I met a man during my second year of college. He was a tall, blonde, older man, and knew all the right things to say. I was a virgin. I had been waiting for the right person to share something so intimate with and was proud of that.
When I realized what direction our relationship was heading, I didn’t really know what to do, or where to turn. I wanted to have sex with him, and I wanted to go on the pill because I was sure he wasn’t with anyone else. He did love me after all. The pill would be so much more convenient and seemed like a lot more fun than condoms.
I was far away from home, and our small clinic at college did not offer anything, not even condoms, and so my friend suggested Planned Parenthood one night while we were drinking wine and watching Friends in her dorm room. It was 1994, and I had never heard of Planned Parenthood, but she assured me it would be anonymous and I would be able to afford it. They would give me the help I needed, no questions asked. And to this day, 23 years later, I still think about something: My life could have taken a very different turn if I hadn’t paid them a visit the very next day.
I can sit here and honestly say had it not been for such a safe, secure, affordable option, I would have had sex with him anyway. At 19, I was still a teenager, and while I had heard it all, sat through health classes, and talked to friends, I still had the mindset “It won’t happen to me. I won’t get pregnant, I won’t get an STD. We don’t have to use protection every time.” Those thoughts, paired with living in a setting where drinking and bad decisions are considered a sport, mean I could have very easily gotten pregnant or contracted something.
We all know it only takes one time; when we are younger, we just don’t want to believe it, especially on a night where you are feeling wild, crazy, in love, and don’t care about the consequences because they are so far from your mind. It doesn’t matter who waited or who had one night stands on the regular. Most of us thought we were in control and knew what we were doing. It isn’t until we grow up quite a bit more that we realize the risks we were taking. Hindsight.
I had an open relationship with my mom about sex and boys, but it wasn’t enough. I was caught between being an adult and a child, and I was not secure enough to go home for Thanksgiving and blurt out, “Hey, Ma, can you take me to the gynecologist? I want to go on the pill.” I didn’t want my mother involved, nor did I feel comfortable going to our family doctor. Being a very poor college student, I didn’t have the funds to take myself to the local gynecologist either, sure I was still covered by my parent’s insurance, but had I gone and used my insurance card, they would have known. I really didn’t want them to know.
When I found out a few months later that he was screwing around with another girl, I was devastated, yes, but I was more upset when I noticed blood in my urine. I was petrified, but I knew where to go for help. When I walked into Planed Parenthood this time, they remembered me. They were kind. They knew what they were doing. If it wasn’t for my previous experience with them, I would have suffered in silence and shame.
I only had a mild kidney infection, and after my appointment, they didn’t insist I renew my prescription for pills, but instead a woman named Kelly sat down with me and said,”If you are still wanting to be intimate with him, that is your choice. But you really need to use condoms. They will protect you from STDs. Here, take as many as you need, and come back and get more when you run out.” She slid a huge bowl full in my direction, and I took a handful, not for him, but for my next relationship.
I wanted to feel in control. I didn’t want to ask my next partner if they had a condom, and I also didn’t want to have to worry about contracting a sexually transmitted diseases. I wanted to say, “Here’s a condom. That’s the only way this is happening.”
Planned Parenthood gave me the confidence to take my sexual health into my own hands without judgment, and I walked out of there without an ounce of shame. I felt taken care of. And when my sister came to me when she was in college and had a very scary situation on her hands that she wanted to keep between us, I knew exactly where to take her.