Scary Mary

I've only slept with three men in my life. My ex-husband and two guys I dated last year. Right now, I'm not sleeping with anyone until I get this mess I've gotten myself into straightened out.

I started dating last year after I got a divorce from my husband of 17 years. I slept with two men and didn't use protection with either one. I didn't because my tubes are tied and these guys said they were STD-free. One guy hadn't had sex in over a year (I do believe this). The other had regular partners but used protection; he and I didn't because I'M STUPID.

Now, I am totally paranoid, ashamed, filled with guilt, and kicking myself.

Anyhow, I was blubbering to my close friend about my stupidity, and she told me to get an AIDS test, but not to go to my regular doctor because they tell your insurance company and then your job finds out and then you're a "risk" and hard to insure and so on and so on. Then she told me that the tester (me) has to pay some huge amount for the test. When I called my doctor's office to ask, they wanted me to hold while they looked up my information, but I just hung up because I'm STUPID.

My other friend (thirtysomething) has slept with lots of men. She said hardly any guys offer to use protection up front and many are just ready to dive in; a smart girl no longer accepts this and insists on protection. However, my point is that despite all the STD/AIDS warnings, I'm not the only stupid person who isn't covering up.

I am never going rubberless again.


OK, first of all, calm down and quit calling yourself STUPID. Yes, you engaged in unwise practices and should get tested for STDs. No, you shouldn't continue beating yourself up for it—learn from your mistakes and don't do it again. In fact, go buy a giant box of condoms this afternoon.

Next, call Planned Parenthood (206-328-7700) and set up an HIV test. They will keep the results confidential and will not report anything to your insurance company unless you want them to.

As for your friend and the huge amount of money she's talking about—you need better-informed buddies. Planned Parenthood charges on a sliding fee scale, and that ranges anywhere from 11 to 43 bucks. Not exactly a bank buster. With the money you save, you can give them a nice fat donation, because they deserve one.

If it makes you feel any better, I recently went through an AIDS scare myself. I've been getting some dental work done, and during the process of rooting around, my periodontist asked me if I had any immune-compromising diseases, you know—like AIDS.

Uh, no, I answered. I don't think so.

She started rifling through my chart while I got down to the business of freaking out, asking her if she thought I had it. There were tears. I was there for my teeth, and all of a sudden she's talking disease?!? I tried to recall when I was last tested. She wouldn't look me in the eye but said no, of course I didn't have AIDS. Then she told me to report to my physician immediately and get a bunch of tests done. She wrote down a list of the tests she needed, folded the paper up, and handed it to me.

I didn't look at it until I got home that night. HIV was at the top of the list.

This was just before Christmas—a holiday that I love, but which also causes everything in its path to move that much slower—so I had a couple weeks to wonder, worry, and pretty much lose my mind. Every day I'd run down to the mailbox several times, hoping and praying that the results would've arrived. Nope. They didn't get there (negative, thank fucking Santa!) until New Year's Eve.

So yes, while it is big and scary to get an HIV test, not knowing is way scarier. The odds are, you're fine. But there's always a chance you're not, which is why it's important to check it out and even more important that you keep it wrapped from now on.

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