One of the benefits of attending a women's college was that, just as I was starting to have sex, I was also given an infinite number of resources to ensure that the sex I was having was safe. If I didn't feel comfortable seeking out advice at the women's health center, I could head on over to the Well-Woman offices where any number of large-breasted lesbians would cheerfully help me practice putting condoms on cucumbers.
In my first semester alone, I learned that:
1."Taste the rainbow of fruit flavor" is a phrase appropriate for both Skittles and dental dams.
2. The morning-after pill makes you puke so much that you may actually vow--next time--to just take your chances on single motherhood.
3. That anyone who tells you lightly that they "Totally just had [their] first AIDS test, like...gosh? I don't know? Like a week or two ago?" is absolutely lying. Because, I don't care who you are, that kind of stress is memorable.
Bottom line: the word that best describes my early sex life is, "Informed."
Additionally, no picture of my sexual education in college would be complete without also mentioning my First-Year roommate. The word that best describes her early sex life is, "Paranoid."
After living with her for two years, I learned:
1. The real first names of every volunteer at The Herpes Helpline.
2. That there is little in the world more frightening in a soul-freezing way than the photographs in the STD section of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," and anyone looking for an awesome Halloween costume should check out p.467.
3. That, in women, the symptoms for things that are harmless and trivial happen to be exactly the same as the symptoms for things that can rot your guts from the inside out and make you go blind and crazy.
4. And, lastly, that living with someone who is constantly certain that she's going crazy and blind is about as fun as it sounds. (Really. Fucking. Fun. I love you, T.)
Out of these auspicious beginnings, then, grew my current responsible and empowering (and at times fucking freaked out and paranoid) health-care practices. Annual Ob-Gyn exams. Boxes of condoms under my bed (or under the sweaters in my closet if my mom is visiting). Lube in the bathroom drawer. And a morning-after pill safely tucked beside my underwear in case of emergency. All currently there in their places, taunting me with my own extreme preparedness--even though at this rate I may never again actually HAVE sex.
So, that is why I was very surprised when, during the final weeks of our relationship, David expressed a concern.
Because I am at work right now and can't bring myself to type the real words needed to describe this situation, I will use euphemisms. We will say, for the sake of my job-security (such as it is), that David had a polka-dot on his puffalump.
"A polka-dot on your puffalump?" I asked. "Are you sure?"
This was the first time that anything like this had ever happened to me, and as you might expect, I was a little concerned. But, as per my usual, I handled it with fantastic calm and fortitude: I cried hysterically and apologized for killing him with my foul bodily juices.
But, then, when I actually saw the polka-dot on his puffalump, I immediately stopped crying and started hitting him. Because it. Was. NOTHING. It was a freckle, a zit, a paper cut, a bug bite. Not a p. 467. Not even a p. 254. Nothing.
And, though he also expressed his own certainty at its nothingness, he then proceeded to go to TWO doctors--making sure not to "bias" their opinions by telling them about the other's prognoses. And even when both
doctors agreed with me and insisted that this polka-dot was a medical non-issue, David requested that they give him a series of tests.
One refused because he was so certain David was fine. The other doctor grudgingly administered the test. And, so, for two weeks, we waited for the results.
You should understand "waited" to mean: OH MY GOD WE'RE BOTH GONNA GO BLIND AND CRAZY!!!!
Only more dramatic.
But, at long last, the results came in and we were fine
. David's puffalump was without polka-dot.
Pfshew. Relief! Joy! Rapture!
"But," David said, "Wait! What if there's a polka-dot on your
My first reaction: Whoa, there buddy! My puffalump is a Seven Sister Puffalump. There is a TEAM of highly-trained people taking care of my puffalump, making sure that it is manicured and polka-dot free.
My second reaction: I had tests for everything less than sixty days ago. There's no way anything is wrong with me.
"But," David said, "Did you get tested for Sparkling Glittery Rainbow Disease?"
"Huh," I say, "I thought only toothless sailor-whores from the 1500's got Sparkling Glittery Rainbow Disease. I'm not sure. I don't think I did get tested for that."
"Hi, Dr. G? When I came in in June, did you test me for Sparkling Glittery Rainbow Disease?"
"Why, no, Kathryn. We did not. Only toothless sailor-whores from the 1500's get that particular disease. Sounds like someone thinks you're a dirty slut."
"Huh. Well, thanks Dr. G. But, just to be sure, I'm gonna come in and we should test me for every kind of STD that has ever existed since the beginning of Time. If a sexually-active stegasaurus could get it, I want you to test me for it."
My third reaction: OH MY GOD, I HAVE SOME PRE-HISTORIC FORM OF SPARKLY GLITTERY RAINBOW DISEASE AND I'M GOING TO GO BLIND AND CRAZY!!!!!
Ten white-knuckled days later, however, my fears were proven wrong. I did NOT have any sort of Rainbow Disease, sparkly or otherwise. Not only that, but my tests came back so free of all kinds of Rainbow Diseases, that I believe the official medical term for me is: Pure As The Driven Snow
David, however, was not so sure.
"What if it was a false negative?" he asked.
"Huh," I say. "I'm not so great at math, but you'd think it'd be statistically improbable that BOTH of your tests AND my test would have--all three of them--come back as false negatives."
"But--," he said.
It was true. What if my powers of logical reasoning were being destroyed because I WAS GOING BLIND AND CRAZY?????????
"Hi, Dr. G?" I ask. "Is it possible that both of my boyfriend's tests AND my tests gave us false negatives?"
"Well, not really, Kathryn. I'd give that a chance of about one in three trillion. In fact, you'd have more luck winning the lottery. Sounds like someone thinks you're a dirty slut."
"Huh. Thanks, Dr. G."
"Well," I say to David, "I think we really can trust what our doctors--all three of them--are saying. I think we're OK."
"I'm not so sure," he replies. "I think I'll go back in three months and then in another six. Just to make sure."
"Well. Ok," I say.
What I think is: "Huh. My boyfriend thinks that I am a dirty slut."
It continued like this for the next several days. Every time we spoke--contrary to all medical evidence--David expressed a sort of frantic worry about the polka-dot on his puffalump.
It was horrible. Nothing I could say made him feel better. No matter how many times I recounted the doctor's words, the panicked note never left his voice.
Finally, it became undeniably clear; the issue was psychological, not physical.
Now, I'm no psychiatrist, but this was about--I don't know? His fear of commitment. His need to leave the relationship, coupled with his inability to actually break-up with me? The fact that his mother obsessively cleaned his bathroom when he was little? Who knows. But, he had fixated on this thing--this impossible, illogical thing--and was refusing to let it go.
So, I broke up with him. (My
mom let me keep my bathroom as dirty or clean as I wanted it. Thanks mom. It's because of you that I don't have imaginary polka-dots on my puffalump.)
Well. THAT IS WHY (In answer to the question that M posed this morning via email) I could not believe my fucking ears, when, on the phone last night--in the middle of our otherwise nice conversation--David said to me:
"There's another polka-dot on my puffalump. And I went in again to have it tested, and the test came back fine, but I still just think it's weird, you know? And I've been thinking of anything I've been doing differently. You know. New detergent. Soap. And the only thing I can think of is that I bought dress shirts in Hong Kong. And, if I tuck them in, they hit my puffalump right where the polka-dot is. But I don't know. Have you been to the doctor recently?"
Given the fact that there is no medical way that I could have any sort of Human Rainbow Disease, do you think this is his way of telling me that he cheated on me with a dress shirt from Hong Kong?