luke Russert at NBC News? And while we’re at it, someone please explain to me Olivia Palermo’s entire existence. There are plenty of ding dong chuckleheads whom we could be questioning whether they deserve the big paydays that they do. I realize those all require entirely separate conversations about domestic abuse/drug abuse, the pros and cons of nepotism, and reality television. Yet having those conversations in the context of fame and “who deserves what” is a much more worthy pursuit to me than calculating the worthiness of Lena Dunham. She comes from a privileged background and had connections, to be sure, but as far as I can tell, she writes all her own material, worked her ass off for her accomplishments, and has never locked anyone in a fucking closet. Her work may not be my personal cup of tea, but her own blood, sweat and tears have gotten her there and people do respond to it.

A little backstory on pickup artists (PUAs): they are men and women (but usually men) who see what they do as teaching social skills. Their students, as they see it, are hapless men who just need a few bro-pats on the back in order to have the confidence to go forth into the jungle of pussy and skin their first pelt. But what PUAs actually advocate is out-and-out manipulation. Getting women into bed is reduced to a game with rules to follow, a code to crack. PUA methods vary, but all pickups socially and emotionally manipulate a woman. Men are taught to engage in certain behaviors to make her feel “safe” in his prescence and even to intentionally insult her (“negging”) to put her off guard. (A decent background explanation of online PUAs is here on Buzzfeed; my piece about men training to be PUAs in NYC “charm school” classes that ran in the New York Press a few years ago tells you how they behave “in the field.”) Sounds dehumanizing? It can be. It’s disturbing then, but not entirely surprising, how some PUA sites overlap with “men’s rights activist”/MRA sites — best known for being angry hornets’ nests of bitter men who rant their misogyny in any comment thread that doesn’t ban them. Although the two communities are distinct, there’s a scary amount of overlap in their attitude towards dealing with that alternate species known as women.
I could continue to lay in bed for hours and hours every day and only experience life with all the colors drained out of it. I could carry in my chest the darkness that at once felt heavy and hollow. But I refused to believe that was the only option. As much as I felt stigmatized and strange for feeling a way everyone else seemed not to, it served as a sort of inspiration. This is a riddle for me to crack; this is a puzzle for me to solve. It took a long time to feel not just not-sick or neutral, but happy. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and pretend it was quick or easy. Constructing a liveable life for yourself is one of the most difficult things I know. I had to do a lot of pruning in my social circle: taking away or putting-at-arms’-length the energy drainers, whether they were acquaintances, colleagues or family members. I had to decide only to work for people who treated me with the respect that I deserve (and then find those people and get them to employ me). I had to make wiser decisions about dating and then, when my heart got broken anyway, dust myself off and try again. I had to take better care of myself: getting the right amount of sleep (not too much or too little), doing talk therapy, not drinking or using drugs to make myself feel better, eating more healthfully and regulating my moods with anti-depressants. When I do all these things, I feel not-sick and neutral. And lately, because I am very lucky, I feel happy.