The other day I got an e-mail from a woman who works for a local Planned Parenthood chapter, asking me to speak at their Christmas party. Me! While this might not seem exciting to you, for me it was on par with getting a pony under my tree and having my book jump to No. 1 on the Amazon best-seller list. (You know I have a book coming out, right? It's called How Not to Date, and it's available for preorder right now.)
Due to boring logistical issues, I can't make their party, but much like how I'm sure Oscar nominees feel, it was enough just to be asked to speak by such a fine institution.
My first experience with Planned Parenthood came just after I'd lost my virginity at age 17. I hadn't used birth control and so—having come up the Catholic way—I was certain I was pregnant. Because that's what happened to girls who had premarital sex—they got knocked up. (I wasn't worried about disease because we were both virgins.)
It wasn't like I was ill-informed. My school system had a fairly comprehensive sex-ed curriculum. Of course most of it consisted of slideshows featuring open sores, faces half eaten away, and pus-riddled genitalia..."Kids, this is what happens when you contract gonorrhea." Never mind that penicillin had rendered most of these diseases curable; I think Ms. Kelly derived a certain pleasure from skeeving her class full of brats.
So while I knew I should use condoms or some other form of birth control, I was a dumb ass and didn't. It's one of the few times in my life I made that mistake.
What's a randy yet responsible teenager to do? It wasn't like I could talk to my mom. Whenever the topic of premarital sex arose, she'd get hysterical and shriek, "Whatever you do, just don't have an abortion!!!! I'll raise the baaaaaaby!" Then she would call me a slut. Oddly enough, my mother was also convinced I had a tattoo years before I ever got one, but that's a whole other story.
Anyhoo, I looked up the nearest Planned Parenthood and made an appointment for my very first pelvic exam. Thankfully, it turned out God wasn't punishing me with a pregnancy. I was just one of those women whose periods never come when they're supposed to. The docs examined my freshly devirginated cooter, did the usual tests, and gave me several packets of birth control pills to guarantee my uterus remained a fetus-free zone.
My mother eventually found the pills during one of her monthly snooping sessions and so the accusations of "slut" got stepped up a bit. Slut or not, I remained grateful to the health practitioners who kept me from fucking up my young life.
My devotion was cemented two years later when I went to my family doctor after developing a funky vadge condition. She waited until I was in the stirrups to ask if I was a virgin.
"Um, no," was my answer. I started to get embarrassed.
"Are you married?" she continued.
"No," I mumbled, face turning red, cooter presumably going crimson.
"Engaged?" she barked.
"No," I whispered, pushing my knees together.
"Then what are you doing having sex?!" she hissed, holding the speculum like a weapon.
If it were now I'd proudly answer that I was obviously an unrepentant slut, but back then I was mortified. Without doing any tests, she announced I clearly had chlamydia (I didn't!) and warned me to quit sleeping around. She later left medicine to join the convent.
For years after that debacle, the nonjudgmental doctors at Planned Parenthood were my only health care providers. This year the organization is facing some real obstacles, with a congressional screwup forcing the price of birth control pills to rocket out of reach for low-income women and students. So during the season of giving, maybe think about throwing this fine organization a few bucks. You could be guaranteeing some young girl a much happier future.
Dating dilemmas? Write Dategirl at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104.