Jul 24 • 10M

Tearin' Up My Heart

I always thought I was afraid of intimacy. I was wrong.

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I have no idea when or where I first met correspondant SuChin Pak, but you can see from my face that running into her at this event was a beautiful surprise. I miss that sense of community I used to feel in the media industry.

Hey,

I feel deeply unsettled with people I don’t know.

Like the other week, I had some readers of my Substack to my home for an IRL meet up. I’m a big girl, yet I was so gripped with fear just before they came up, I needed to write my feelings down to get it out of my system. I stumbled across what I wrote in my email drafts folder today:

“It is moments before they walk in. My stomach feels like I’m getting to the top of the roller coaster. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. I know that once the door opens, the ride begins, and I’m buckled in until the end. I will have to ride it out. But until that door opens, I can always call it off. Even if they’re waiting in the library downstairs. I can send them home.”

I mean…I set this up. I wanted this. This wasn’t something anyone imposed on me.

See, I always thought this aversion existed because I was afraid of intimacy…of rejection: A fear that years of being a VIP had shielded me from. After all, during the more active part of my career, I was always surrounded by people I was very close and familiar with from my team to the other Editors and Executives at the various magazine, fashion and cosmetic brands. I was never walking into a room without friends with me or waiting for me there. And btw – I also loved meeting new people at these various functions.

And even after my mini freak out, I experienced the most beautiful, deep, soulful connection with a group of women, most of whom I’d never met before the Unedited get together. In fact, the following week I was struggling with something personal, and I called one of those women for advice: Someone I’d never met before that evening! Tbh, laying my vulnerability at her feet felt so…beautiful. Almost like resting my head in my mother’s lap when I was little: An act of trust and surrender.

Holy shit. I’m having a big epiphany. Stay with me:

Last night, I went to see Chris Rock and Kevin Hart at Madison Square Garden. (And uh…not to brag but Dave Chappelle opened.) My boyfriend and I were trying to remember what the Kevin Hart scandal was. He expected us to google it, but I just turned to the person next to me and asked her and her friends if they knew and ended up having a nice chat with them about it. He kind of looked at me like Ummm…so you’d rather ask a complete stranger than Google it? That was a lightbulb moment for me. That’s what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I want to be in community. I’m uncomfortable with isolation. With disconnection. More than almost anything else in life, I’m seeking intimacy…union…connection. It’s what I loved about my industry. There was camaraderie and community across the board. I brought my top team from CosmoGIRL! to Seventeen and filled in any holes with friends. I loved our intimate shorthand.

To be surrounded by strangers has always felt upsetting for me. I’m always trying to convert strangers into friends. Back when I was at Seventeen, I remember telling my therapist, Joseph, how I felt walking by people on the street in Manhattan: It hurt my heart. Even then I had the desire to connect with people I walked by, as though we lived in a small town like the one I grew up in. You Manhattanites know how wackadoo I would seem if I made eye contact and greeted every person I passed on the street. I don’t act on that desire because I realize people would cross the street to avoid me. We’ve become so acclimated to isolation. Especially in big cities like Manhattan.

Oh, and I want to ask for things. For me, giving is easy. But when I ask…oof. The vulnerability is breath-taking. And the same when people ask me for things. A woman I didn’t know super well once asked me to go with her to a D&C procedure after a miscarriage. It felt so sacred. To have shown up for her in that way was an honor. And her courage to ask was staggering. We’ve taken self-sufficiency to an extreme that keeps us safe…but also disconnected.

Paid subscribers can scroll down to read the poem I started the Unedited IRL meetings with. You don’t have to be a poetry person to get something out of this. I believe there’s medicine within its words. So many of us have gotten used to living an isolated life after the pandemic, and of course, technology reinforces this status quo. The idea of lowering ourselves slowly into messy intimacy feels, to me, like the panacea we didn’t even know we needed. Oh, there’s also a picture of some of us from the second IRL gathering. The first one was so deep, we didn’t think about pictures until the last person was literally walking out the door! And therein lies the beauty of real intimacy. You stop thinking of documenting life for social media…and start living it instead.

It's kind of crazy I didn’t recognize this hunger in myself until I was today year’s old. All this time I thought it was an aversion to intimacy. But it was heartbreak over lack of intimacy. I even feel it in the professionalism my doormen show me. This boundary that a doorman once described to me as the importance of not fraternizing with the tenants. Fraternizing. Brotherhood. Listen, I get it. Not everyone shares my desire. But I guess I’m just saying I notice it. It impacts me and sometimes I wonder if Manhattan is the right place for my soul. TBD, TBD. And btw, would I have even had this realization if I didn’t sit to write you a letter today? You, my dear intimate friend. Again, I don’t know. Intimacy is messy…kind of like this note. When I started writing, I had no idea where I was going. But you always let me be messy. For that, I’m so grateful. Here for your messiness, too. 24/7, as always, at atoosa@atoosa.com.

xo, atoosa

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