What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
My insurance covers one visit to the gynecologist per year. This is not helpful, because I have been to the see my gyno, who I have in my phone as “Vag 911,” five times in the past six months.
Why you might ask? Am I some cum-guzzling bar skank who constantly wakes up and realizes she raw-dogged it last night and needs to get tested? No. Mind you, I say “bar skank” with a wistful, envious sort of fashion like when I talk to my hot Brazilian yoga instructor about her fast metabolism. I don't own nearly enough shirts-masquerading-as-dresses to pull off the bar skank thing. Also I am too emotionally insecure for casual sex; my brain will detonate if you don't call me the next day. Still, the fact that I am not adventitious enough for casual sex does not slim my chances of getting some sort of crotch gremlin that multiplies if you get it wet or feed it after midnight! I know so many people in monogamous relationships who land STDs. One of my closest friends got chlamydia from the first guy she ever slept with. So I know that even though I don't frequent the Craigslist Casual Encounters section, my lady parts are still a wet hot breeding ground for all sorts of nasties.
The reason I visit my gyno more often than I get my period is because I have Vaginal Hyphochondriosis. I made that term up, but it's real. When it comes to general health concerns, I never ever want to go to the doctor. Once my hair was falling out and I still waited months to go to the doctor, who told me I had a severe B12 deficiency. I loathe the doctor and that horrible little finger prick test.
But I am constantly paranoid that my vagina is plotting against me and secretly housing a brothel full of crabs or genital warts just waiting to jump ship onto the sexparts of my adorable blue-eyed boyfriend. And so, I visit, call and email my gyno at any hint of trouble.
I once visited her twice in one week because I was SURE what turned out to be intense period cramps were actually chlamydia. I am the girl who cried herpes. Last week, I made an emergency call to my doctor from the bathroom at work. I've had so many “doctor's appointments” my boss probably thinks I am secretly undergoing chemotherapy. The receptionist knows me by now and scooted me into an “emergency” appointment slot and an hour later I was sitting in the stirrups.
“So what's the problem? Do you have another UTI? Yeast infection?” This past summer I had three UTIs in two months, because my cervix hates me and is located in a place that makes it susceptible. Also because when you have sloppy vodka-tonic-induced sex and don't pee afterward because you don't want to scuttle naked and barefoot into the grimey bathroom your boyfriend shares with 4 other people, well, your vagina gets real cranky. I tried all the natural jank first and let me tell you, my urinary tract is like a bridge troll when it comes to herbal remedies. YOU SHALL NOT PASS. Anyway, eventually I went on antibiotics and that gave me two yeast infections, back to back.
“No, I have a bump!” I shouted at the nurse, before leaning in to whisper “and it's angry...” That morning I had woken up to a red, painful raised cyst on the outside of my ladylips and ran around my apartment screaming HERPES, stopping momentarily to inspect myself with a hand-mirror. Repeat repeat repeat. I pointed to a swampy image of a vagina hanging on the wall that reminded me of an explicit diagram of a half-dissected frog in a high school bio room. “It's right there!” I told the nurse, pointing to the spot where my lump was lurking. The nurse made a note on her clipboard, which I was read “herpes” or “genital warts” or “hoe fo' sho',” and left the room.
My doctor came in, took one look at my bump which, had it been on my face would have clearly been a pimple, and said “Oh, Zoe, that's just an ingrown hair.” I asked her to please culture it anyway so that I could continue sleeping at night and stop slut-shaming my boyfriend when I get drunk. It's not his fault he is more attractive than me and has subsequently had a ton more one-night stands.
My doctor then went on to talk to me about contraception. I KNOW about contraception! I blog thrice weekly about sex and safe sex and contraception. But clearly, as I am constantly parading around her office with issues that I mostly fabricate myself, I am having some paranoia problems. I blame it on the fact that I am mostly Jewish, and although I don't do anything mildly religious, I am not impervious to that hand-wringing worrisome “Are you eating enough?” Jewish mother syndrome that, for some reason, my father -- not my mother -- seems to possess.
I told her that I often stay awake at night going over terrifying statistics, like that one where 1 in every 3 women has HPV. I think about every man and woman I have ever been with, then guestimate how many people they have been with, and then figure out how many people with HPV or some other STD I have come in contact with in the decade or so I've been sexually active. Have you ever done that? It's freakin' terrifying. I also admitted that the reason behind my paranoia of having an unhealthy saucepot, is the fear of getting cervical cancer -- which runs in my family -- or somehow messing up my dream of one day having my own paranoid, badly adjusted children with daddy issues.
She assured me that by maintaining a monogamous relationship, using condoms and coming in for check-ups annually (not bi-monthly) I am doing everything I possibly can to keep my bits and pieces shiny and new. Yet I know I will still purchase pregnancy tests every time my period is 45 minutes late, and hyperventilate when I see the slightest sign of razor burn or get a bit of sweaty crotch itch after a particularly long run. I just can't help it!
So what about you? Do you see your gyno more than some of your closest college friends? Do you have an STD and if so, is it not as bad as I imagine? Everyone in those Valtrex commercials look more calm and well-adjusted than I appear on a daily basis.