Friday, August 11, 2006

Going Down

Two things you should know about my mother before reading this post. First, she’s a nurse. So she’s very practical and had medical textbooks around. Second, she was eminently reasonable and therefore super-wicked about sex stuff when I was growing up.

When I hit puberty, she asked me if I wanted to switch to the only female doctor in the practice we went to, and possibly the only female doctor in Stouffville at the time. Mom suggested it because she thought I might be more comfortable talking to the doctor about, yknow, my period and what the fuck was going on with my crazy suddenly aching and unruly body.

At 14, I got my first boyfriend. He was 18. I also, then, got The Talk: was he pressuring me to have sex, how I shouldn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable with, etc. etc. It was pretty awful, probably for both of us.

“And,” she added, “I’ve told both doctors at the clinic that whatever you discuss with them is to stay confidential. So if you ever want to get birth control or any information at all about sex, that’s your business. I thought you might feel more comfortable taking care of yourself if you knew you had privacy.”

I squirmed and blushed and wished to hell she’d stop talking already, probably stalked off and burned with shame in my room. But I was also eminently grateful.

Like many young women, I avoided intercourse by becoming an expert in fellatio. Not with the first boyfriend, but with the second, who I was actually completely and totally in love with, and still have a pretty big soft spot for.

He and I started dating in early November. Start of herpes season. Courtesy of my mother’s textbooks, I’d known from a young age that cold sores were herpes simplex virus 1, and that HSV1 showed up on the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. Which distinguished it from herpes simplex virus two, which showed up on the mucous membranes of your vag and ass. [Note] But what worried me was that I couldn’t find any information on whether my HSV1 was close enough to HSV2 to be passed on to my beloved's bits. And I was pretty fond of his bits the way they were.

So off to the doctor I went. Making up some story about some imaginary illness, that surprise!, the doctor couldn’t diagnose properly. She finished. I sat there. I looked at my feet. I looked at her. Looked at my feet, blushed.

Dr.: Anything else?
Me: Umm. Huh. Unh. Yeah.
Dr: Yes?
Me: Well, um, see, I’m uh, going out with this boy. And we’re not having sex. But I get cold sores, right? And that’s herpes? So if we. Umm. If I, uh, you know. Go down on him. If I have a cold sore, will he get herpes?
Dr: (barely suppressing a smile) Yes, it’s possible. You have blah HSV1 blah blah HSV2, and they’re close enough. Don’t do anything with your mouth from the moment you feel tingling until the scab is done.
Me: (curious now) So if he gets them, can I get herpes simplex two from him?
Dr.: Again, it’s possible, but you’ve had them so badly you’ve likely built up an immunity to any other kind of herpes.

Much relieved, but still quite red, I slunk out. And have been pretty damn careful about where my mouth goes and when I put it there pretty much ever since.

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