Happy birth control day

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There’s this thing that I know about from work. I’m breaking my almost a decade’s long avoidance of writing anything related to work. Although, the connection is, I hope, tangential enough with the good will outweighing my fear of big brother.

It should also be mentioned I now work at a place in which the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and even a group of women swapping stories about their abortions are all allies. I haven’t polished my resume to get those choice gigs at Hobby Lobby or the Catholic Diocese, despite my obvious qualifications.

So, far from my old job and the shadows of Boston, here I go.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has a thing going on to thank birth control. Like almost everyone with a uterus, it resonates, because I know the birds and the bees and that the stork doesn’t bring babies.

To be fair, I didn’t have real sex education in school as a kid, and my mother never really gave me the straight skinny, and my 50-year-old uterus the doctors assure me is probably not at risk of occupation. But, with my memory of things past, and a swell exhibit at Boston’s Science Museum that my aunt took me to somewhere during the 70s, I’m gonna try to hype the cause.

One of my head-scratchingest moments from my current place of employment was around a very committed and truly feminist leaning co-worker, who is also chockfull of Y chromosomes and gender privilege. He might be the most committed person I have ever met on the issue of choice among men, women, and all other currently recognized genders, bar none.

Still and all, he had never lived the life of a young woman and, I dare guess, probably didn’t go to the same types of parties I went to back in the day.

Statistics show the U.S. leads the developed world in teen pregnancies. So, our country is newsworthy across the Atlantic, including links to detailed explanations of our crazy foreign ways, like this one.

By the way, how fucking unfair is it that birth control is finally free right about when my pre-menopausal body is saying “whatever.” I could have used that extra cash flow some nights when beer money was low and CVS raised the price on contraceptive sponges.

Hell, when they went off the market, sponge-worthy was not just a Seinfeld episode.

Anyway, back to the point and the head scratching. My coworker couldn’t quite get over or understand that while teen pregnancy is definitely going in numbers, a good thing for our nation, unwanted pregnancies among 20-somethings remains at the top of the charts and rising.

For better or worse, I can understand it. I didn’t just see the movie, my friends and I, back a quarter of a century ago, were living it. Most of the time, everyone tried to do her level best to stay ahead of ovulation and use anything and everything they could. But, life, as John Lennon may not have been the first to say, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Condoms break, people forget, passion and illicit substances trick your brain into magical thinking. Many of my friends and myself held each other and held each others’ hands on trips to clinics or the drug store to find out if a night of fun had resulted into cells dividing inside our young bodies.

Many of us were, as we would all sigh and say, “lucky.” Sometimes we weren’t. I know of both abortions and babies that were part of those years of our lives.

We fought about it, cried about it, and shared a lot of wine. I had a long, long feud over a friend’s crazy boyfriend and too many sleepless nights worrying over her drugs and reckless behavior within our small, shared apartment.

In one of life’s cosmic gifts, though, I ran into her literally one of my last days in Boston before moving across the country. We talked, laughed and left each other with a hug of reconciliation to each other and our former not always well-played youth.

Today, I feel fortunate. I was always ambivalent about my own suitability or ability for motherhood. It’s very complicated and would require a long-winded and long-winding explanation from my own childhood to now as to why I never had a child of my own.

Suffice it to say the man that I finally, truly felt like I could spend the rest of my life beside, the man I finally consented to marry, came into my life rather late in the game. Also suffice it to say, that I had the wherewithal to not imagine something better with a baby among the rogues gallery that had come before M.

Other friends have married, divorced, stayed single, had children, haven’t had children, recognized a non-heterosexual lean, earned advanced degrees, wrote books, acted in films, were celibate, became celibate, and survived. A great number, I think, are living their own sort of happily ever after.

I consider myself one such lucky woman. And, I am grateful I was born into a time in which I really could choose.

If I never been born

I totally missed my usual Ides of March tribute to my dear, old Pat. If she had seen this March’s birthday, she would have been 83. She’s never that far from my thoughts, Pat, mostly when I’m doing something wacky.

Recently she’s been in my thoughts, because while we never specifically talked about birth control–hell I’m still waiting for someone to take me aside and explain the facts of life–I think she’d have much to say about Rick Santorum, the Catholic church and the country’s “progressive” conversations on contraception that will ensure we move back to circa 1956.

Seriously, the national dialog has backslid into a parallel universe where medicine hasn’t changed and women are just gals waiting on husbands to save them from spinsterhood or sluttiness.

For some reason, I flashed back over 30 years to a classic Pat moment of logic clashing with the status quo.

I’ve written before about a certain friend I had back from junior high to high school past college into adult life. For ease of reference, I’ll call her Sally Mae. Now old Sally Mae caused a great deal of friction between my mater and me. Pat never liked her, and I didnt really understand until I got all growed up and had problems of my own with her.

One of the ironic aspects of Sally Mae’s and my friendship was how her mother always thought of me as a bad influence. I was a special kind of bad influence as far as school kids go. I got pretty good grades in the highest level classes. At the time I didn’t swear or drink, and my biggest hobby was reading.

Still and all, Sally Mae’s Ma didn’t trust me. She didn’t cotton to my book learning. In retrospect, I also think she thought my vocabulary was kind of uppity, which was maybe understandable given that my 12-year-old self knew more words than her. She bristled like a wet cat one of the first times I was in their house and asked where there books were. I had never been in a house without any book shelves.

Non sequitur alert: I just thought of a downside of dating in the age of tablet computers. How the hell can you just someone new if their bookshelf is virtual? You’d never have the early warning of standing in an apartment and coming upon an entire collection of Ayn Rand.

In addition to distrusting my precocious self, Sally Mae’s Ma was suspicious of my mother, because she worked and by necessity left us alone some of the time. Not for very long, mind you, since Pat was a school teacher precisely because it let her be home when her kids were.

Like a few people in our town, I think Sally Mae’s mother would have been more comfortable if instead of raising us kids to be smart and take care of ourselves, Pat just found another husband and settled herself down.

Now when I look back at that time in my life, I realize that my mother probably didn’t dislike Sally Mae as much as our fights might have indicated otherwise. Nope, I think she just knew that the family of my bestest best friend was more conservative, more bigoted and more narrow than anyone I had known to date. And by god or by nagging, she had to try to protect me from my choice in friends.

All of this relates to the current state of women’s choice and contraception through one particular day, a day in which my mother came home from the grocery store spitting with rage. Pat was apoplectic. Purple with anger. All kinds of heated. She could barely sputter out the reason.

Pat had run into Sally Mae’s mother at the store. Over the aisles of canned goods and produce they had an interesting tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte.

Now getting back to my being a bad influence and my whole family being suspect, the ironic twist is how much trouble Sally Mae and her brothers were able to attract. Their mother worried about the evils in the outside world, but overlooked the demons under her roof. For example, her darling daughter used me as a foil to hide that at 15/16 she was dating a 20+ hippie with his own apartment and van. Her special friend was a friend of her oldest brother.

Today, at the age of 48, my oldest brother still wouldn’t let me date one of his friends, let alone spend the night at his apartment or drive around in his van.

At 19 one brother in Sally Mae’s family got his girlfriend pregnant.

A mother of three boys herself, Pat, in the grocery store aisles bumped into Sally Mae’s mom and offered her sympathy for the trouble in which the kids had found themselves. I wish I had a transcript of what went down after that, but I know Pat came home enraged.

What I do know is that Sally Mae’s mother brushed aside any notion of trouble and started talking about the upcoming wedding. And, Pat, logical, unconventional, and now I realize radical Pat, told her that they shouldn’t ruin their lives. They shouldn’t marry so young, because they “had to.” The kids had choices and as the adult, Sally Mae’s mother should know that and help them make the right choice.

Words were exchanged. Much more than that, I don’t know. I’m almost certain my mother’s sanity and morals were both brought into question.

The wedding happened. So did the inevitable divorce.

Thanks to my mother’s politics, or practicality, Sally Mae’s mother took a closer watch of me. Nonetheless, her daughter lost her virginity years before I did. (Cruelly and sadly, Sally Mae told stories about me, implying to our friends that I had done all of the things that were in fact her secrets. Who knows what she told her mother.)

Now, 30 years later or so, it’s stunning to me that this conversation is still happening. Instead of more choices, we have the same or less. And narrow-minded people still get away with calling women sluts.