Guest Blogger & Reclaim Supporter, Dan
It’s shocking how few amenities there are in a U-Haul truck. Am I really looking at a cassette tape player in a brand new truck? They must just figure that since people are moving they will have an obligatory shoebox of cassette tapes from the 80s. What’s it going to be this trip: Milli Vanilli or The Bangles?
My brother-in-law is driving this round of goods back and forth between his rental and newly purchased home in the suburbs of Minneapolis. We are still dripping sweat from the last load. Two couches, a nursery set and, because U-Haul knows their shit, a tattered shoebox labeled “mixed tapes.”
As I comb through the box our conversation bounces between the NBA Playoffs and Tiger Woods. I turn each tape over reminiscing. Wrecks-In-Effect, Digital Underground, Beastie Boys. We stop at a traffic light and my brother-in-law turns to me. “Now you had an abortion didn’t you? How did that make you feel?” he asked.
A wave of heat pours over me. I go to press the button and roll down the window. Of course, it’s a crank.
I’ll Never Eat German Pancakes Again
When you think back on a snapshot in your life that is overwhelmingly difficult, does it take on a color?
Sitting in the lobby of a Planned Parenthood with my hands between my knees, everything is white. My girlfriend, turned eventual wife and then eventual domestic partner in crime, is in the back alone. She’s scared, I’m scared, and our minds are racing at dangerous RPMs.
Forty year-old me breaks down the door, finds her patient room, and holds her tight through the entire procedure. Nineteen year-old me sits under the buzz of white, fluorescent lights.
When she’s done we go out to the white car and sit for a while under the white, puffy clouds. We sit. We cry. We’re scared and lost for so many different reasons. We sit and cry some more.
I suggest breakfast at a local restaurant we used to go to on my birthday as a kid. In my memory the restaurant carries a white fog. Was there a kitchen fire? Probably not. The fog is the barrier between me and my emotions that I still struggle with today. I ordered a German pancake. Last one I’ve ever had.
The Safety of a U-Haul
The light turns green and I am still processing the question. I have never had another man ask me how I felt about the abortion. Not about the topic of abortion, but about my abortion.
To understand the power of the question you need to grasp the space that men create when they are emotionally bonded. Erase the images of the country club and the poker games. Those are men flexing and boasting.
Men can actually create a safe space with each other where they will share things that they don’t feel comfortable sharing, even with their spouse or partner.
When a woman asks you about abortion, often times you read her body language and search her catalog of Facebook posts. On the ultra rare occasion that they ask about your abortion you find yourself talking about your partner’s feelings and the support (or lack thereof in a white room) you provided.
When your partner asks you about the abortion you begin to question if your feelings should even be considered. You feel shame for the position you’ve put her in. Guilt for the pain she has endured. Confusion for where society has brought us.
In a U-Haul truck devoid of seat massagers, satellite radio, and even power door locks (WTF), you can open up to someone you trust.
I feel grateful for the life I live today and my beautiful children. With each passing birthday party, vacation, and every smile the shadow of knowing I could have a child graduating from high school grows dimmer. And I recognize the choice was the right one, and allowed us to be where we are today. There is no denying that.
The pain that I brought to my partner by not being able to openly communicate and comfort are unbearable at times. Our relationship could have been stronger. That pain is real.
Breaking the news to my mom about the abortion was emotionally devastating. Her sobbing and open disappointment in our decision bruised my soul. The dismissiveness of and complete disregard for mine and my partner’s feelings and autonomy is a hurt we both feel today.
If I had someone to talk to at the time outside of my partner I feel that my life could have been even greater than it is today.
The rattle of all the items in the back of the truck as we rolled down the highway was painfully symbolic. Just like the moving truck, you collect emotional baggage through life. When you hit a bump and your load is light you don’t feel it. When you hit a pothole at 60 miles per hour and your load is heavy you certainly feel it.
By the time I had bared my soul to him, we reached our destination. As my brother-in-law reached to swing open the door I stopped him and gave him a hug. I thanked him for asking me the question because I feel like he really cared. He opened up a conversation and created another level of trust and intimacy between the two of us.
Unloading The Truck
I am an influencer. I can take a room full of people and make them laugh. I can take a sales team and make them better. I can suggest a new craft beer and people will try it. So how can I, as a pro-choice influencer with leadership skills, help women and society?
When women talk to men about abortion the lines are blurred. When men talk, preach or litigate about abortion they are flexing.
If my dad put his arm around me and asked how I felt about what I had gone through in that white room, my life would be different. It’s painful to think about how many men are hurting like I was because they could never talk about their feelings on that level. Or because no one ever asked.
Men can publicly speak, march, rally, protest, and donate millions to the pro-choice movement. This is all great.
The most powerful conversations men have are outside of the locker rooms and the boardroom. Sometimes, the most powerful conversation men have are in the front of a stripped down U-Haul truck with New Kids on the Block in the cassette deck.
If more men shared their stories intimately, listened to other men and simply asked how they felt, I don’t think we would have the anger we have today.
I should have mentioned that my brother-in-law is staunchly Pro-Life. He just cared enough to ask.
I hopped back in the passenger side of the truck as we set off for another pickup. Sometimes, it is difficult for men to transition from a heavy topic to lighter fare. In that vein, my brother-in-law starts the engine, turns to me, and recites a line from the wise Lloyd Christmas ala Dumb and Dumber:
“Some place warm, a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talking about a little place called Aspen.” (To which the proper reply would be: “Oh, I don’t know Lloyd, the French are assholes.”)