He offered to be interviewed when I put out the call for volunteers, and I knew immediately I wanted to hear about his experience of divorce, Initially I had wanted the series to be all about different peoples’ experience of sex–what they learned growing up, what constituted sex ed at at home/school, first experiences, overall attitudes. But with him I remembered getting a facebook invite to a party that was part farewell to a marriage, part estate sale. At the time I thought him and his soon to be ex-wife incredibly respectful toward each other and thus felt intrigued by his seeming drama-free divorce. He had “a lot of angles and spins on divorce in his head” which I found him quite open to discussing, as I sat in my car outside work, furiously scribbling notes while he spoke into the phone.
A man in his mid-forties, he had been in the marriage for ten years, divorced now for three. I told him about my impression of his “divorce party” to which he replied, “I’m sure we seemed very evolved. In reality it took a lot of drama for us to get there. Once we had decided we weren’t healthy for each other, if we ever had been, it was easier to be civil.” Continue reading →
He had written a guest post for us over the summer, and I knew when I conceived of the interview series idea, I was going to want to delve more deeply into how he had come to marry a woman who refused sex and subjected him to terrible emotional blackmail. From what I understood, she had used threats of self-harm, all the way up to suicide to control the relationship and his response to her from the beginning. How does a relationship even get out of the starting gate with that kind of dysfunction present from day one? How does it become a marriage? So what, they had gone right from sexual activity in his truck after a dance one night in high school, to her making threats to injure herself, right into a relationship? Continue reading →
My first question was where he first learned about sex and from whom. He wanted clarification—did I mean the concept or “the intricacies and what to actually do”? Oooh, good point. I wanted both, now that he mentioned it. We started at the beginning, when he learned about human reproductive systems and development in school, as a nine year old. I wondered if his parents had added any information, or initiated conversation on the topic. “Not that I can remember. I remember coming across my dad’s prescription of Viagra about four years ago. That’s the extent my family spoke about sex.” Was there any conversation at the Viagra find? “After I found my dad’s Viagra, I high-fived him. He said, ‘you don’t think this is weird or gross?’ I was like ‘no, lack of sex is a leading cause of divorce, I’m glad my parents still do it’. I was the sex-forward one in the family.”
A recently engaged, early thirties man, he had generously offered to be interviewed to continue Candid Uprising’s exploration of how what we learn about sex as children influences our sexuality. It was immediately clear that I was speaking with an open (or sex-forward, in his words) individual. Continue reading →
The “SexEdFail” series Candid Uprising featured in December and January (a progression of posts about my experience of working at Planned Parenthood) were the most-read content on the site yet, peaking with “Sex Ed Fail: The Interview“. I found myself wanting to trace sexual attitudes through the generations, to talk to a parent about their perception of responsibility for educating their child about sex, and how that may have been shaped by their parent. Out of the woodwork came a woman in her mid-forties, a mother of two, open to filling in the picture for me.
As a kid she moved a lot, never settling in one place long enough to make a close group of girlfriends. Later, she would point out that a lack of girlfriends made her vulnerable, often times sexually. She grew up in a family that was comfortable with nudity around the house, parents who were honest and forthcoming with her about sex and sexuality. Her earliest memories of learning about sex involve a conversation between her and her mom when she was eight. “I asked my mom about kissing, and she told me it was something that people did with each other when they loved each other.” Any question she had, her mom answered with medically accurate information. What seems to have made the strongest impression was her mom’s ability to talk to her on her level, in a developmentally appropriate way. It increased her comfort level so that asking her mom questions about sex felt natural as she grew up. In lieu of girlfriends (or “the playground” where so many of us learn backwards mis-information, legends, really about sex), she had her welcoming mom. Continue reading →
I took tiny bites of the salty, fiery veggie pho spiked with Sriracha and lime juice, normally my go-to hangover cure for its stomach-settling and head-clearing powers. My head hung low over the bowl as I struggled to look presentable, appear sharp and interested in the informational interview in which I was engaged. I was four paychecks away from unemployment, a terrifying prospect given the utter instability of my personal life. Deeply in credit card debt, new marriage scraping the rocks, interpersonal dramas playing out every other day, emotionally enmeshed with a long-distance boyfriend, drinking spiraling out of control, I had gone to this networking interview to try and save myself from total crisis. I seemed unable to reduce or stop my alcohol use, to clear the confusion and panic from my mind, to not act on my almost constant outrageous and high-risk impulses. I wanted so much to engage in pleasurable activities that I ignored the risks or consequences. My life was blowing up in my face, my behavior hurting, offending and scaring my friends. I was a runaway train, pedal to the metal, going right off the rails. Continue reading →
When our teen patient showed up for her counseling appointment the day after we cancelled her abortion procedure (after a battle of wills between her mother and I over her attempt to force her daughter into the appointment to terminate her pregnancy), I wondered why she had returned. I had left our previous session feeling like a total amateur (which I was) and bully. Nevertheless, she was coming back in, and I resolved to listen and respond to her needs, rather than my own this time.
“I don’t know what to do next,” she told me upon her arrival. “I mean, I know I’m going to have a baby, but, like, what do I do?” We both knew she meant that she hadn’t secured the support of her mother around her decision to become a teen parent, and that she needed resources. Naturally, the first resource that came to mind was having a medically accurate, clinical discussion of sex and birth control methods. Unlike some of our teen patients, she had a correct understanding of sex–the definition and mechanics. Like most of our patients, regardless of age, she didn’t understand how she became pregnant using the withdrawal method, after receiving basic sex education at school, but never discussing the subject in detail with her parents. I began my explanation of pre-ejaculate, survey of available birth control methods and assessment of which would work best for her in the future, given her lifestyle and needs (as she described them). She had been having sex with her boyfriend, another young teen, for a period of several months and this was her first time being pregnant. She needed adult support and guidance desperately, and I racked my brain to figure out how to help her on that front, given her mother’s disregard and stubbornness. “Do you have a relationship with your father?” I asked, clutching at straws. Continue reading →
When I got to the final question of the medical history portion of the appointment, our patient reluctantly replied, “well…my mom told me I have to.” I had just asked her if she was comfortable with her decision to have an abortion, and whether she was being threatened, forced or coerced. If the answer was anything other than “yes, I’m comfortable” and “no, I am not being threatened, forced or coerced”, or if a strong emotional response was provoked by the question, we hit the brakes on the appointment. Often my colleagues would pull me into the room when patient broke into sobs at the question, or mentioned someone in the waiting room insisting on the appointment. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t at our clinic of their own volition. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t in an emotionally safe place the day of their appointment. In this case the patient was a young teenager, and when I pressed for more information she told me that while she wanted to keep her pregnancy, her mom was forcing her to have an abortion. I immediately notified my colleagues to remove the patient’s name from our treatment roster, and stepped out into the lobby to bring the patient’s mother into our counseling office. Continue reading →
“I was one of those kids you wrote about,” she commented, after reading about the pregnant virgin I counseled at Planned Parenthood, “and you probably want to interview me for your blog.” I leapt at the opportunity she was offering to capture a first-person narrative about the experience of being opted out of school sex ed and how it affects adult sexuality. Continue reading →
I was talking with my dad about Candid Uprising, telling him about our mission and purpose and encouraging him to read. While I knew he’d be proud to hear that I’m exploring a passion project, I was also concerned about how he might react to some of the opinions we’ve put forth. While he is socially liberal, and overall of a progressive mindset, he was raised in the Midwest in the 1950s and has some closely held traditional values. My dad is a rather reserved, reticent person, but he came alive when I told him I had written and published a couple of posts on not wanting children. “Right”, he said animatedly, “people have kids to fill the void. Things get stale. People’s lives plateau and they tell themselves, now it’s time.” He continued to expound upon the subject as I frantically scribbled notes. “Kids fill up the room”, he continued, “they take all your extra time, all your extra money, all your extra love and affection. Kids are all consuming. Being a parent is a bitch, and the most responsible thing you’ll ever do. You fuck up someone elses life, and it’s terrifying”, he finished. “Dad”, I exclaimed, “then why in the world do people do it?”
The unmarried couple was in their very early twenties, earnest, frightened and shell-shocked. They had made an appointment for “options counseling”, a session devoted to exploring the three choices available for dealing with an unintended pregnancy: parenting, adoption, abortion. The young lady had found out a few days prior that she was pregnant and they were holy terrified. Yes, I mean holy, not wholly. You see, they were the youth group directors at their church, tasked with setting an example of young Christian adulthood, and teaching abstinence education. Their unintended pregnancy meant not just making a choice, it meant facing their church community with a staggering hypocrisy, and standing in judgement for going against their group’s religious tenets. I had my work cut out for me, as their counselor, and a person vehemently opposed to abstinence-only “education”.