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Lori Day Headshot

The Loneliness of Being Female in 2012 America

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For weeks, I have been battered by my television and my computer. You all know what I'm talking about. I don't feel like regurgitating everything others have beautifully written or pasting in hyperlinks to articles about the hundreds of nefarious assaults on women going down in this country. You all know where they are coming from and what they mean.

I want to give voice to my loneliness. Yes there is anger, seething, boiling anger, and yes there is pain, deep and necrotic to my soul. The hardest part is the loneliness. One night I tried to explain it to my endlessly patient and empathetic new husband, but the words slipped away from me, like rabbits down their holes.

I'm ready to write about it.

What is at stake is women's ability to have authentic and freely chosen lives -- nothing less. Contemplating this within the context of my own life, completely free of denial and magical thinking, leaves me alone in the crowded room of fellow bloggers and colleagues and friends who share my pain and the pain of so many women, a pain that, late at night, becomes the solitary experience of each woman.

Let me tell you about my own privilege. I was a child when the older generation of women was fighting for the rights I enjoyed, and desperately needed, when I became an adult. I need to tell you how greatly I benefitted from my foremothers, because my life would have turned out profoundly different without them.

These are the gifts my first husband and I received through the rights that were fought for, and won, by feminists before I was born and during my early childhood:

• As a teenager, I was able to take birth control pills to ease my menstrual cramps, PMS and acne without anyone shaming me.
• As a young woman, I was able to take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy -- before I knew I was infertile.
• In my mid-20's, diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and polycystic ovarian disease, I was able to take birth control pills continuously, skipping the sugar pills, to suppress my symptoms, ease my chronic pain and prepare me for many different surgeries.
• As one of the early IVF pioneers back in the 80's, I was able and willing to attempt pregnancy and help doctors refine the techniques that would help many, many more women in the coming decades. IVF was seen as a beacon of hope for couples desiring a child, not an assault on the rights of zygotes.
• Because IVF was legal and, for the most part, safe at that time, I was able to eventually become pregnant after many years of trying.
• I now have an adult daughter whose life was created on a day of luck, St. Patrick's Day, 21 years ago. She would not be on this earth if certain politicians and religious zealots had their way, and I cannot imagine a life without my beloved daughter.
• Having lost my battle with endometriosis at age 32, and undergoing a complete hysterectomy, I have relied on continuous use of birth control pills as hormone replacement for the past 16 years. Other forms of hormone replacement resulted in enormous cysts in my abdomen -- birth control pills are my only option.
• Our adult daughter now takes birth control pills for the same reason I first used them. And thus one generation has come full circle.

I took all of this for granted.

When I think about the last 30 years of my life as a woman, I am humbled by the choices I had that other women in the world do not, and that are at risk of being stripped from American women today. When I think about an America where a woman like me would not have the treatment options and the blessings I had, I feel anticipatory survivor's guilt.

I sometimes write about anomie. It's one of my favorite words, acquired in college Sociology 101, describing the moral disconnect one can feel between his or her own personal values, and the values and laws thrust upon the individual by society. I am writhing in anomie these days, and it is a very lonely place.

That loneliness is exacerbated by the silent apathy of so many women (and men) who do not understand or approve of why I am screaming my agony through social media. They do not get why I am fighting through the white noise of the internet to cajole my personal and professional networks on Facebook, Twitter and the blogs where I write to broadcast and amplify my voice, just as I do that very same thing for others who are calling out to a variably engaged/indifferent/antagonistic panoply of human beings who either do or don't care that women have essential human rights. In these moments of screaming, I am wrestling with my loneliness, beating it back, smothering it.

My favorite American author, David Foster Wallace, once said that writing "is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved." I'm working on it, and this is my way. Are you lonely too?

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