The section of the store with the shelves full of pregnancy tests is called “Family Planning,” but really, it should be called “Family Prediction.” Or better, “Family Prevention.” The aisles with the pastel or hot pink colored boxes that promise fast results and accurate detection are positioned right next to the dark and ominous packages of condoms in a stirring representation of cause and effect.
Prevention, now that I think about it. I remember when I was young, probably seven or eight, my parents found a used condom in the bathroom. Including my parents, there were only six of us in the house at that time. Of the four children, one was sexually mature. And yet my parents, to smoke out who needed a condom and then left it carelessly on the bathroom floor, questioned all of us. As I mentioned, I was seven or eight, so of course I knew what a condom was (not). I mean, I had a general idea of what they were--after all, I was allowed to watch TV shows that came on after 9 PM--but really, I knew the look on my mom’s face when she pointed at the withered tube of over-stretched latex meant one thing: we weren’t supposed to have those and whoever left it there was in trouble.
As you can guess, I was raised under the idea that pre-marital sex was against the rules; something I would get in large, painful amounts of trouble for if my parents ever found out. Being the baby girl in a family full of guys meant I was always in everybody’s business. I knew that my oldest brother had lots of girl friends, and I knew from how my mother gossiped with her friends that he was probably having lots of sex, lots of sex that he wasn’t supposed to be having. He was going to get in trouble for that, I’d think to myself.
“Don’t just give it away, Gina,” my mom would tell me. “You’ll get pregnant, and people will think you’re a slut. And no guy will ever respect you. And then you won’t get married. And then you’ll be in trouble.” I was 10 the first time I heard this lecture. Over the years, I was discouraged from having boyfriends, from dating, from doing anything other than study. Of course, all the discouragement made me want a boyfriend even more. And when I did manage to get some guy to like me, I kept it secret. Afterall, I didn’t want to get in trouble.
When I was 16, I got a boyfriend I really liked, and I decided it was time to start having sex. I knew it was wrong, so I was more than careful. I went to Planned Parenthood and got condoms--for me and for him--that I insisted we wear. I made sure we weren’t followed to his house. I made him pull out. I went home immediately after so I wouldn’t break curfew. I wasn’t going to get pregnant. I wasn’t going to get caught. And more therefore, I wouldn’t get in trouble.
I got older, though, and the fear began to wane. I had spent years only sleeping with the guys I fell in love with, and I was still getting dumped. I didn’t just give it away, and I still ended up alone. I wasn’t pregnant, and I wasn’t married, either. My mother was wrong. And maybe marriage wasn’t the most important thing. Maybe I didn’t want it as much as she wanted me to want it. So, I started giving it away. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? I was 30. I was already alone. I started to pick guys up at parties and bars and bring them back to my apartment. When they didn’t have condoms, I didn’t care. When we were done, they left. I felt ok about this. I was going to have sex and not get into trouble.
That was, until I met Mark. We had sex in a closet at friend’s party and ended up spending the entire weekend together. More like, we spent the whole weekend with him inside me. We had brief moments to catch our breath, and we’d talk about books, pets, our vulnerabilities, our mothers--strange, bonding chit chat for two people who had only known each other for a day. I fell for him, hard. It was in direct contrast to my Just Give It Away plan. I saw a light around him that I hadn’t seen around anyone in years. And when he left on Monday, I thought I’d never see him again. But later that day, he called. And months later, he was still calling. If this was trouble, I was happy to be in it.
And now, I stand in front of these long cardboard boxes, searching for the one that will seal my fate. Searching for the one that will show me whether or not I’m in trouble. My hand reaches for a purple tipped box decorated with daisies. Prevention. I was so wrapped up in being alone that I forgot I could suddenly become a pair. My mom was right. I wasn’t careful. And now everything hangs in the balance of two little lines. I wasn’t married. And there was no other guarantee that he would stay in my life. Was I ready? Were we ready? I put the test back. I place a hand on my belly and curse myself.
I feel an arm rest around my shoulder. I feel a light kiss on top of my head. I look up into smiling eyes that say, “Don’t worry. We’ll never be in trouble.”