Feb 13

Gimme My F-ing Pacifier!

I finally got to the bottom of a messed up strategy that's kept me in unsatisfying romantic relationships for basically my entire adult life.

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In honor of Fashion Week this week, sharing a throwback of me and the wonderful Michelle McCool @mccoollife from the Spring 2006 Tuleh show.


I missed you…missed this. Sitting in my yellow office in my yellow Womb chair writing to you, my beloved reader and sister. But I really needed to take January off. I often say my life’s work is my life’s work. Meaning what I feel compelled to write and create is what I’m actually learning and experiencing personally. And this past month, I was like a cat lurching and heaving and gathering a monster hair ball that just wasn’t ready to dislodge. It wasn’t comfortable. I needed some extra processing time. This was a big hairball with very old roots.

But it’s out. I think it’s out.

I know I’ve spent many a Substack waxing on about my grand sweeping unconditional love for The Bear 🐻. But when I look back on my romantic history, there are a lot of guys who…well…kinda-fucking-hate-me to be totally honest. 🙈 I was always able to explain each one away because, of course, I’ve been through a lot in my life…it’s easy to believe (and it’s true!) that I never meant to hurt anyone. I was doing the best I could at the time and of course, when you know better you do better, thank-you-Maya-Angelou.




My soon-to-be-ex-husband? 26 years together. Hates me. Oh, and the super sweet guy I dated for three months after Season 2 with The Bear? Yeah. We just broke up. Hates me. 👀 A few months ago, I had dinner with the very first man I had an affair with. I’ve written about him on here - the photographer. After The Bear and I had broken up, I was kind of interested in stiking it up with him again. You would think I had asked him to pet a Cobra. “You were toxic for me.” Fuck. I had to face this beast once and for all. Why is my path littered with the broken hearts of good men? I, too, am a good person. I know I am. Right?


Cut to…4-year-old Atoosa sitting at her new nursery school. She is hysterically crying. All. Day. Every. Day. We had just moved to America and I didn’t know or understand the concept of school: That you show up, play, and go home at the end of the day. As a parent myself, before I sent my children to school for the first time, we read a million little books for months prior about the school experience. Back then? Not the case. At least not for me. Plus, I didn’t speak a lick of English and had never been around so many children at once. And American culture was totally new to me, so nothing had any context. When I was dropped off, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be picked up. My terror was real. It was intense. As my mother tells the story, they switched me from one nursery school to the next because they couldn’t handle my incessant sobbing until we landed at a school where the Head had a big dog. Instead of crying, I would go, sit next to the dog and just methodically pet him. All. Day. When I place myself back in that little body, I remember doing it like a meditation. Don’t cry, just pet. Don’t cry, just pet. Don’t cry, just pet. I wouldn’t lift my eyes off the dog fur. Don’t cry, just pet.

This kiddo didn’t speak English. She just wanted her Mommy. 😔

In the years to come, anytime my mother went out in the evening without me, I would wait at the window in the front of our house, no matter how late, and count cars until she came home. She will be home after 3 cars. She will be home after 4 cars. She will be home after 5 cars. We had a pretty quiet street. I can still smell the dust on the aluminum blinds. Do you have any smells like that emblazoned in your memory?

Fast forward to college: There are a group of girls at Barnard who will remember when they met me on that first day after my mom dropped me off. I was headed to my room carrying three Hefty bags filled with my belongings. The elevator door opened, a group of super cute and excited freshman girls were in there and boisterously greeted me. They were so excited to be there. Me? Well…I started bawling. Despite going to college less than an hour away from home, despite being a kind of cool, fast and social girl, despite, despite, despite all signs that going to college was an age-appropriate stretch…. I desperately missed my mother and felt completely unmoored. And to be clear, it’s not like I had a deep emotional connection to my mother.

I had intense separation anxiety.


I have intense separation anxiety.

And my pacifier of choice? Boys…and now, men.

I just didn’t know it at the time. My pacifiers were self-selecting: They were boys who would be head-over-heels for me. I didn’t really assess whether or not I liked them. They had the quality I was looking for in a transitional object: They were steadfast. So I would feed their fantasy with my attention, usually in private moments, and keep my heart for myself. Their devotion was what I needed. It kept my anxiety at bay. They believed we had a special relationship and I made them believe we had a special relationship. I wasn’t doing it to be duplicitous. It was totally unconscious. I was totally unconscious of this until recently. But just like the child who drops the pacifier when something more interesting comes along, I would drop my pacifier guy as soon as another guy spoke to my heart.

The guys who hate me? I used them as pacifiers. I objectified them. I used them to soothe my very old and embedded feelings of separation anxiety that have been a soundtrack to my life since childhood…then dropped them the moment something more interesting came along. (Remember P & J from college?) Even The Bear started out as a binky for me. But he’s a smart and guarded guy, he sensed my schtick, didn’t feel safe and pulled himself out of my clutches. And man that REALLY set off my separation anxiety. The fucking pacifier isn’t supposed to walk away.

But thank God he did.

It’s the break up that just keeps on giving! I did the pacifier thing with two other guys after The Bear. But I did it with a lot more consciousness. I felt it happening. I didn’t quite understand the roots of it yet, but I explicitly told the guys in question my pattern. They thought they would be different. Unfortunately they weren’t. And yes, they hate me. But good lord, I think I finally got to the bottom of this pattern.

And now we move onto repatterning.

So that’s what I’ve been unraveling this past month. The abject fear and terror at the root of my separation anxiety and the human and emotional fall-out from the strategy I Mickey-Moused together to cope with it. My breakup(s) with The Bear really triggered this very early wounding…and so I had a human pacifier during each hiatus. I am sitting with the grief of what I’ve caused and simultaneously the grief of what I went through to create such unconciousness. And yet I continue to have so much gratitude for the challenging situations that life throws my way. Listen, we all have shit like my nursery school experience in our emotional backpacks. Many people try to bury it. Maybe tell it as a funny story the way our parents weirdly do. But then we have these dysfunctional patterns we keep running. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m done dating lovely guys I’m not that into but can carry around like a security blanket. I want a wild and free love. Someone who makes me weak in my knees. That I respect and want to honor. Who isn’t afraid to confront and push me. I am finally ready to fly. But first, I need to become that free bird. I guess that’s what I’m doing here. What we’re doing here together. I so love being in community with you. It’s like growing up together…as grownups. And you know where I am, 24/7, as always at atoosa@atoosa.com.

xo, atoosa

The soundtrack of my 🤍🖤❤️: