I have bad allergies. Really bad. So bad that when I finally started seeing an allergist a year ago he told me there are about 4 weeks in the year, two in the summer and two in the fall, when I’m not allergic to things in there air.
But I didn’t realize my allergies were quite that bad until recently. Before then, I’d go to a “regular” doctor and get allergy meds. And about once every 2-3 years, I’d be given a steroid shot if my cedar allergies were to the point that I couldn’t walk from my front door to my car without sneezing 10-15 times.
About 4 years ago, at the age of 26 and pre-marriage, it was one of “those years” where I absolutely needed a shot. I called for a doctor’s appointment at the local regional clinic only to be informed that my usual doctor was not available. Feeling beyond miserable, I consented to see any doctor that was available. My appointment was set, and in I went that day to see the doctor.
As a female, there’s a pretty standard routine of being asked by the nurse when your last menstrual period was, what, if any medications, including birth control, you’re on, etc. After going through all that I sat and waited for the doctor. He comes in, checks my symptoms, and I tell him I want a shot. He lectures me on not waiting until the last minute to get taken care of for my allergies. Frustrated about the lecture, I told him I wasn’t waiting until the last minute. And that I had been taking high strength allergies meds for over two months. He then consented to giving me a shot, but not before one of the most memorable, most awkward, and most frustrating conversations of my life.
Doctor: “Are you pregnant?”
Doctor: “Is there any chance you could be pregnant?”
Me, wondering why he’s asking me the question again, since if he looked at my chart he’d know he didn’t need to ask me that question again: “No.”
Doctor, looking and speaking condescendingly: “There’s always a chance you could be pregnant.”
Me, pretty angry and offended at this point (first a lecture on allergies when I’m feeling miserable and now this!?): “Not if I don’t have sex there isn’t.”
Doctor, looking very taken aback and confused kinda gawks at me and spurts: “Well, uh… okay…”
Me: “And no, I’ve never had sex.”
Doctor, awkwardly, as he hurried out the door: “Well, I guess you can have the shot then…”
Um, yeah, I still don’t know what to say about that conversation. I know doctors have a protocol they need to follow concerning medicine, but the air of superiority and condescension present in this doctors tone just got to me. And the bewilderment that someone could still be a virgin past the age of 19 or 20 is not just present in the medical world. It’s prevalent in movies, TV shows, music, news, schools, advertising, social media and well, pretty much everywhere you look in society. The world has a problem with the call for and desire for living this pure holiness, virginity. Two fairly recent examples can be found in a November 2011 episode of Glee and within the HHS mandate “fight.”
In the fall of 2011 the TV show “Glee,” had aired an episode called, “The First Time.” In the episode, teen characters Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel* were told, by a peer, that there was no way they could show enough passion to play the leads of Tony and Maria in Westside Story because they were both virgins. It is suggested that the characters fix this by having sex with their significant others (which were not each other). Towards the end of the episode, visual allusions were made to both characters having had sex for the first time with their significant others, and both characters were shown performing as the leads of Westside Story, acting with passion and energy. Apparently, virginity was their problem. And, of course, having sex solved it.
When the whole HHS mandate was big in the media, there was a large debate about numbers. Numbers of Catholic women having sex with birth control, numbers of Catholic women having sex without birth control, numbers of Catholic married women having sex with birth control, etc. But the one number frequently skipped over? The number of Catholic women not having sex, and not needing birth control because they followed the Catholic Church’s call to live holiness by keeping sex within the Sacrament of Marriage. Though a small number, it’s a number that really matters when it comes to requiring the Catholic Church to act contrary to our faith teachings.
In talking with some of my other Catholic female friends, they’ve had similar encounters with their doctors. And co-workers, friends, people they date and even family members. To myself and to other Catholics, female and male alike, that are virgins until marriage, the lack of acceptance and understanding of the desire to live the pure holiness of virginity can be frustrating, exhausting, hurtful and disheartening.
But who said living the call to holiness would be easy?
*correction: the male character was Blaine Anderson, not Kurt Hummel