I want to tell you about my honeymoon. My honeymoon, which was mostly lovely, but which was also kind of a disaster. And by disaster, I mean this: one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life thus far.
Maybe all honeymoons are secretly disasters; I've only had one so my sample size is pretty small.
My new husband and I embarked on a 10-day road trip around the Southeastern United States. Our goal was really just to drive aimlessly and visit family and friends. On that score, we succeeded quite admirably indeed.
But in other ways? Listen, the first thing you have to understand is that I'm allergic to everything under the sun. And sometimes to the sun. The second thing you need to know is that the South is made of pollen, mold and dust mites.
I should totally write tourism books, right? Who wouldn't want to visit with a description like that!
My husband and I -- our relationship works for us. But sometimes people around us aren't sure if we like each other. We spend a lot of time bantering and pestering each other. We are pretty brutal when it comes to playing Punch Buggy. We change song lyrics to include the word "poke" -- and then we poke each other in the vulnerable and tender side fat. It's totally awesome.
With such a wealth of amusements, we figured we wouldn't have any trouble keeping ourselves entertained on the road. And we were great; we kept up a steady stream of constant discussion and Ed, on the road between Atlanta and Birmingham, tapped the brakes just hard enough while I was drinking from a bottle of water to result in the entire passenger seat (and me) getting drenched.
The drive started in Orlando, Florida. We went from there to Atlanta, Georgia, and then to Birmingham, Alabama.
Now, I was taking allergy medicine. I take both Singulair and Advair every single day. Go Team Respiratory System! It was October, which is one of the brief lulls in allergy season, but when we went to Jackson, Mississippi to visit friend with multiple cats and dogs, I started wheezing.
Just a little wheezing. And I was on my honeymoon; I wasn't going to be complainy about a little run-of-the-mill wheezing. We left Jackson and headed to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ed and I -- Ed is my husband's name -- had been living together for a year at this point. I wasn't on hormonal birth control. By the time I realized I'd really rather be on the Pill during my honeymoon, it was kind of too late to do anything about it.
At the time, we were using condoms. But I'd been having negative reactions to the latex in condoms. And by negative reactions, I mean pain and swelling. I was, as you might imagine, less than pleased with this outcome. And Ed wasn't in love with condoms either (but he's in love with me, ha!). Like so many dudes, he was willing to use them but isn't, like, excited about it. We'd experimented with non-latex condoms -- even I could tell it was like fucking a sandwich baggie.
We'd only been in New Orleans for a few hours when I started feeling itchy. But it wasn't until fairly late in the evening that we realized: I was covered in hives. Head to toe, painful and itchy red welts.
This was barely two years after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans was still largely made of mold and shellfish (to which I am extremely allergic). We had a room on Jackson Square, but in hindsight, an historic bed and breakfast might not have been the most hypoallergenic option at that time. We walked to a drug store, and my new husband smeared me with cortisone cream.
I don't think I have to explain to you just how dead sexy that was, right?
Because the non-latex condom thing just wasn't working out, I'd decided to try the contraceptive sponge. It had recently been returned to the market, and I'd heard a lot of positive things.
Also, it was my honeymoon. Some damn hives were not going to stop me from having sex in an historic bed and breakfast on Jackson Square in New Orleans on my honeymoon.
The contraceptive sponge, hereafter just called The Sponge like some sort of pregnancy-preventing superhero, is really easy to use. You can insert it up to 24-hours before having sex and you need to leave it in for 6 hours after having sex -- which means you can insert The Sponge before you leave for dinner, follow your romantic date through to its natural conclusion, and then fall asleep.
Come on, that's not just me.
The Sponge was pretty awesome in a lot of ways, I am not even going to lie. But the second morning there, well, I ran into a problem. Because that second morning was when I figured out that it wasn't just the known demon latex causing my condom problems. Nope. I was allergic to the spermicide.
Nonoxynol-9 is a very common spermicide. Many condoms are pre-loaded with it -- it's part of the lubrication package. When we'd purchased the nonlatex condoms, we'd gotten the nonlubricated kind -- sheer dumb luck had prevented pain with those.
I figured, at first, it was just a little ouch going on because we'd been enthusiastic. The hives had been a little distracting but, you know, you can get used to almost anything given the proper motivation. But, as I struggled to reach the wholely and entirely inadequate tab on the side of The Sponge that was nestled up against my cervix, I realized that I was in a lot of ridiculous pain.
Here's the image: I'm covered in hives that the cortisone cream didn't relieve, sore from a weird hotel bed and honeymoon sex, hunched over on the toilet trying to retrieve The Sponge -- and failing miserably.
I could, I reasoned, go to the hospital. I had asked around to figure out the best emergency room to go to in case the hives got even worse. Or... Or I could ask my new husband to reach up my snatch and pull The Sponge out of my swollen and entirely painful vag.
Seriously, I was leaning toward the hospital option. Right here and now, after 4 and a half years of marriage, I've peed in front of him once -- and that was an emergency and he was in the shower and I told him not to look. I'm not ashamed of peeing so much as I just really prefer to pee alone. I have a strong perference for bathroom privacy. I was an only child.
But the humiliation factor of asking a doctor to remove The Sponge didn't seem all that much lower than getting Ed to do it -- and having Ed do it was a whole lot cheaper. Plus, um, it's not like he hadn't had his fingers there before.
He had much larger hands than I do. He reached the tab of The Sponge with no problem -- but it still hurt a whole freaking lot. I was, in fact, still covered in hives and reacting badly to the spermicide.
In hindsight, I should have packed up my dignity and frugality and gone to the hospital. Instead, we spent three days in that hotel room, with only brief forays into New Orleans proper (during which I learned to love bread pudding with whiskey sauce), but not for any fun reasons. I was almost too sick to get out of bed. There was a "Project Runway" marathon on -- Ed got really sick of "Project Runway."
The hives finally started to clear up and my vag finally started to calm down. We figured we were safe to leave the city and get back on the road. Honeymoon Interrupted, I thought, and made plans for where else we could drive.
And then I leaned over to pick up my suitcase and felt something in my lowerback give out like an overstretched rubberband.
I'd never felt anything like that again. I almost fell down in the parking garage. Straightening up was almost impossible. Ed knew what had happened -- he has back problems. He got me loaded into the car (painfully) and told me my back had gone out. Probably because I'd been all bendy and twisty after three days of near immobility.
We pulled into Manny, Louisiana after a long, deeply uncomfortable drive. We'd left his back meds in Florida -- a terrible oversight that we have never repeated. I had some Aleve and a grim determination to just tough it out. Which is why I met more of his (awesome) family strung out from pain and allergies.
The actual visit was fantastic. But the honeymoon wasn't done with me yet. We left Manny and hit the road -- we headed for the Natchez Trace Parkway. We figured we'd see some historic sites, maybe even wander a bit on the bits of the original trail that were still accessible.
When we got to the first viewing site, there was a steep set of wooden steps up to the top of a hill. Ed made it to the top, and I huffed and puffed my way up. Every time I have a hard time with a physical task, I have to wonder if it's because I'm fat. But when I reached the top, Ed was already shaking his head and telling me to head back down.
The back of the hill was covered in a thick blanket of goldenrod.
Guess who's allergic with a fierceness to goldenrod.
I headed back to the car, dug out my inhaler, and almost cried.
We were both a little deflated after that. We started retracing our proverbial steps, wound up heading back to the ATL -- and it was just about time for that anyway. By the time we got home, we were wrung out and exhausted, but we'd found our groove again -- the banter has continued ever since, so the disaster honeymoon and humiliation didn't negatively impact the marriage.
Shortly after that, I went on the Pill. I've been off it for a little while (long story) and those nonlubricated, nonlatex condoms are getting old just as fast as they did the first time around. Maybe I need to start looking into the IUD.