Hook Up – What Does It Mean?


... even Elmo was surprised!


As I prepped for the blog post this week I found myself astonished. I’m not often ASTONISHED, and even more seldom “at a loss for words”. After all, I’m a motor mouth. I was going to blog about “Hook Up Day”, but started noticing the phrase in odd situations and places. It didn’t take me very long to discover that “hook up” to me meant something entirely different to other people.

I heard the phrase “hook up” on a BONES episode that my husband TIVO’d for us to watch. In the episode… it was very clear that “hook up” meant to meet for the purpose of having sex. I’m fairly sure my mouth dropped open. As a matter of fact – I’m certain. My husband turned to me and said, “Your mouth is hanging open! What’s up?”

With “fear and trembling” I tentatively managed to squeak out, “Ummm… what does HOOK UP mean?”

My husband could tell the response was important so he properly managed to hide a grin and look serious as he responded, “You mean in this show? It means meeting up to have sex”.

Seeing all my preparation for the post swirling around an empty, flushing commode in a colorful mental image, I stammered out, “Well… well… can it mean anything ELSE?”

Survey SAYS…

According to my 20-year-old daughter the phrase can mean a number of things. Yup, it can mean “sex”, but most of the time when she hears it is when it means other things. After all (she assured me) she doesn’t hang out with people that go around having casual sex. She informed me that “hook up” can mean to just meet up with someone… an arranged meeting.

My 19-year-old son said that he has only heard it in the entire phrase of “let’s hook up later and…” (fill in the blank). He insisted (and rightly so being that he was talking to ME) that it never meant sex in the crowd he hung out with at school.

I asked a “30-something” friend her opinion and she said that she has only heard the context of “hook up” meaning sex if you were actually talking about the “crowd” that engages in casual sex. “For the rest of the planet”, she grinned and explained, “it simply means to get together with someone!”

Well WHEW. But…

Isn’t it Interesting?

… how interesting is it that who you ARE may change the meaning of a phrase for you? Prior to losing my hearing, “hook up” may have only meant that we were getting our telephone or cable “hooked up”. Now that I identify with the “hearing again” crowd, the phrase means something much more profound. I hear some CI recipients call their special day – “activation day”, but I still hear “Hook Up Day” a great deal. One “ol-timer” recipient may ask a newbie, “When is your HOOK UP day?”

My own “hook up” story can be found here. I never tire of watching it as I am very aware of all the emotions flooding through my body as I sat there being “hooked up”. My eyes open and stare in amazement as I hear from my left ear for the first time in decades. One of my students told me last week:

“Mrs. Portis, you are so cute when you hear something because you turn your head and look really thoughtful with your eyes SO BIG with surprise!”

I’m not sure I like the description of being “so cute” (grin), but am not at all shocked to hear I LOOK as surprised as I feel when I hear something out of the ordinary. Sometimes it is hard to not make a big deal about it. Making a big deal about it may bring embarrassment to someone else. Examples?

1. One week a student asked to be excused to go to the bathroom. We are in a separate building from the main structure and so we have our own bathroom. When the student was finished I heard the toilet flush from the other room. I paused (and know my eyes got very big) and had trouble continuing with my lecture without missing a beat. I came very close to exclaiming to the student as he re-entered the classroom, “I’m so excited! I just heard you flush the toilet!”

2. Standing talking to the mother of one of my students (near lunch hour), I distinctly heard her stomach growl. Her face pinkened just a bit, but she continued on as if nothing happened. It was all I could do to not throw my arms around her and shout, “I heard your stomach growl! Yipeee!”

When a cochlear implant recipient is activated for the first time (and all subsequent mappings), the individual is literally HOOKED up to the computer. The audiologist can test various electrodes, programs, and “tweak” settings to maximize and individualize the processor to the person. As the result of being a part of a wonderful network of “hearing again” people, I have learned that not everyone has a wonderful Hook Up day. Sometimes it is frustrating… even disappointing.

Various causes of hearing loss, number of years the individual was without sound, and concurrent health factors can influence Hook Up day. What I love, however, is that it always gets BETTER. Those who may have a very disappointing Hook Up Day, eventually (and with a lot of hard work and aural rehab) get to where they are very happy with the results. I have met very few who regret getting a cochlear implant. Much more frequently the “hearing again” people I meet only wish they had done it sooner.

I have been in contact with numerous “hearing again” people who have only recently been Hooked Up. The first weeks and months can be very frustrating. Especially for those who have some memory of sound and are disappointed that it isn’t perfect hearing… right away… just exactly as we remember. The robotic squeals and whistles, “tin-like” voices and mechanical whirring can be very disappointing at first! I always encourage people to 1) don’t ever miss a mapping, 2) insist on 3 -4 visits the first month, and 3) take lots of notes so that you can describe for your audiologist exactly what you hear.

Identifying with a “Crowd”

Isn’t it interesting how we identify with a culture group, or crowd of people that are like us? Perhaps you are into “going green”,  “breast cancer awareness”, some specific disability group, religious identification, or political affiliation. A group may have a specific language and use of words that others outside the group do not use in the same manner. I think these words, phrases and language help to define the group in many ways. If you are “hearing again”, the phrase “hook up day” is simply a natural default to the day in which a cochlear implant was activated. What are some of your “default” phrases that are indicative of a culture group or identification that you have? We all have them!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

We’ll Never Be the Same

“observe a leaf falling from on high…listen to the sounds it makes as it touches branches on the the way down…then the sound of landing. I didn’t realize until today that I can do that. I cried. Good thing no one was there. 🙂

A friend of mine penned the above words in her “status message” on Facebook, yesterday. Honestly? When I read the words, goosebumps erupted on my arms and neck and I felt an overwhelming emotion well up in my chest. I sat at my desk and “cried like a baby” if you must know. Deep, wrenching sobs that shook my entire body and caused my assistance dog to lay her head on my knee and look imploring up at me … asking to “help” as best she could.


Unless you’ve lost something and regained it through surgery, rehab, hard work, and perseverance you could never understand completely. When an individual chooses to be surgically implanted with cochlear bionics, they can only do so after their “natural hearing” has reached a point that other assistive devices provide little help. Many resign themselves to not ever hearing again “this side of Heaven”. To regain that and as an added benefit, the ability to interact and communicate with others, strengthening old relationships or forging new ones, repairing self-confidence and esteem, all “sweeten the deal” and make the decision even more lifechanging. For some, aural rehab goes very quickly, while for others that first year can be frustrating and challenging. In the end, we’ll never be the same. We will never take for granted our hearing and the ability to listen to the sounds around us. One becomes a part of a “family” of other folks who are “hearing again” as well. We get it. We understand. We’ll never be the same.

The Internet has changed our world, but there are some unheralded benefits of having the Internet. It has provided a connection for people with disabilities, health concerns, or chronic illness. Support groups and message boards exist for every type of health issue.

Those with the invisible illness/disability of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome are connected to others who live with the knowledge that today things might be pretty good – but tomorrow you may be bedridden. Those with chronic, hard-to-explain pain disorders can communicate with others who live the same life and share the burdens and triumphs of living with a disease that WILL NOT squelch their inner spirit.

Those who have a loved one that has survived a traumatic brain injury can find others who “miss the person they once loved” and are “learning to love the person left behind”. They can share successes and set-backs, fashioning relationships with other parents, spouses and loved ones who understand because they LIVE IT.

Individuals who live with mental illness can connect with others who understand the stigma and prejudices. They can connect with others who are SURVIVORS.

People (finally) diagnosed with the new epidemic of Lyme disease can find a community of people who have learned how to talk to their doctors, discuss holistic practices that provide relief, discover medications and lifestyle changes that can make a difference in the number of recurring flares, and how to remain positive and proactive in living with the illness.

I have a cousin in the latter stages of treatment for breast cancer. Her “voice” has changed throughout this process and I can tell by reading her penned words that she has a new fascination, anticipation and appreciation for life. She will never be the same.

I think we are slow to recognize how hardship, tragedy, trials, and adversity can provide the surprising and unexpected benefit of a permanent change in hearts, minds, and bodies. For many of us our very foundation has been rocked and rebuilt. Life is different. Sweeter.

We’ll never be the same.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Walking in the Autumn

One thing I love about cooler temperatures, is that when “Chloe takes me for a walk” I can do so – HEARING. I’ll probably get “wrung out to dry” for this, but I do not usually exercise with my CI processor on my head. It’s not that I CANNOT, but more about a choice I made. I know people who run races with their cochlear implant! When I use to go to the gym, I would lift weights with my CI and my hearing “intact”. I don’t have a gym membership anymore, so my primary means of exercise is walking.

This summer I made the choice to walk in the cool of the evening without my cochlear implant. It is “wicked hot” here in Maryland on summer evenings, and I tend to perspire a lot. Oh gee… that’s stretching it a bit, because I honestly? I sweat! I walk “very fast”, much to the delight of my beloved assistance hound. It’s just short of a “jog” and because I move at a pretty good clip, I tend to perspire a great deal. I got tired of having to stick my CI in the “Dry ‘n Store” when I got home. After all, when I arrive back home I’m walking into a house full of people I care about. I want to hear them and interact with them. That doesn’t really happen if I have to go “deaf” upon my return from a walk!

However, it looks like cooler temperatures are here to stay for the season. (Hope I don’t jinx that!). One thing I love about the fall, winter, and early spring is being able to walk with my CI on and “working” since I do not perspire as much. It’s especially fun when walking for the first time in a long time WITH SOUND. I had forgotten that Chloe’s feet can actually be heard on the sidewalk. The sound of the breeze in the branches above the sidewalk sounds like music to these ears! Squirrels scamper about and “fuss at me” from lower branches of the trees as I pass. Those dogs we always see in fenced yards that either greet with a friendly bark and wag, or snarl/bark with a territorial warning, each have a unique sound, tone and “voice”!

I can hear the leaves skitter on the sidewalk in front of me as the breeze picks a few up and scatters them ahead. I can hear the distant traffic, occasional siren, or overhead jet… these peripheral sounds that make up the noisy world in which we live. Some of the “pressure is off” in walking with sound. I don’t have to concentrate so intently on the direction of Chloe’s attention, or worry about unheard traffic as I cross streets.

I think Chloe enjoys our walks more because I actually talk to her more. Isn’t that strange? I wonder why my voice tends to go SILENT when I cannot hear? I’m much more “chatty” as we walk along when I can hear the world around us. I realized I must talk infrequently when I took note that Chloe would turn her head to look at me. I realized she was startled to hear me talk! (I’ll have to make a better effort next summer of talking even when ‘deaf’)

In anticipation of winter, I look forward to hearing my boots on icy sidewalks and the sound of skeletal branches click-clacking in the cold wind!

Seasons of Life

Re-adjusting to hearing while walking at night brought a reminder of a parallel I’m currently experiencing. I’m at a “new place” in my life. At the age of 44, I have a child living on a college campus away from home. The “baby’ of our family is almost twenty and as a young man has really begun asserting some independence. (This is a good thing… though hard to adjust to not being needed like I was!) I’m in my last semester of school and feel the pressure of finding more part-time work come January!

It’s funny how different seasons in life we may “hear” differently. Specifically in hearing God, this often changes depending on the season of life one finds themselves living. At times, hearing Him is by choice… after all, He’s never the One who “leaves” or temporarily disconnects with us. Much like the choice to deliberately not wear my CI, I can choose to disconnect with God. It has happened in times of anger, depression, and even when everything was going “swell”.

It’s not that I’m coming back to the place of a LOUDER relationship with God. However, this season of my life I have found that I am having to lean more heavily on Him and on the power of our relationship. I guess you could say that right now, I really need God in my life… in an ever-present, constant sort of “coil connected to my head” kind of way! I have numerous little “worries” and concerns that seem to weigh heavily on my heart and mind. It’s just a season I’m going through. I’m thankful I’ve deliberately and consciously chosen to listen more carefully to God during this time.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal