Seventeen… what isn’t magical at 17? The world is your oyster, your body is in peak physical condition, your brain is absorbing information exponentially, your hormones are in full flush, causing your loins to tingle multiple times a day; and if you were me, you were in love. It was my first love and to date, the most passionate and sensually charged relationship of my life. Firsts are special in their own right, but this relationship opened my eyes, mind, and heart to things I would have never experienced if not for his unexpected entrance into my life at 14 and the access I had to Planned Parenthood.
He was two years older and when I first saw him, it seemed he had walked off a movie poster. A tall Indian boy with soulful eyes and long lashes came down my basement stairs, wearing a blinding-orange GAP sweatshirt, baggy jeans, and I swear his hair was fluttering in imaginary wind currents. A Southern drawl, the blush in his cheeks of mutual attraction and the innocence of shyness was palpable and intoxicating. His laugh was freer than I had ever been, his confidence unimaginable and his experience, that of many men.
We were Romeo and Juliet; opposites. In retrospect, the experience was of boys in military schools and men in overnight jail cells, but as a teenager, that was sexy, dangerous, and the red flag for saving him was all I needed to jump in. He didn’t prioritize his education or his family as much I did mine, which meant we’d never really be able to be together. As an only child, I was enrolled in a preparatory, almost all-white, private school at the age of 5 and according to my straight-from-India parental unit, my only goal was to get good grades so that I could get into an ivy league college and become financially independent. So I studied my ass off, read for fun instead of being teased by my peers, played squash instead of basketball, and indulged in board game nights on weekends with my two friends, and traveled the world with my parents every school break.
My adventures and time spent with them, our candid conversations and simple journey through life together, made us closer than most children-parent combos. We talked about ‘cute boys’, why drugs were bad, the value of money and all other things responsible children know; I knew to keep my flower to myself because it was my very worth. I never kept secrets, wanting to earn and keep their trust, and because of that, I rarely did anything out of line.
Hence, I was a virgin. I had never french-kissed a boy at the age of 16; he had slept with over 75 girls by the same age. The only thing that had gone near my vagina were a pair of children’s scissors, when my mother straight-up told me to trim my bush before a trip to Southern France, pads, and only recently, tampons. And not just the regular, drugstore tampons; my mother made sure I was using organic tampons, free of chlorine, and bleach, and parabens, sewn in a way that would leave less fibers, with paper applicators instead of plastic, for the environment. The woman has always been conscious of what I’m putting in my body, mostly to help me cut down my chub, but also to keep what God had given me and to preserve its condition as best as possible, since I was born. That didn’t stop when it came to my ‘privates’ or my period.
Because of her inane dedication to cleanliness and hygiene, which has been inevitably been instilled in me, my first sexual experiences (re: interaction with semen) were horrifying to be even a little honest. So when I tell you the second time I had sex EVER, the condom broke and his sperm juice, pre-cum, bacteria, and god-know-what-else was inside me and on top me, imagine the panic I was flooded with. I wasn’t on birth control yet and my naive self had been counting on the condom to be my safe, effective barrier from ALL OF THAT.
I didn’t want to tell my parents in fear of disappointing them (and their wrath), but I needed help; I called my only sexually active friend who told me to MapQuest directions to the nearest Planned Parenthood. They wouldn’t open for another 45 minutes but I dragged him there anyway and sat in the parking lot, unable to Google questions like the number of seconds it takes to get an STI and the shelf-life of sperm outside the body, as this was pre-smartphone era.
I flew in, behind the curly-haired brunette in scrubs that opened the door and word-vomited my tragedy in full detail to the receptionist. She asked me to fill out paperwork and contact information, which only worsened my anxiety, imagining my father opening the envelope containing my test results. The poor woman explained that Planned Parenthood would never contact me at my house without consent and that test results were only given over the phone and that, no for the 10th time, I didn’t need to list or charge my insurance company. After being let in, it took only ten minutes for Barbara, my nurse practitioner/social worker/fairy godmother to give me the Plan B pill and to conduct a rapid HIV test (which you can now buy in drugstores and online), for free! She also shooed me out the door with several condoms after talking me off my ledge of shame, fear and misery which I was grateful for, because in that moment, I needed someone to remind me that it was OK, that it happens to the best of us, and that it wasn’t my fault.
I did everything I could that day to protect my choices and my life and my options. Had I not been able to visit a Planned Parenthood and receive quality care in the immediate 72 hours after the incident, I would have likely become pregnant. (At that time, the morning after pill wasn’t available over the counter). For me, that would have crippled the vision I had for myself; it would not only affect my education but my future career and earning potential. It would rob me of a freedom that I still, to this day, don’t want to relinquish to motherhood and the commitment that comes with bearing a child.
I was able to graduate high school at the top of my class, go to a prestigious college and internationally renowned graduate school, and work in fields that helped better the lives of hundreds of others. I’ve since worked in the health and technology industries to raise money for people in need of care and Planned Parenthood made that possible. Barbara not only saved my life, but my future non-existent child’s life, my boyfriend’s life, my parents’ lives, and the lives of countless others, around the world. The organization exists to fill in the gaps and provide services to those when most in need, what better cause to support?
Consider joining me, Maxim Hygiene, our latest fierce woman and a slew of other advocates organized by Alexandra Jamieson, in supporting Planned Parenthood this month as a tribute to the lives they have and continue to save. Their funding is threatened and we can help change that just like how they help save lives like mine. Maxim has also offered to donate to Planned Parenthood 10% of every sale at their online store using the following coupon code: FWWENDY
When you use this coupon code, you’ll also get 10% off your order. Please also consider sharing your story with me (@maximhy) and the world to let people know the good Planned Parenthood is doing and how crucial it is for our success as a society and women’s health.