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SOUTHERN PEOPLE ARE SICK

The good thing about college is that you’re still on your parents’ medical insurance. Following a particularly rambunctious freshman year, back in my tiny bible-belted hometown, I went in for a check-up at the family practice I’d been going to since forever. Inside the cheery examination room, Nurse Betsy commented on how big I’d gotten (yeah, well who’s the one in the stretchy pants here, bitch?) and after performing all the usual prods and pokes, Dr. Jenkins stood in front of me with a clipboard, smiling. “Now Michelle,” he began, “You don’t drink, do you?” As I gazed into his friendly eyes, I couldn’t help but notice his weird phrasing. “Well, um, yes. Yes, I do.” He chuckled and shook his head. “I meant alcohol, Michelle. You don’t drink alcohol.” “Oh. Oh… Of course not,” I lied. “And you wouldn’t ever smoke anything, would you?” “Um… No?” I answered. “Right,” as he patted my stomach, “and a girl like you, well, you’re not having sex?”

Finally, (sadly?) I could answer truthfully. “Oh, no. Not me, Dr. Jenkins. No.” I lay down on the yellow-sheep-covered wax paper and nervously exhaled. As Dr. Jenkins checked me for hernias, I stared up at the sponge-painted ceiling-clouds and mustered up the courage to speak. “Although, you know, I was thinking that I might be interested in trying birth control only because it might be a good idea to help with my period because sometimes I get really bad cramps and I have to miss class and my roommate said the birth control will help with that and stuff.” Dr. Jenkins continued calmly prodding my abdomen. “Oh no, Michelle,” he reassured me smoothly, “If you go on birth control, you won’t be able to have babies when you get married.” “Oh.” I jumped up off the table and pointed my finger in Dr. Jenkins’ face and screamed out, “LIAR LIAR LIAR LIAR!” Ha. No I didn’t.

That hot July day, I simply stayed put on that sticky, sheepy paper and furrowed my brow. It wasn’t that I was afraid of contradicting Dr. Jenkins; it was that I thought he might be telling the truth. Because, you see, I’d never had sex ed. No one in my grade had. No “this is how your body works” or "slip the condom on the banana." I thought that babies burst out of your stomach, like in Alien, until I was 15. Apparently, like slavery or man-on-man action, s-e-x is one of those things Southern people deem particularly unpleasant to discuss. But it’s okay. The babies all turned out super–cute. And I think we get to rent out the big restaurant in town for our 5-year reunion.

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