Two weeks ago, I went in for my yearly gynecologist appointment to renew my birth control prescription. A few days later, I got the call we all dread: one of my test results came back positive. I had chlamydia. I’d just returned from a long trip where, to be frank, I’d slept around with quite a few people. It was the first time in my life where one night stands were an actual possibility for me, and I just let myself run free. I came home, regaling my friends with stories of my exploits and feeling better about myself than I had in a very long time. I was confident and beautiful, and I felt unstoppable.
That call changed everything though. I could feel my heart drop into my stomach as the nurse on the phone told me that I had chlamydia, and that I would need to tell my sexual partner as soon as possible so that he could be treated as well. I stammered out an okay, unable to explain that I’d had unprotected sex with three different men, all in the week before I came home.
After my trip to Walgreens to pick up my antibiotics, I laid in bed and groaned in emotional agony for about an hour. I felt dirty and unwanted. I felt like I was that “slutty girl” that young men warn each other about. In such a short time, I went from living an amazing dream to being in an actual nightmare. I didn’t think I could contact these three people again. It would be like tainting positive memories, and even though all of them lived in a different hemisphere, I couldn’t handle how their perceptions of me would change. I would go from “the wild American” to “the whore with an STD”.
Following a few deep breaths, I realized that this was not the time to take the coward’s way out. I’d done something extremely stupid, and I needed to own up to it. I started with the guy I thought would take the news the best and worked my way down. I was completely candid with all of them and didn’t skirt around any hard truths. I just knew I couldn’t live with myself if I misled these men about their sexual health.
Throughout all of this, I was in contact with one of my closest friends who told me this: STD’s are just colds we catch with our private parts. Strep throat and chlamydia both go away after seven days with antibiotics. I let this sink in, and I slowly started to feel less ashamed. Because yes, I was incredibly naive to think I was invincible, but it is estimated by the CDC that one in twenty young women have chlamydia. They use that statistic to scare you in health class, but now that I was one of them, I see millions of women embarrassed and scared who could use someone to tell them that it’s okay.
Now that the medication has done its job and I am a “clean woman” again, I see that I learned a lesson the hard way. Condoms are not optional. However, this isn’t going to stop me from having sex because you know what? I love sex. I love the rush of a good hook-up, and I am not about to change myself in the face of stigma. I am not dirty; I am gorgeous, and I’m ready to be wild again.