I had the unfortunate pleasure of developing my secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, wider hips, etc.) at a very early age. By 11 years old, I had already had my first period, which in an of itself was a traumatic experience. My mother knew what was coming, because she took me to the pediatrician to have him examine the ‘lumps’ that had developed on my chest that I can still hear him explain to her…
“They’re breasts, Mother,” Dr. Brogan (Dr. Louie to us kids) pronounced.
I can’t remember what they spoke about after that, but surely she knew that menarche came next, right? After all, she too was a woman, and clearly had gone through puberty to have successfully had me, so what did she expect would happen next?
In any event, I found myself bleeding while on the toilet (as most girls do), and tried to get a better look at things by sitting on the edge of the tub with my legs spread so I could look at myself while simultaneously opening the door and screaming for my mom “Mon! I’m bleeding!!!!”
My grandmother came up the stairs first, and she turned to look at me in the bathroom as her head cleared the level of the floor. When she saw me, she started laughing, which only made me angry, since I was convinced I was dying.
“I’m bleeding to death, and you’re laughing at me!”
With that as my introduction into my sexual maturity, it’s no wonder I was completely unprepared to deal with Barry Weiner, a guy I knew from seeing him on The Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Barry was friends with Fred Richman (who had substituted for my freshman biology teacher for the last week before summer vacation) on whom I had a huge crush. Fred of course saw a high school freshman when he looked at me, while Barry saw a young woman, and that is how I lost my virginity.
Like every other teenager everywhere, I thought I knew things I had no clue about, and that became a real problem when sex entered the mix. I thought it was cool to hang out with guys who were at the very least 5 or 6 years older than I was, which at that time was 14. I had NO IDEA what the hell I was getting myself into and simultaneously lacked the wherewithal to extricate myself from the situation gracefully.
So there I was, in this seedy hotel room on Pennsylvania Avenue where many of the people who worked on Steel Pier spent the summer, lying in Barry Weiner’s bed, naked, trying to talk my way out of having sex with him.
“I’m a virgin.” This had to be a turn-off, right?
“I’m 14 years old.” Jail-bate, so this will make him back off, right?
I know! “I have my period.” How gross! That’ll work, for sure!
So instead just telling him no, I don’t want to do this, or just getting up, putting my clothes on and leaving like an adult, I thought I had to let him do what he wanted to do (another example of how girls were raised to do what they were told, not what they wanted). And there, on that bed where who knows what else happened before me, I lost my virginity to Barry Weiner, diver from Steel Pier and friend of Fred Richman.
Afterwards, I wondered what all the fuss was about over sex. I don’t think I even knew about orgasms, and for sure didn’t learn about them that day! I felt dirty and used, but decided that I had no one to blame for the entire experience but myself for getting into the situation in the first place, so I said nothing to my parents. I was so underwhelmed by the entire encounter that I decided then and there not to do it again until I was much older. By the time I started to date Donald, I had learned that telling boys I was a virgin was the best way to keep their hands out of my pants, so I told him that, too. For reasons I still don’t understand, my ‘friend’ Rick told him that I wasn’t a virgin, and Donald used that to wear me down. That, along with my awakening libido, was all that it took, and I was off to the races.
Donald and I had sex every chance we got, all of it unprotected and without any consideration of things like ovulation. Like most teenage girls, I refused to contemplate the possibility that my active sex life could result in a baby, certain that it wouldn’t happen to me. A few months later my period was late, and I’ll always be glad that my mother was paying attention and figured out that I was pretending to have my period.
My mom, who had more balls than most men of her age, didn’t let me maintain the charade. She had me make an appointment at Planned Parenthood, where I went on my way home from school for my first gynecological exam and pregnancy test. Although I knew I was pregnant that visit, I lied to my Mom, telling her the test was negative and I’d have to go back if I didn’t get my period in the next two weeks if I still didn’t get my period. I wanted a little time to think about things before my parents started to pressure me about it.
During those two weeks, I dreamed about how Donald and I would have the baby and live happily ever after. It didn’t take long before the reality of what was on the line became much clearer, as Donald made it very clear that he wasn’t going to take any responsibility for a fetus I literally could not have made without his input. I hadn’t yet made a decision the day my mom pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to be a teenager anymore, missing out on dances, my friends and hanging out on Steel Pier over the summer pregnant. Having it pointed out so starkly made my decision easy, so I walked to the phone and scheduled the procedure to terminate the pregnancy.
My mom tried to get Donald’s family to pitch in on the cost of the abortion, but his mother also felt he had no responsibility for the unwanted pregnancy his sperm had been crucial in creating.
My mom accompanied me to my appointment, sitting in the waiting room until I was released to go back home. I wasn’t traumatized by the procedure, which was over in just a few minutes, believing then as I do now that the products of conception prior to extra-uterine viability are not a separate living being and therefore have no ‘right’ to life as such. This is of course my personal opinion, one that I cannot force on anyone else.
I didn’t choose abortion because I wanted to kill my baby; I chose abortion because I didn’t want to have a baby at all at that time. The fetus that was removed from my uterus was not a baby; it was a clump of cells with a bit of electrical activity in the area that may have developed into a heart had the pregnancy continued. At 15 years old, the future for myself and that potential baby was statistically poor, and the life that I’ve led since that 1974 decision, including the children I have now, would likely have been very different, indeed.
I went on birth control after that abortion because I try to learn from my mistakes. I stopped oral contraceptives only twice, both times to have planned pregnancies. Eventually, I chose to have my tubes tied in order to avoid the possibility of getting pregnant again. In the year 2020, it is unacceptable that either elective abortions or birth control should be either controversial or something that the government has any business regulating or legislating. Reproductive healthcare is women’s healthcare, and no one other than each individual woman and her physician should be involved in any decision or choice.
The Republican’s hypocritical insistence on ramming through another right-wing ideologue preselected by Leonard Leo and The Federalist Society to maintain their minority hold on our courts and our rights for decades to come is unacceptable. This is their last, desperate attempt to ensure they can continue to force their religious beliefs onto those of us who do not believe what they do. It is made more reprehensible because they know that they have no reason to be worried that the rights they want to deny to the majority will be unavailable to their own wives/daughters/girlfriends because those with the cash can have whatever they want, while those with the most to lose and the least ability to pay are literally screwed.
Vote. Vote. Vote.
Vote as if your life depends on it.