Emergency contacts are like fat pants. You hope that you never have to use them, but it feels good just knowing that they’re there.
For most people, the Emergency Contact blank is a no-brainer: husband, wife, parent, roomie. There are people who are obvious choices. But, nothing can feel more isolating than the realization that there is no obvious choice for the role of Who I trust to run my life if ever in a coma, or Hey, just had this embarrassing injury could you swing by my apartment, feed the cat, and grab me a few extra pairs of granny panties?
Last week, I was asked to designate Emergency Contacts for the first time in a few years. It was an uncomfortable exercise in social and personal evaluation — I had no idea who to write, and no idea who would want to be written.
The Non-Obvious Choice #1: Significant Other.
I’m not married, but have dated someone for ~2 years. We are close, and I trust him to be there, yet staring at that form I… Hesitated. What if we broke up? What if we were in a fight? Whether a reflection on him, myself, or our relationship, it’s probably not good to question if the person you love (and presumably loves you) would ever let petty disputes take precedence in a crisis.
Then, Non-Obvious Choice(s) #2: Family.
Usually my dad is my first go-to Emergency Contact, a tradition started in college. I weighed my parents’ (theoretical) respective responses to a call like, “Hi, your daughter has alcohol poisoning and puked on the school mascot. That’ll be $10,000 for costume cleaning. ” and Dear old Dad won out for least-likely-to-freak-into-an-aneurysm. (I also justified it with the fact that he’s a physician — If someone was gunning for an experimental treatment option to break my catatonia, at least he’d have an educated opinion on Yea or Nay.)
This time, though, again I…hesitated.
My parents recently split, now officially divorced after 31 years. Outwardly I’ve tried to embrace the idea of silver linings and “not/meant to be,” but deep down, held out some hope that they’d rekindle the romance in the end. Any and all of that hope died, however, when my father began dating promptly after the divorce. The ink was barely dry on his signature, my first indication that he’s different now than he’s ever been. He’s …giddy? Unpredictable? Maybe it’s the new woman, or just the prospect of starting over with a clean slate, but he’s different in a way that I don’t understand. (It doesn’t help that she’s a physical trainer, multi-time divorcee, and has the crazy eyes.) I hear this type of 180 is typical in divorced men (or even women) over 50, but the situation has caused a rift between us.
There’s also my brother, of course, the wonderful man that he is, but that wonderful man has his hands full with a wife, kids, and household pets. Technically, my sister-in-law could make the list, but she’s Type A to the point where she’d probably pull the plug for the sake of efficiency. So, my mom’s the new emergency contact of choice.
Non-obvious choice #3: Friends.
When it comes to friends…
I love them. I trust them. But, I don’t know how adults should evaluate the closeness of their friendship.
Is it time spent? My closest friend lives hours away, and we only get real face-time every few months.
Is it secrets shared? My college roommate and co-conspirator is now engaged and off the radar. She’s the only thing standing between me and a squeaky clean political career, but I love that someone knows all my dirt — and vice versa.
Is it common interest? My other best pal is going through her own tumultuous period, between the married men, career questions, first foray into cocaine, etc. You know. The usual.
They’re all wonderful but there is no longer a go-to, because we are all juggling.
In the end, I don’t feel alone, but I do feel uncertain. Even more so knowing that a few blanks on a form was all it took to drive this feeling home.