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I think knowing how to say “no” is an imperative part of being a grown woman. Just as important is knowing when you’re exhausted and, more or less, telling someone “Bitch, you gotta go”. Which is what I did. And goddamn, if it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
My little cousin, Leslie, is one of my dearest friends. We were genetically designed BFF’s. So, when Leslie ended up pregnant I felt like it was my responsibility as the big cousin to take control. I invited her to stay with me for as long as she needed while we… took care of the situation. Leslie still lives in the small town we grew up in while I – the sophisticated big city girl of the family – live a good 200 miles away. I thought this would be easier for her.
To make a very long and exhausting story slightly shorter – I have never seen someone act like such a child about a situation in my life.
I realized that, no, Leslie and I were not as similar as I had previously thought. While we both may share an undying love for bad reality TV, 90’s hip hop & boys with British accents, I cannot understand how someone who was so recklessly grownup getting herself in this situation could act so childlike while getting herself out of it.
I understand it was emotional. I do. She was dealing with issues that I simply can’t wrap my head around. Hormonal birth control is basically my religion, so I’ve never even so much as had a pregnancy scare. I kept telling myself that I didn’t know what she was going through, but sobbing in the lobby of a woman’s clinic, refusing to let anyone take your blood and stomping your feet and holding your breath any time one of the clinic’s counselors tried to talk to you are not the reactions of a grown woman to any situation.
After the abortion, things got worse. Leslie began to look for work swearing she was never going home. In the mean time I was footing the bills, buying the groceries, and found myself essentially dealing with a child. A child who smokes and drinks enough to put any of the Mad Men characters to shame.
Her mood changes were more than I could deal with. Some days I’d come home from work and she’d be crying. Other days she’d bolt up in a frenzy; “Let’s go downtown. Let’s go downtown, NOW”. Leslie’s occupation of my 580 square foot apartment was the most emotionally draining weeks of my life. Not only because of the mood swings and the drama with the men in her life, but seeing someone you love going through these issues can really take toll on your own relationships and productivity.
Oh, did I mention I held her hand? During the procedure, that is. I feel like that should be mentioned. I don’t mean emotionally or figuratively. I mean I physically held her hand while she was having her abortion. You don’t know emotional toll until you look into the terrified eyes of someone shaking and gripping your hand for dear life, and remember how you used to hold her hand walking home from school when you were 13 and they were 9.
Finally, one Tuesday afternoon while sobbing “I just want my mom” into my shoulder… I told her to go. Go. Go, go, go, go, go! “Go see your mother!” Since she had no money, I offered to fill her gas tank for her. She went on to say that she would return in a couple of days and that she would see if she could get some money and that….
“No. No. You have to go. You have to go and you have to stay gone.” That is not exactly what I said, but I believe the subtext was delivered just as well.
While forcibly removing her from my home wasn’t exactly the best thing for our current relationship, it was the best thing ultimately. I can’t speak for Leslie, but this was a growing experience for me. A woman needs to know when to say enough is enough. And I certainly wasn’t helping her grow up by coddling her and telling her it was all alright when it clearly wasn’t. And with time, we’ll have our old relationship back. We’ll get back to where we were. We have to. It’s genetics. It’s science. We taught grandma to Dougie and create more private jokes every day. That time just isn’t the immediate present.
But, I still think I did the right thing.