"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison


Cheese Stick Fucking

Cheese Stick Fucking

    When I am twelve, I fuck myself with a cheese stick. I unwrap it, press it all the way inside me, and push it all the way back out. I squatted there, with a cheese stick in my hand, and a sense of boundless wonder in my gut. I was ancient, powerful, connected, and right. I had no idea I had an opening that could do something like that. 

    When I am seventeen, I sit anxiously in a waiting room, and I am sure of three things. One, my mom wants me to get the HPV vaccine. Two, to get the HPV vaccine, you can’t be sexually active. Three, I have no idea what “sexually active” means.

    I’m pretty sure I know what sex is (a penis in a vagina). It’s the adverb that’s throwing me off. If we’re talking linguistic modifiers, you can do all kinds of things sexually. I could find a “sexual” way to walk. Talk. Eat a parsnip. And none of those activities would be considered “sex.”

    And that’s not even counting my status as an “everything but” Catholic girl; if it’s not a penis in a vagina, it’s on the menu. So I fidget next to a pregnant mother wondering, “Which ones count as ‘sexually active?’ A finger inside me? A tongue? A cheese stick?” 

    I wish I could say, “Mom. Doctor. I’ve fucked myself with a low-fat mozzarella cheese stick. Can I still get the vaccine? Will it kill me?

    Instead, I say, “Mom, I feel like I should do this by myself.”

    I am desperately trying to get me and the doctor alone so I can ask him if it’s okay to get the HPV vaccine if I am a cheese-stick-fucker.

    “Just for the first part? Where I talk to him? If you could be there for the actual exam part that would be great,” I say.

    My subtlety is striking. I might as well have said, “Mom, I’m active with regards to vaginal penetrative sex (but not with a penis), and it’s difficult to give a detailed sexual history in front of you, your rosary, and Our Lord Jesus Christ (who I assume you bring everywhere with you in your handbag).”

    I should probably mention that we are in the waiting room of a male, Baptist gynecologist who comes highly recommended from my mom’s church friends.

    Somehow I get myself in a room alone with this guy.

    I take a deep breath. “I don’t know what it means to be sexually active.”

    “Well,” says Dr. Baptist, “Have you had sex?”

    My shoulders tighten, and I feel the urge to passive-aggressively pee in the doctor’s shoes.
“Well,” I seethe back, “How do you define sex?”

     “Should I give you some multiple-choice questions?”

    Yes, jackass. Let’s solve seventeen years of Catholic sex education with a quiz.

    With no answers, I walk into the exam room. My mother and the spirit of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are waiting in the corner. He’s in the handbag. I’m surprised by what I see on her face. She has a look of pained empathy. She’s not mad, which seems odd given I have not-so-stealthily absconded with the doctor to chat about definitions of sexual activity. While Dr. Baptist shoves a speculum into my vaginal opening, he and my mother chat about the moral questions involved with the HPV vaccine. 

    “I gave it a lot of thought,” says Dr. Baptist, staring into the vaginal opening of a seventeen-year-old. “Will it increase sexual activity in teens?” He removes the speculum and inserts his fingers. “How will it impact the moral character of youth in this country?” He pushes his fingers further inside me and presses his other hand on my abdomen like he’s searching for something. Then he gives me a shot, and I’m on my way. 


*

    I’m thirty now, and I have the deepest compassion for my mother. She is a stoic Midwestern Catholic who got a bisexual atheist daughter. Her life experience did not furnish her with the tools to completely “get” a kid like me. But on the day that she had to choose between preventing cervical cancer and vaguely promoting promiscuity, she chose to protect me against cervical cancer. 

    “You should get the HPV vaccine,” she said, “because you never know. Your husband could cheat on you.”

    I’ve met more OB’s since then. Their exam tables have fuzzy stirrups with polka dots. Some of these doctors hold mirrors to my vaginal opening, so I can give a friendly wave to my cervix. I learn from these women that when Dr. Baptist was inside me, he was probably feeling for ovarian cysts. I learn that you can absolutely get the HPV vaccine if you’ve had a penis, finger, or a cheese stick in your vagina. But the most important thing I learned is never, under any circumstances, let a religious fanatic inside you.


E. C. Kelly has an M.A. in Liberal Arts, which is a fancy way of saying she's studied teaching, acting, and creative writing a lot. What motivates her writing is the queer kid born to an unaccepting family. She wants to reach that kid. Website: https://www.clippings.me/users/eckelly

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