PROVINCETOWN — I was making sandwiches at my market when I heard the news that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. I wanted to break down and cry, but there was chicken in the oven and there were slices of bread that required mayonnaise. As my mind spun, my coworker offered a way to shake the news off: “Oriana, take a minute, go outside. I got this.”
Instead, I took a shot of tequila and kept going. Except that I came close to tears each time a customer benignly asked me how my day was going. After the fourth or fifth such encounter it finally hit me: this is upsetting. I am upset, my coworkers are upset, and it is okay to be upset.
For the first time since I purchased the business, I shut the doors early and went home.
I grew up here on the Outer Cape. More specifically, I grew up in the Outer Cape’s service industry. Most of us here have worked at least one season as servers of one kind or another. But if you’re among the few deprived souls who have somehow avoided this character-building experience, you need to know that if there’s one thing it teaches you, it’s how to compartmentalize one’s rage.
This work teaches us that, when times get tough, you fake a smile and keep moving. Just keep swimming. “You think your world is ending? Well, sorry, Toots, but if that table of vacationers doesn’t get six piña coladas on the fly, you’ll see what the end of the world really looks like.”
There’s a certain numbness most of us develop to survive in this world. The way our ability to shelve our anger shapes our responses to reality may seem comical at times. But when it comes to this Supreme Court decision — and others that are going to affect the rest of our lives — I don’t want to feel numb. I want to stay angry. Because I want us to keep fighting.
I am scared. No — I am terrified. Since Friday, I’ve spent each night wondering what all this means, trying to figure out how to function in a society I am not an equal member of. I am looking at the bigger picture. This stripping of our rights may begin with abortion, but it is going to end someplace even darker.
But I am not just afraid: I am angry. I am angry that this legal decision will disproportionately affect the women who need our help the most. I am angry that my children will have fewer rights than me, fewer than their grandmother. And I am angry that we are expected to go on with our lives as if nothing has changed.
It is only reasonable to be angry. In fact, I encourage it. I am not advocating senseless rage or violence. I am defending the right to be upset, to be sad, to not be okay. Because, yes, we must keep swimming. But which direction we will go is up to us.
Oriana Conklin is the owner of the East End Market in Provincetown.