WARNING: Female health issues mentioned (the squeamish may want to avoid or they might know more about the vagina than they wanted to)
Today I had to go to my routine smear test, every three years in the UK. For the those that haven’t had the pleasure, or can’t as they do not have a cervix; this is a routine scraping of a ladies cervix to check for ‘abnormal cells’ which could be early cancerous or HPV.
Why am I talking about this? Well, as you can imagine it is not the most comfortable experiences from the onset. Preparation has to go into this appointment; being clean and tidy is just polite. Then your name is called from the waiting room, here I always feel my first words should be “sorry”, it seems natural to say this to the person whose job includes scraping the insides of ladies.
The nurse at my GP practice is lovely. She talks, almost constantly, which helps ease some of the embarrassment. First came routine advice to reduce my risks of ‘abnormal cells’;
- No smoking – Tick for me. I have never even tried it (my uncle died of lung cancer when I was 12 and my nan smoked like a chimney – enough to put me off).
- Reduce Alcohol – Another Tick, feel like I might pass this test! I do not drink due to the Fibromyalgia medication, plus it always fed my depression.
- Avoid having many sexual partners – Well, how many is too many? What are we talking here? I joked at this point, “no problem here, no one is interested at the moment”. The nurse gave me a stern look and told me I was probably better off as there are few good men.
This question also led to the nurse telling me about another lady she chatted to whilst in the stirrups. This lady had been mocked by her friends as she had been dating a man for 5 months and had not slept with him yet. The woman was asking if this was SO strange? I am not sure my nurse is an expert, but I said, “Waiting 5 months, must be a keeper”. The nurse told me off, raising the issue but sometimes the waiting can be like a challenge to men. She advised waiting for a ring on that finger. I changed the subject by removing my pants and jumping onto her examination bed. It really does change the atmosphere of a room.
For me her anecdote this made me think; how long do people wait? What is expected of us as women/men? I am not currently dating anyone but have heard of the; 3 date rule, 5 date rule, just on on the first date rule and who cares rule. Thinking back my self-esteem was low as I became attractive to the opposite sex and so I let the guys lead, although never on a first date did I go all the way.
I think the main problem I have with this story is the judgement her friends had. To me there are no rules and people should do what they want. But then do we know what we want and do we do it? I know I often was following the lead of others instead of my own desires. This doesn’t mean it was non consensual just I didn’t know what I wanted. I was desperate for someone to love me that sex became love. The old ‘actions speak a thousand words’ for me became ‘sex says love’. I was wrong, I am happy to admit it now. After years of therapy and beautiful hindsight slapping me around the face.
Now I feel more worthy of love I take less sh*t from men and so would be able to know my own wants. But even then, there is the pressures of keeping the person, pleasing them, and wanting them to like you. A relationship is a mixture of two peoples needs, wants and desires, which is why it can be so hard to navigate. although always remember ‘No means No’, something I repeat to teenage boys at my school worryingly often.
Ok so smear test over for another three years. Uncomfortable, necessary and embarrassing – sounds like loosing my virginity, but that is a hilarious story for another day in this mental world.