After my divorce I spent three lonely years, abandoned by my youth and the promise of marriage, petting my cats and wondering if a man would ever come warm the cockles of my broken heart.
Well that’s not exactly true. I spent a lot of time having fun with my friends, throwing dance parties, propping up a false reputation of being a wild single lady and actually once leaving my pantyhose in the front yard. But there wasn’t anyone special. And to get to the point, birth control was not on my radar.
Prior to this Ice Age, I had what is legally known as a long-term marriage: almost ten years. My ex and I had two kids and didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about birth control. When you have small kids and a less than love-filled marriage, birth control is no brainer: you are too annoyed and too tired to have sex.
With amazing good fortune and an abnormal number of shots, a real live decent man with whom I had crazy chemistry happened upon my couch and the usual shenanigans ensued. One does not plan for such things! One wouldn’t take the leap of letting a good-looking young male specimen view your mom bod if one’s judgement wasn’t just a smidge impaired. That being said, cooler heads prevailed (not mine) and we (he) decided we should wait…
….until the next time we saw each other.
Now…now…now, we were safe. We used protection. I’m in my 40s for God sakes, but every month I am reminded the old engine still turns over, so you gotta be prepared. And we (he) were.
But…..but….but….as they tell you in little pamphlets from the gyn and in health class, no birth control is 100%. No protection is 100% fail proof. And this one failed.
When he pulled out, the condom stayed in and that’s not what’s supposed to happen. In my cuckoo head of happiness this seemed very insignificant and I didn’t bother to really mention it and neither did he. Jesus! We hardly knew each other! These things are EMBARRASSING!
I really liked this guy, you guys. Soooo much. And I wanted to keep doing what we had done but without the weird after game of “where’s the condom?” (Even though it’s a bit more fun than “where’s the tampon?” cause two can play.) I wanted to get on the pill and quick but I had no health insurance and a limited income.
So the very next day I went to Planned Parenthood. I went to the one on Van Nuys Blvd here in Van Nuys, CA. I was super nervous. I had never been in a Planned Parenthood and I was kinda raised (culturally, not by my family directly) to hate PP. I had thought they just gave abortions. But I had learned otherwise in my matronly years and so I braved it.
It looked just as you would expect inside. Sterile, fluorescent lighting, white tile floors, lots of folding chairs, a TV blaring VH-1 in the corner, a bullet-repellant receptionist desk. What I didn’t expect to find in Planned Parenthood was kids. And there were KIDS. Lots and lots of kids. Babies. Toddlers. Toddler-advanced. Children. Families. Moms and Dads. This was no different than any health clinic anywhere.
What I also didn’t expect to see were young men. Of all sorts. Some were there with girlfriends but most of them were there alone. Getting their health ON.
I sat there for 3 hours. Had a lot of time to observe. At one point I kid you not “Teen Moms” came on the TV. That had to be on purpose.
When it was finally my turn I was taken into the inner sanctum and put in a totally normal tiny little check up room. The nurse came in and asked questions, took my vitals and then a female doctor joined us. I retold my previous night’s escapades and requested birth control. She asked me to tell her more about the condom. “There wasn’t much to tell, heh heh,” I said. “Kinda lost track of the condom inside my lady parts.”
“You need emergency contraception.”
“What? No! Bfff!”
Resting doctor face.
This nice lady sees hundreds of patients just like me who relate the same stories. All the embarrassing, giggling, shameful, nervous, hurt, confused, immature, mature…the entire range of madness that is human sexuality. She knows people. She knows statistics. She knows what’s what.
Still, I was like, “No!!! What????? Me? No silly. Bfffffffff.”
A little more annoyed than before resting doctor face.
At this point I decided to stop wasting her time.
“Ok what do I do?”
She wrote me a prescription for Plan B and birth control. She was going to give me 3 Plan B’s as I seem like a total fuck up. No, actually that’s very convenient. Thank you. And it was all available RIGHT THERE. I didn’t have to go anywhere else for it. I thought that’s really nice for all those families out there especially.
The doctor also schooled me on how to use a condom. Oh. (Pull out right away boys and girls. Right. Away. How do we miss these vital pieces of information?)
I was shown to another waiting room that was very different than the other waiting room.
This was for the patients only. These patients had all been given news that they may or may not have been more or less expecting but a heaviness was in the room. Everyone had grown up quick. I stayed there for another hour. It was insanely cold for some reason. The TV had been turned off. There were no magazines. A girl looked like she was crying but she was very, very quiet about it. I figured anyone going to that much trouble to look like she wasn’t crying didn’t want people to acknowledge she was crying.
Someone started talking about McDs. I don’t know how it started but I think someone said they were hungry. And someone else said they thought they smelled McDonald’s fries and we all said, yes we smelled it too. Now that’s probably just what Van Nuys smog smells like but nevertheless the food conversation was off and running. We chimed in about what we would eat at McDonalds were we anywhere near one right now. We moved on to what we would we eat anywhere. What our moms and grandmoms cooked best. What we cooked best. What our kids liked. What our kids didn’t like.
This was inside a Planned Parenthood.
The crying girl wasn’t crying anymore but talking about her aunt’s empanadas. We all so wanted to eat some feelings just about then! If I ever could, and I wish I would, deliver McDonalds to that inner waiting room in Planned Parenthood you would see some happy grateful responsible intelligent ladies getting their munch ON.
At the end of the hour I was given 6 months of birth control and 3 Plan B’s. The Plan B at the time was 2 pills. I was really conflicted about taking it. Mostly because of some strange stigma but I was way more conflicted about having a baby with this guy I just met! So I took it. They told me about some side affects blah blah blah.I know…but I had NO IDEA it was going to take so long and I had a garden install that day which I was mentally already at.
When you leave PP you have the option of paying or not paying if you are under a certain income bracket. If you can’t afford the full cost, you have the option to pay whatever you can afford. I gave them $40 and left. I wanted to high five everyone in that waiting room.
In the car, driving over the 405 I had a kind of Hulk-esque takeover of my body. All of the sudden I realized I was gripping the steering wheel really tight. My breathing was shallow. I felt really INTENSE. I’ve since heard that Plan B is like taking an entire pack of birth control at once.
I didn’t know what was happening to me at all. I didn’t put it together that the Newton’s Cradle of emotion I was in the middle of was due to the two little pills I took.
Today just happened to be the day I was installing my first drip irrigation system. By myself. I had done the research. Talked to some people. Tried it out at home. This was going to be great! I was going to be able to offer a really valuable service to my clients. At this time, I had less than 5 clients. But one was Olivia Wilde so I was pretty sure things were happening!
This garden was actually for a co-workers of Olivia’s. I arrived all the way in Culver City and set to work installing this drip system in their backyard container veggie garden. The timer for the system was locked inside their garage so I used the valves to manually turn on the sprinklers. Irrigation is set up on different areas or zones throughout your yard, and you can manually turn on the valves that control these zones by gently unscrewing the head or handle of the corresponding valve. The pressure releases manually when you unscrew it, runs the sprinklers and then when you screw it back down, the pressure closes off causing the sprinklers to stop.
Fascifuckingnating. Get back to the story.
So to test which zone has my new sprinklers on it, I turn all the valves off and on until my drip irrigation begins to run. And it did run. Yeah!
Then I kinda notice that the other zones have not actually shut off. Half the yard’s sprinklers are still running.
I go over to the valves. Screw them on tighter. Nothing. Unscrew and rescrew. Nothing. Except a lot of water that is.
At this point I am panicked. And will you remember that I am in a unbeknownst to me in a Hulk-like state of hormones? My head feels like it’s on fire. My eyes are pinwheels. I do a sprint around the house looking for the emergency shut off valve. But I don’t see anything. I run around the garage. Nothing! I have to call the owner and ask where it is…and that’s when I realize I don’t have any contact number for this client. Like I said, I only had a handful of regulars at this point. I had this guy’s email address but not his phone number.
I email him.
What choice do I have? I text Olivia with a 911. My nerves are shot. I’m certainly flushing my company down the toilet right now. I’m sure of it. A regular chorus of “you’re such an asshole” is playing in my head. And the back yard is FLOODED. I mean it. It’s draining off and down the driveway and into the street. Is this enough water to drown in? Please!
Someone from the front of the house calls over the fence, “Hey uh…there’s a lot of water out here?”
“YEAH! I KNOW!” I scream maniacally, Plan B in full effect.
I call my friend Jesse Burch. He helped me with my first ever garden install and he’s an actor so he’s always available. And he’s not easily turned off by hysteria.
Through the phone, Jesse calmly walks me around the house so I can look for the shut-off valve.
“Every house has one Erin.”
We find it on the 2nd pass behind some tall grass and the water is mercilessly turned off. I’m completely soaked. Remember I am walking around the house and yard while the sprinklers are on this whole time. I hear from Olivia who says he’s on set and I should have him paged. So I do that. I page him on the set because I’ve screwed up his irrigation. He’s lovely. It’s fine, he says. His gardener comes tomorrow. He will have him look at it.
I drag my sad super tired ass home and break it to my not quite yet bf that I Plan B-ed his baby and he forgives me. Thanks me even. Tell him the condom thing. Educational.
I find out later that when valves aren’t manually turned on on a regular basis the little filament or little piece of cardboard that provides that pressure to signal the valve to start or stop can dry up or wash away or even disintegrate. Then, when you turn on the valve and that little bit of something something isn’t present, there’s nothing inside the top of the valve to fasten or add pressure to the hole when you screw it down.
I was so relieved it wasn’t something I had done wrong. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t my fault. Nevertheless, I remained scarred. I hired an irrigation person to do all my irrigation and she and her crew are the light of my life and I wouldn’t have much of a business without them.
I can see lots of super obvious correlations between these experiences.
There’s nothing like experience to educate.
You’re never too old to learn something new. Even if it is something you should have learned from the get go.
Things break. They fail. They fall apart. And it’s no one’s fault.
New things come along. You rethink the past. You try again.
You learn. You are open to surprises. You appreciate truth and those who give it to you straight.
And you see families in Planned Parenthood. There are also nurses and doctors who professionally and sympathetically attend to patients in some high stress situations. This is where people go when they have no one to talk to. This is where they go when they want to do the right thing, want to be informed, want to be safe, careful, healthy.
I stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand with the families I saw. I stand with the care I received. There’s nothing like it folks and no one else to do it. Stand by it too.