Acrophobia. Claustrophobia. Arachnophobia. From a fear of heights to a fear of spiders, there’s a name for almost every phobia these days. I couldn’t find a word for my irrational fear, however. It only strikes me in certain places, at certain times, and involves a very specific object. Like, I definitely can’t have a relaxing picnic in Central Park or lay peacefully on a towel on a crowded beach. That’s right: I won’t set foot in Sheep’s Meadow on a busy summer afternoon because I’m freakin’ terrified of…
FRISBEES. And I have reason to be.
A few years ago, on a beautiful summer day, my then-boyfriend of six months and I went to Central Park with a group of friends. I plopped down on a blanket with my dog and my latest NYPL book while my BF began teaching a friend of his the proper way to throw a frisbee. Standing just three feet away from me, the friend accidentally hurled the disc behind himself, in the opposite direction it was intended to go…. slamming right into the center of my face.
Pain and panic ensued, and I knew I had to get medical attention to stop the bleeding. My boyfriend asked if he should come with me, and I told him I would be fine without him. Which, I guess, was the truth — I would be fine by myself, but should I be by myself? (Well, I did have my dog!) I pushed him to stay at the park, and he didn’t push back.
I was out of work for the next week, slurping all of my food through a straw. Aside from stitches in my mouth and severe bruising, it looked like nothing was broken. Any small fractures would repair over time. I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me, but after a few days, I gave in and let him come over. When I opened the door, he burst out laughing and told me I looked just like Marge Simpson, and then he ended up eating all of the Tasti-D frozen yogurt he had brought over for me. The entire experience hurt me deeply inside and out, and the relationship was irreparably affected.
The past has an interesting way of resurfacing. Last week, a throbbing pain in my face and jaw escalated into facial cellulitis and the most severe pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. Emergency doctors were baffled as to the cause. Thankfully, I was rescued by the amazingly talented Dr. Sol Schwartzstein, the Jewish dentist doppelgänger of McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. He operated painlessly on me and prescribed the necessary aggressive antibiotics to tackle the bacterial infection that had spread through a microfracture in an otherwise healthy tooth. The microfracture responsible for the entire episode was likely the result of a past facial trauma… like a frisbee to the face!
For the past week, I’ve been relying heavily on my phone, just as I did during that fateful frisbee recovery week a few years ago. Amazon Prime Now. Seamless. Capsule. Postmates. Wag. All of these apps handled my groceries, medications, meals, and even walking my dog. I’m so lucky to have people in my life who have wanted to help me through this tough time, but I’ve found myself turning everyone away. And here I’ve been thinking it’s just the swipe apps like Bumble, Tinder, JSwipe, etc., that are ruining human interaction these days. Nope!
During the frisbee fiasco, I do wish my boyfriend didn’t have to ask if he should’ve done something to help me; he should’ve just done it. I know now, however, that I was definitely terrified of showing vulnerability and did need help — not the type of help you can get from an app, but emotional support and company that you can only get from family, a friend or a partner who loves you. (Ok, there are probably even apps for that, but that’s not the point here!) I was brand new to NYC at that time, and I was scared. After I was laughed at, compared to Marge Simpson, and denied the simple pleasure of Oreos n’ Cream Tasti-D froyo, I retreated into my shell.
The last thing I would want is if someone I loved hid during a difficult time. I have tried to understand why anyone would push a loved one away when sick, hurt, or feeling down. As shallow as it sounds, I realized that I have an underlying insecurity of not wanting anyone — especially someone I am dating — to see me not at my best. I somehow convinced myself that feeling weak was a weakness, and that just ain’t right, y’all! Retreating from loved ones when we feel either physically or mentally down is a form of putting up a wall — one entirely funded by yourself rather than the government! We are human. What kind of bar would we be setting for any and all of our relationships if we demand perfection from ourselves ALL of the time? It’s impossible.
For the past few days, I’ve been curled up in my bed in an ugly Hanukkah sweater with half of my face puffed up like the Grinch. No comb could get through the wreath of hair atop my head. (Yes, there’s a holiday theme here – maybe it’s the snow outside, or maybe it’s the painkillers.) My house is a mess, and I’m too embarrassed to have anyone come over because I don’t want them to see me in Grinch-mode, surrounded by Amazon Prime Now paper bags, depleted of my sparkle, spice, and typically-symmetrical face. Sucks.
Have you ever found yourself turning family, friends, or a significant other away because you didn’t want to need them? There is no app or technological substitute for a real, live person, and it’s important to take a second to reevaluate how many of our human interactions may have suffered thanks to our determination to be independent, strong singletons. Yes, we really can do just about anything all by ourselves… But should we?
I vote no… or, just not ALL the time. It’s ok to ask for help, particularly when we’re feeling down. In a relationship, it can actually make your connection stronger, as any long partnership will see its share of trials and tribulations. The only way to get through it is by communicating and going through it together — not by pretending everything is perfect or running away.
Furthermore, maybe Amazon Prime Now can get you the groceries you need faster and more accurately than your partner, friend, or well-meaning parent. (“I said Powerade ZERO! Not the sugary version! And you forgot the Jell-O!”) But sometimes, our loved one needs to feel needed, and it’s our job to throw our pride aside and let ’em in. (There’s also something to be said about someone who wants to treat you to chicken soup from 2nd Ave Deli rather than some Seamless delivery guy who brings it to you because it’s his job.)
So, maybe my fear of frisbees really signifies a fear of something deeper: a fear of not just getting hurt — literally — but being terrified of admitting the need for help. A fear of being vulnerable coupled with the powerful reach of modern technology these days makes for one helluva toxic combo, and we’ve got to keep ourselves (and our loved ones!) in check.
Finally accepting and addressing this insecurity (and blogging about it, no less!) actually feels liberating. Letting someone I love pick up medication from Duane Reade instead of some random Postmates guy would actually feel good… for both of us. In fact, I’m even embracing my Grinch face right now, taking some selfies that make me laugh out loud — which is actually making everything hurt worse, but hey!
So, yeah, come on over! Wear your favorite ugly holiday sweater. Move the take-out cartons aside, have a seat, and let’s binge watch Russian Doll on Netflix. Oh, and if you really, really want to carry my laundry up a flight (or two) of stairs, that’d be great, too:)
P.S.: If you’re looking for a trustworthy, gentle, experienced and INCREDIBLE dentist, I could not recommend Dr. Sol Schwartzstein and Central Park South Dental more highly. Check ’em out HERE.