do I need the pill on college hill?
The paper covering the examination table crinkled under my jeans as I crossed and uncrossed my legs. Children’s books sat in a metal basket attached to the wall, and a brightly colored mural of the planets adorned most of the room. It was my farewell appointment with my pediatrician. I was 18 and leaving for college soon, and the doctor’s office suddenly felt juvenile. Dr. Trafton scribbled some notes on her clipboard and asked if there was anything else I needed.
“Um, yes, actually, I was hoping to get a prescription for birth control.”
I don’t know why I was embarrassed to ask. We were both women. It’s not like it hadn’t crossed her mind that I might be having sex. She was my doctor, after all; she sometimes asked about those things. But that was exactly it—I’d never had sex. And considering that the whole idea of “sexual intercourse” was a foreign concept in my mind, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon.
It’s not like I want to wait until marriage or anything. My hesitation toward sex—perhaps a bit traditional and conservative in today’s society—is based more on my wish to wait until I’m in a serious relationship, instead of losing my virginity in a meaningless hookup. But sitting there in the doctor’s office last summer, mulling over what I deemed to be a mortifying truth (that I had never so much as kissed a boy), I felt very childish asking for birth control.
In high school, I was always self-conscious about my nonexistent love life. I’d had my share of hopeless crushes, but that’s about as far as anything ever went. Once, before my junior year, I fell for a counselor at my summer camp; he was the first crush who seemed to return my interest. Other boys had asked me out, but, invariably, the attraction wasn’t reciprocal. But while the counselor and I shared a string of flirty texts for weeks after camp, the fact that he lived in a different city stifled anything that might have been. For the rest of high school, I fantasized about my first kiss; a kiss that, at least in my mind, would inevitably lead to my first boyfriend. Maybe that cute senior would finally look at me, not past me, and invite me to dinner and a movie. Or I imagined walking to my car after basketball practice, looking sloppy in my oversized shorts and slides, and that guy from my econ class would emerge from behind the portables and envelop me in a passionate embrace.
By December of my senior year, I knew that I would be heading to Brown in the fall. And with college looming in the near future, I sensed that if I wanted to find romance, it was now or never. Prom, only weeks away, was the best shot I had left.
So I waited.
But no one asked me.
So I asked someone—via Facebook. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the classiest way to deliver a promposal, but it seemed better than chickening out on the endeavor entirely. The boy in question was the boy, the one I’d had an enormous crush on ever since we were lab partners freshman year. He was tall with dark, curly-hair, and an arrogant but goofy personality, always trying to insert SAT words into his comments in English class.
While he said yes to my invitation, things quickly went downhill from there. We stopped talking at school, perhaps due to the ambiguity of the situation—was it a date? In an effort to diffuse the tension, I caught him in the parking lot after school and suggested we attend Prom just as friends. But I couldn’t help wondering if my efforts to put him at ease made him think that I would spurn any future amorous advances.
So when I got home, I tried to clear things up, again through Facebook.
That was a big mistake.
Here are the cliffsnotes (with added sarcasm):
Me: “Wow, sorry I was so completely awkward today.”
Him: “No big deal.”
Me: “Oh, well in that case, I’m just gonna go ahead and proclaim my romantic feelings for you!”
Him: “…I’m flattered. But not really looking for anything like that, blah blah blah…”
Me: “This went terrifically. I cannot WAIT to go to Prom together!”
I’m getting off track, but the point of all of this is that while I’d never even had my first kiss, I was about to start taking the pill. Despite her insistence that I avoid sexual relationships during high school, my mom was under no delusion about what would inevitably occur in college and supported my decision. I figured that I might as well get used to the routine of being on the pill. Plus, I’d heard rumors it could reduce my occasional breakouts (hallelujah!).
When I got home from the pharmacy, I immediately tossed the prescription onto my desk, where it sat, obediently, for the rest of summer break. In late August, the crumpled white bag, still stapled shut with my name spelled out in block letters across the front, suddenly seemed daunting, as if it was a metaphor for all the unpredictability of college. Wasn’t sex just one more experience to add to the growing list of unknowns that awaited me at Brown? Without bothering to read the directions, I threw the bag beside my suitcase, ignoring the anxious feeling settling in my stomach.
My prescription didn’t make it to my dorm room.
Which was fine with me, because it meant it would be awhile before I got around to refilling it, giving me one more reason to wait on sex.
I’ve since picked up a new prescription, which is currently residing in the back of my desk drawer. I have yet to take the first pill, but, at the same time, I have yet to develop strong enough feelings for someone to justify beginning a relationship. So I’m not in any rush.
But I did get that first kiss.