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An Ex Does A Body Good

It’s been quite the week. First off, I gave myself the meanest, deepest paper cut ever (and my boss, Danny, made me fill out an incident report about my injury). Later that same day, I managed to lock myself inside a bathroom stall, having no choice but to put hands and knees on the grimy bathroom floor to crawl out. And then on Tuesday, I intercepted a call on my boyfriend Jonathan’s phone from his ex (and, yes… the contact on his phone literally listed her as “Ex”). I didn’t even know he had an ex. I mean, I realize that potentially there are dozens or more women out there able to claim that title. But I had no idea that he and this particular ex still communicated. So, I freaked out. I didn’t say anything to him about it, but my imagination went berserk trying to figure out what he and this ex could possibly have to discuss. And why Ex is saved as a contact in his phone.

Rather than confronting him or seeking advice from a gal pal, I did what seemed perfectly rational to me at the time: I headed straight to the local clinic right after work the next day, finding myself telling a woman on the other side of the thin glass waiting room pane, “Hi. I’d like to get an HIV test.”

Now boo me all you want, but this was a first for me. Call it denial or fear or ignorance, but I’d always told myself that if I had HIV, I’d rather just not know. It’d worked with chicken pox, my physician recently telling me I had antibodies for it despite having no recollection of any poc-related illnesses in my past. So, I’d applied the same logic to AIDS and other things that seemed overwhelmingly ominous.

But for some strange reason, thoughts about this Ex pushed me into a new place, where my knowing for sure that I was positive or negative was much better than being uninformed. At least I’d be able to take medications if I was positive for HIV or anything else. I’d even mentally quashed my fear of needles before stepping inside the building, only to learn that all they needed from me was a swab from inside my mouth. “Seriously,” I’d asked Leslie, the HIV counselor, right before she started asking me a long list of personal questions.

Mariah sings about folks being all up in her business like a Wendy Williams interview. Shoot, Wendy’s got nothing on these clinic counselors. Initially, I was annoyed by Leslie’s questions about the most intimate details of my life. Soon enough, however, I relaxed, realizing that there was a benefit to talking about what I was doing, who I was doing, in what places I doing the things I was doing, how often I was doing it, and what drugs I’d taken before doing what I was doing. I felt like I was on the Playboy Channel’s version of “This Is Your Life,” surprised that her final round of inquiries didn’t ask me about my favorite positions or if I smoked a cigarette afterwards. She assured me, however, that everything I said was completely confidential, and that she could get fined for telling anyone about our discussion. Yah – fined and told off if I ever found out Leslie spilled my beans.

Just as I started wondering how I’d cope with the stress of waiting around for a couple of weeks for the results, Leslie informed me that the test they use would be ready in 20 minutes. I nearly fainted. That was cool in all, but I hadn’t been emotionally prepared to learn my status so quickly. Tempted to get up and run away, I secretly vowed to keep my legs closed and my panties up until I’d jumped the broom with a healthy, upstanding brotha who didn’t have Ex listed in his phone. But then, she reminded me of the “C” word.

“How often do you and your partner use condoms?”

I was embarrassed to tell her that we haven’t used condoms at all since I got back on the pill in February. But eventually I fessed up, and she reminded me that the pill doesn’t protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. “I know,” I told her, using the economy as my excuse for not investing in prophylactics.

“Condoms are cheaper than a lifetime of HIV medications,” she said, making me feel as big as a piece of lint. She was right, though. It takes an incident like this to gain a little perspective. Scary statistics don’t hurt either, Leslie telling me that rates of infection among Black women and Latinas in the U.S. have been rising.

“Why is that?” I’d asked, happy to shift the conversation away from me and my recent confessions.

“All sorts of reasons,” she told me, noting issues like stigma, shame, homophobia, poverty, and racism. Deep. I got more than an HIV test up there. I got an education.

I’m happy to say that, twenty minutes later, my test came back negative. I wasn’t dancing on the ceiling or anything, remembering Leslie’s thoughts about how stigmatized the disease is, but I was happy. Living with HIV or AIDS is tough. I have a cousin on the East Coast who was diagnosed over a decade ago. Improved treatments have certainly improved his quality of life, but he still has daily struggles to manage.

So although I’m still troubled by the Ex-factor, I’m happy that her call led me to the clinic. Thinking about the valuable information Leslie provided to me, I’m empowered to do something. To take action. Maybe I’ll raise money for AIDS Walk this year, or spend time doing work in the community. And I’m definitely going to give my cousin a call to see how he’s doing. Most of all, I’m down for taking some personal responsibility, which means no more nookie for Jonathan…at least not without condoms.

Diane is (quite) a character on the online soap opera Buena Beach (www.buenabeach.com). Her weekly insights on what’s happening at the Beach are featured exclusively on Urban Thought Collective.


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Comments

July 25th, 2008 at 10:00 pm SweetSis says:

#1

July 25th, 2008 at 10:09 pm SweetSis says:

This is serious as a heart attack yall. Needed to be said. we act like ain’t no more AIDS. It is still here and killing black women worst of all

July 25th, 2008 at 10:10 pm Philip Giddings says:

Are sista’s still letting dudes in without raincoats?

July 25th, 2008 at 10:13 pm Lottie Markus says:

Funny but with a great message for the young ladies…well done

July 25th, 2008 at 11:04 pm thelma says:

IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE A WRAP! HEY WE LIVE AND LEARN THATS FOR REAL

July 25th, 2008 at 11:18 pm buttabrown says:

wow you broke it down… ‘ex’ hey at least you know you got an honest dude he’s like making it clear she’s from way yesterday

July 25th, 2008 at 11:23 pm culturepop says:

Keep it safe young ladies!

July 26th, 2008 at 7:39 am chica22 says:

AIN’T NO JOKE. GOOD WORS DIANE!

July 26th, 2008 at 7:40 am chica22 says:

FORGIVE MY TYPO! GOOD WORDS!!!!!

July 26th, 2008 at 12:39 pm just2bee says:

making thse results come in a few minutes is the best thing they did.. girl wwaiting 2 weeks would have killed me!!!!!

July 26th, 2008 at 1:47 pm mustbemagic says:

Ladies young old all yall please take care of yoruself!

July 26th, 2008 at 5:10 pm MY ADIDAS says:

EX is a clown! He don’t even care to put her name that cold haha

July 26th, 2008 at 6:20 pm UncleD says:

Gettin serious up on Buena Beach. I’m wit it.

July 26th, 2008 at 6:33 pm Elsa Harkins says:

Your blog one of the funniest on UTC but dope you’re dropping a lil knowledge too. But make sure to stay funny too. You’re one of my favorites girl! Thanks for the nfo.

July 26th, 2008 at 6:51 pm Coretta Scott Queen says:

Excellent information Diane!

July 26th, 2008 at 7:06 pm Chatty Cathy says:

AIDS is the #1 killer of black women. A chilling frightening thought. Anytime we can preach about this I’m for it. This surprise blog is to exception. Kudos.

July 26th, 2008 at 8:31 pm Binta Rohan says:

Sombering but necessary. I’m afraid to do it. But maybe one day.

July 26th, 2008 at 9:36 pm higherlove says:

I thought when you saw that number in the phone you were gonna go off! Great twist that it motivated this

July 27th, 2008 at 2:08 am ratty says:

that’s was up, diane
ditto @ chatty

July 27th, 2008 at 8:41 am heatmizer says:

I admit very sadly that I have never had a test…I’m terrified! Go on brave woman

July 27th, 2008 at 12:44 pm TellAll says:

knowledge is power.
We are powerful people.
Know your status family.
Be not afraid.

July 27th, 2008 at 2:40 pm gERALD j says:

Get the test and don’t stress the rest

July 27th, 2008 at 3:07 pm dollsdaughter says:

Excellent blog

July 27th, 2008 at 3:15 pm shinyjoy says:

word ms cannick

July 27th, 2008 at 3:16 pm jacqi l says:

i howled over this one
but the point is very important and i appreciate your words

July 28th, 2008 at 10:16 am Tina says:

Very nice. Glad to have you speak on this serious issue. Our community is turning a blind eye and it is more of an epidemic for us then every before. Wrap ‘em up people!

July 28th, 2008 at 12:09 pm Torian Salary says:

LOL, this is funny, and true. I always look forward to reading your blogs Diane, keep ‘em coming!!!!