The sounds and textures of 1977 inner city Chicago differed greatly from the New York intellectuals I surrounded myself with as an adult or my Upper Westside brownstone apartment. In Manhattan, there were urban strivers, well heeled Israel traveled Jewish families, the local botox injector and his compliant injectee. I loved New York because its appeal for me lied in its ability to make one forget what they once were.
While dining at a Greenwich Village coffee shop, I landed in a conversation about pro-lifers and their insistence of abstinence. My dining companion was enraged with the Bush administration. Mind you this was post September 11th, 2001. Within the hour I would hop a number 2 train and gleefully run into the Century 21 store for God knows what I did not need but I just had to have now. The Century 21 store was steps away from Ground Zero. Listening to the blasphemous venting led me to personify Ground Zero as this big gaping vaginal hole with hard hatted construction workers swinging their legs all around the outsides while eating bagged lunches. The Ground Zero vagina may seem like a bit of a stretch- excuse the pun. It was a wide opening, a scar, spatial memory that mostly represented my perpetual state of anxiety over conversations about abortion and abstinence. Here we are discussing the right to end a life when three thousand lives were snuffed out within a matter of hours. Long airplanes making holes where they shouldn’t be. A monumental collision which led to an unwanted abortion of consumerism, corporate America, the rape of American symbolism.
“What’s wrong with abstinence?” I asked my companion. “I was a virgin until I was 27 years old.”
This is the part where our waitperson with ink jet black hair and heavily tattooed arms, lingered over our table – just holding my to go box in her hand over her privates like a statue of Venus (with arms).
“NO WAY!” my companion exclaimed. “Twenty-seven???? ” Shakes head, mouth open.
“…Because of religious reasons?” they asked. “Were you Jehovah’s Witness?”
“No,” I smiled. ” Mom and I went to church on and off. We were not that religious really. The reasons were more pragmatic rather than religious. I did not want to get disrespected by guys that wanted only sex anyway and because I did not want to get pregnant until I knew I could take care of a baby on my own. That meant finish college first and get a job. When I did all of those things, then I started having sex…When I could live with the consequences.”
“Are you pro-life?”
“No, but why screw up and get pregnant and have to send my body through that let alone the money and guilt. I would rather spend the $500 bucks or whatever an abortion costs on something else…like a new handbag.”
My companion gave me a look of vague dissatisfaction. Yep, abstinence worked for me. So what? I am not some anti-sex freak-a-zoid. Mother and I would walk through Chicago seeing the effects of unwanted pregnancy. In fact, I was an unwanted pregnancy but here I was all master degreeded up- inhaling a prosciutto and mascarpone panini making 60K a year as an archivist. As an a one time embryo, I got a break . Why squander the miracle of my unwanted birth with yet another unwanted pregnancy aborted or kept?
Here, the pieces of broken pottery fit. The days sitting in welfare offices, watching girls my age have one in a stroller, the other dandling on a knee and another in the oven. The advice she gave me worked for once.
Mother told me point blank. “Stay a virgin until you marry, unless you want to end up like me. Sex feels good but one moment of pleasure is not worth a life with a baby. You’re life will be ruined like a hole in your head.”
Little did we know that we were engaging in abstinence education. Little did I know that someday I would be a pro-choice conservative on both sides of the battle field.
My mother, the knocked up from losing her virginity in a hallway, raped at 19 years old and subsequently impregnated by her perpetrator, then knocked up by her employer… was an abstinence fairy. Go figure.
She warned, “..have foreplay, neck, fondle do whatever but that. Don’t let a boy ever put his penis in you…even with a rubber…don’t rely on the pill – that is how I got you, the pill fell under the frig and I missed that day. I could have aborted you but I didn’t because I knew you would be a girl and you would be pretty like your father’s sister. I knew you would go to college. Promise me.”
My heart felt heavy. I was her sin eater. It would be the only time she ever asked me to promise her anything. “I promise.” It was done. I was locked in a covenant of chastity with liberal heavy petting and frustrated boyfriends who dumped me after several weeks of not getting any. My entire sex life would be dominated by that promise. Farther down the road to fornication, I would curse my mother for making me so paranoid about sex but like Bush and his presidential term, it kept me safe.
And how can I argue with something that kept me safe for so long?
If I had engaged in sex earlier, I would have learned that I was allergic to latex condoms, may have gone with out one because of that, feared I was pregnant after the unprotected sex and got a prescription for a morning after pill…twice in two months. The preceding events actually did occur within seven months of my having sex at 27. BTW, eating a boatload of sushi after you take a morning after pill…bad idea. Having sex cost me money and precious emotions. Pills, creams, doctors, lingerie- not to mention staying in relationships with people I did not need to because I did not want to be in the dreaded “one time sex” category. I did not have to deal with all of that at 18 years of age.
My college years had been better because I did not have to worry about getting crab lice like my roommate or withdrawing because I was pregnant like at least ten others I knew. Where did the other male half of the mistake go??? He stayed in school of course. Pregnant girl would be just another empty dorm bed with extra long twin sized sheets, while Joe College would show up to class clad in “Tommy Hill-nigger “ clothes waving a Kappa Alpha Psi cane. Stepping to the latest rap groove while sister girl was in labor.
These women I speak of were all using contraception of some kind. Pull it out before it sprays, pills, rubbers, the “Today” sponge. Each unwanted pregnancy meant another black woman not in school, an empty seat on graduation day. Not being omniscient, I am not aware of the abortions that took place. As it should be, those were private matters which remain unseen. All I saw was the pregnancies, another babies momma drama, running on campus looking for child support- mostly black and Latina women. Of course all races were having sex, it only seemed that the under-represented groups in college were dropping out more. Rumor had it, the Caucasians would more likely get an abortion than a minority who often could not afford it. Many of the black women were also involved in church thus believing that abortion was a sin.
Whatever the reasons, Afrocity was out of the game because no one was getting game until she was ready to deal.
Being a conservative now, I know with many liberals my perspective on abstinence will never have any authority. Bristol Palin and baby have been derided by pro-choice advocates and the mainstream media as organic proof that abstinence education is a farce.
I will never sway the unconvinced crowd. Afrocity collects femorabilia and Republican friends. My story is just another one that will be side stepped along with other allusions to conservative women as right wing nuts. I was not repenting in church everyday while masturbating at night because I was so hot for Johnny. I did what was practical and safe for me. My belief in abstinence only education does not make me any less pro-choice. Abstinence is a choice. Sure it is less synonymous with true safe sex education employing condom usage diagrams along with free boysenberry flavored rubbers.
But it worked for me.
College education: $70,000
Lost horny boyfriend: $1.99 for the Happy Meal I bought him when his student aid ran out
Waking up knowing 100% that your monthly visitor would come on time: Priceless.
Happy Valentine’s Day
Autographed Letter Signed,