Not so long ago, I was dating a great guy.  I thought he was great, everyone else thought he was great, and it was generally acknowledged that I was going to be the asshole in the relationship and he would be the martyr.  Prior to dating him, I had done some minimal sleeping around, so a month into our relationship, I decided it was time to get myself to the clinic and get my 10,000-mile check up.  My last round of sexual health testing had been only nine months previously, but I’m a firm believer in taking care of what you got.  I think of it as changing the oil and rotating the tires – just the little extra care you take to ensure optimal performance from your vehicle.  Also, if your brakes go out due to negligence, dog forbid you plow into some innocent fellow motorist, you know?

I booked my appointment at the clinic and got a full work-up.  This covered chlamydia, gonorrhea, candida, trichomoniasis (that was a new one to me), and I went for a blood test and threw in syphilis (how retro!) and HIV for good measure.  Hey, I was there, so I went for total peace of mind.

Two weeks later and my tests were all clear.  I encouraged the boy to do his same due diligence, but met with a curious wall of resistance.  Now, he wasn’t terribly New Man, but he was a kind, sensitive guy and I was surprised that I even had to bring it up.  I sort of felt that my trip to the clinic would prompt him to take action himself.

I shortly realized that there were two principal factors in his own mind preventing this.  First of all, unfortunate rumors have been spread among the be-penised set about the nature of the test they have to undergo.  Yes, a Q-Tip thing is inserted into the urethra, or urogenital canal (or pee-hole), and yes, it is swabbed around.  Yes, it is uncomfortable.  It will not, however, kill you.  In fact, I know from personal experience that it is possible to get down later that same day, so it can’t be that awful.

As women, we are not going to be especially sympathetic about this.  A gynecological exam is by definition uncomfortable; hooking your feet up onto that table and exposing the most vulnerable part of yourself is something we have to endure, and a good doctor does everything she or he can to mitigate the awkwardness of the experience.  Having been through this at least once a year for over ten years, I am really not inclined to overdo the “poor baby” aspects of the male sexual health exam, which is far less invasive and does not deal with their internal organs, unlike us.  This should be as standard as our own once-yearly, and while I will give a guy props for looking after himself, I don’t think this very basic caretaking is deserving of a cookie and a BJ.

So, it was with some distress that I found myself in a position to nag the boy about his clinic visit.  The second factor in his reluctance was the fact that he had a bump on his shaft, which I noticed the second time we slept together.  It was not a sore, but a bump, and it was noticeable.  The first time I asked him about it, he closed his body off in embarrassment.  I was not critical, but I encouraged him to take a closer look at it and consider getting it checked out.  Again, this appears to be a fundamental difference in an approach to health; while I don’t want to make a blanket generalization, many men seem to have some primitive aversion to going to the doctor.  I don’t know if they consider it weak or if they’re just too frightened to discover that something may be wrong with them, but regardless, it is like squeezing blood from a stone to get them to address their potential issues.  I polled a couple of girlfriends during this experience, and their reaction was the same as mine:  the second I discover something is amiss with my genitals, I am booking an appointment to get it sorted out.  I am not playing around with my bits.  Boys will apparently mess around with their bits for as long as they can get away with it.  The problem is, if he’s messing about with his own, he is messing with mine too, and this is not acceptable behavior.

Three months into the relationship, and my frustration was growing.  We were sexually monogamous, so I was prepared to start talking about sex without a condom.  My birth control killed sperm dead, so it was only the STD aspect I had concerns about.  All he had to do was get tested, and then we could look at it as a possibility.  I will also note that we had no oral sex, adhering to my strict Blowjobs Are For Boyfriends policy.  You would think the prospect of BJs and condomless sex would rocket his ass to the clinic like a ball from a cannon, but you would be wrong!  The combination of the above-mentioned factors kept us neatly in the safe sex arena.  This wasn’t particularly problematic for me, as the sex was very good as it was and we had yet to make the full exclusivity commitment (a hesitation on my part, he was eager for it), but I was certainly baffled by his dithering.

Four-and-a-half months into the relationship, and I was becoming a nag.  Sexy suggestion wasn’t working and he would get irritable when I brought it up, again, even though he kept promising to go.  Finally, I told him to grow some balls and get his ass down to the clinic because his waffling was pissing me the hell off.  He did, and was rewarded with kisses and multiple assurances that this was the right thing to do.

It was not hugely shocking when, a week later, he tested positive for chlamydia.  He called me right away, and while I wasn’t happy about it, it was not hugely upsetting.  If you have to go and get an STD, this is not the worst of the bunch.  He claimed he didn’t experience any real symptoms, maybe some minor irritation while urinating, which for me underscores the necessity of getting checked out with regularity.  The clinic asked him to come in the next day for treatment, and recommended that his partner accompany him.  Fun for the whole family!  We got an early morning appointment and made our way down.

The sexual health clinic was the same one I’d been to previously, decorated with the same laminated implorations for drug abuse hotlines and safe sex statistics.  And once again, I was helpless to stop myself from scrutinizing the fellow clientele (universal human judgment behavior).  In our work duds, the boy and I appeared particularly upstanding and I fought the urge to pull faces at the other women and discreetly point at my guy while mouthing: “Chlamydia!  His fault!  Typical, eh?”  We both resisted the urge to flip through the very well-worn magazines littering the waiting area, and noticed the same tendency in the other patrons.  Hilarious that our collective germ-phobia all kicks in now, right?

A stern but pleasant nurse called us into a discussion room by our Secret Agent clinic numbers (X171S?  Z395T?).  She sat us down to discuss the results of his test and query our sexual habits.  When she asked me when I had last been tested, I was proudly able to straighten my pin-striped jacket and proclaim that I had been fully cleared three months previously by the same facility, while giving the boy the subtle stinkeye.  I don’t think the nurse actually glared at him too, but it is safe to say that he shrunk two inches in his chair and his penis shriveled up, fell off, and made its way towards the door at this point.  She suggested that I be tested again, as even though we always used condoms with nary a slip-up, chlamydia is a “feisty” virus and my chances of infection were reasonable.  “When you say ‘feisty,’ it sounds like such a party virus,” I told her.  The boy remained unamused and continued to disappear into his chair.  I expected that when I returned from my bathroom swab test, there would be nothing left of him in the plastic seat but a crumpled suit and a puddle of humiliation.

I swabbed myself with a seven inch, glorified Q-Tip and waited for the nurse to call me back in the room.  As I suspected, she was closely questioning him about his sexual partners in privacy.  When I was allowed back in, she recommended that we both be treated immediately for chlamydia, although my own results would not be back for a week.  She had two glasses of water and four pills ready to go.  We swallowed them down, thanked her for her help, and left, wincing at the extra mandate: we were not to have sexual contact for a week.  The boy bought me coffee and a breakfast burrito as atonement for his sins, and we went on about our days.

No sexual contact for a week was an even harder pill to swallow.  Still in something of a honeymoon period, sex was a seven-times-a-week or so activity, and the best exercise anyone involved was getting.  Efforts were slightly aided by the horrendous cramps and nausea the medication inflicted on me for the four hours following the clinic visit.  I sat at my desk at work, hunched over in pain and making a deliberate effort not to hurl into the trashcan.  He was fine.  My resentment over this difference in physical reaction was a useful tool in withdrawing sex privileges for the next couple of nights.

By the Friday night after our clinic visit, however, horniness was undeniable.

The fun continues in Part II!

*Title courtesy of my genius buddy Mark, for whom I still intend to make this saying into a tee-shirt.  Credit where due, and all.

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