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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

The story of how he wound up in a dangerous compound—and how he escaped

Two vintage photographs of my dad and his sisters

I was so young when my dad started telling me his cult stories that I don’t think I even knew what a cult was. In a way, I still don’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how unique it was to have a father who regaled his young daughter with vivid narratives from his early life, much less one who survived an adolescence as gripping and gut-wrenching as his.

Now 65, my dad doesn’t look like the stereotype of a traumatized ex-cultist who came of age under the baleful reign of a charismatic leader. Today, Dr…

The mental calculations helping me make sense of my grief

Photo: Artur Debat / Getty Images

I think I knew she was dead before I knew she was dead. But the human mind is a stretchy and abstract thing when confronted with particular combinations of variables.

9:00 Saturday night, early January: My friend’s husband calls. She is “missing.” She has been missing for about 21 hours. We begin the math: They won’t look for her until it’s been 24 hours. He’ll wait three more hours to call. Could I try to contact her?

I text her and then stare at my phone, waiting for the message to flip from “delivered” to “read,” because she always uses…

This Is Us

Culture taught me to pursue love, then sex, then marriage — but that formula has never worked for me

Photo: Zen Rial / Getty Images

I don’t remember the first time I said “I love you” to a partner. I know it was my first boyfriend, but I have no memory of saying it to him. I also have no memory of him saying it to me, though I’m sure he did.

I’m not sure I actually loved him. He pursued me and I surrendered. No one had ever taught me that it was okay to say no to something I didn’t want — not to dating and not to sex. So we dated and somehow, over time, I came to… what? Did I love…

Humans 101

A guide to saying the quiet part loud

Illustration: Benjavisa/Getty Images

“Never be afraid of the conversations you’re having. Be afraid of the conversations you’re not having.” — Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

Have you ever struggled with saying what’s really on your mind? We all do. When we’re not being fully honest with others, it’s often because we:

  • Don’t want to be rejected.
  • Don’t want to upset the other person or damage our relationship with them.
  • Don’t want the conversation to get out of control.
  • Don’t know how to raise a difficult issue skillfully.

However, problems occur when you don’t speak honestly:

  • You suffer because you bottle up unexpressed thoughts and…

Lived Through This

Sometimes our bodies are best left alone

Photo: Rizky Panuntun / Getty Images

For several years in my twenties, the main thing I did was itch. And scratch.

The “itch cycle,” they call it. Irritants cross the skin barrier, causing the sensitization of immune cells. When you scratch, your nails damage the surface barrier of the skin, allowing more allergens to enter. And thus more itching. And scratching. And itching again. This is why it’s a cycle.

As an affliction, itching seems so trivial. A minor irritation to the skin. It isn’t a broken leg or cancer. Those are ailments you can deploy surgeons and research toward. No one calls 911 over an…

A brief romantic ode to the Garden State

The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”
The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”

Let me tell you why I’m like this. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s fine — you don’t know me, and I don’t expect you ever will. But I know me, and I know what I’m like, and now you’re going to know, a little bit, kinda. This is a story about a state the size of a postage stamp, wedged between New York, Pennsylvania, whatever’s south of Cape May, and the beautiful goddamn Atlantic Fucking Ocean. This is a story about New Jersey and me, and maybe you, if you’re lucky enough to be from here, too.

Humans 101

It’s one of our most innate and reliable guides

“Would you take a pill that removed your boredom forever?”

I almost said “yes.” Boredom is excruciating. Doing nothing — meditating, sunbathing, kicking down the cobblestones — is lovely. Boredom is an unscratchable itch layered on top of that glorious nothing. Who needs that?

I almost said “yes,” but I know the trickery of thought experiments. I hedged: “Yes, if it doesn’t change anything else about my life.”

“Oh, but that’s the point. What do you think it would change?”

Last summer, I wanted to paint this gorgeous view:

As usual before starting a landscape, I tallied the things I…

This Is Us

How would it feel to be single for the rest of my life?

Photo: fancy.yan / Getty Images

What would happen if I’m single for the rest of my life? Is it possible that somehow, I might not meet someone who feels compatible? Is it possible that I might not like someone as much as they like me, or vice versa? That there’s just not someone who would be a good fit?

What would it be like if I lived alone for the rest of my life? Would it become harder for me to be flexible and accommodating of other’s needs? Would I ever get over those moments of panic when I feel a major illness coming on…

Humans 101

Or, what I learned from 100 people over 50

Benjavisa / Getty Images

‘Wisdom comes with age’ is not just an aphorism. Life experience is one of our greatest teachers. As we move through life, we accumulate wisdom about who we are, what’s really important, and how we can live productively and happily.

With this in mind, I recently polled about 100 people, all over the age of 50, for advice on making the most of life. I studied their comments, looking for the particular mental attitude or belief underlying each one. …

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