by Ked Kirkham
Treat your health kindly and it will support you for the long haul.
When I was 21, I met Tom. A veteran, he had been stationed in Washington and had brought home a street sign as a souvenir: FERRY PARKING. Tom mounted it on the inside of the door to his bedroom. That was a little late in the game, to my thinking. I had already pulled in to park.
I thought we were dating. You know, drinking six-packs on the mesa, never being seen in public, never meeting any family, me giving sex on demand. You know, dating.
Came a night, Tom wanted to do me “that way.”
The deed was done. He was gentle, I guess. Poor Tom, I rewound my long string of brass beads (with astrological sign pendant) around my neck feigning an oft imagined de-flowered persona, putting all my innocent high school romantic regret into it, including — probably humming “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from JC Superstar. You now have my whole memory of it. It is likely I walked the mile or so to Denny’s, or the two miles or so home, or just wandered through the streets and alleys of our burgh.
I was dating, I was really dating!
Bill told me later he could tell I had done it that way almost from the very next afternoon. It was true. I was bathing more consistently, dressing more stylishly, fixing my hair more neatly. I wasn’t a slob before but suffice it to say I hadn’t thought “it” or I mattered so much.
I also began realizing that I really liked it “that way.” In fact, I became obsessed with it. That way. To the dismay and concern of a few people over the next thirty years. Perhaps it became an addiction, though I do not say that out loud or too broadly; I believe addictions require treatment and I am not sure I would take treatment if it were suggested. Unhappy folks will know what I mean.
I was still in the stages of play sex. That is, sex as recreation, not relationship building. Unfortunately, play sex can expose a body to troubles. It has mine. I have tried to look back at my sex life a little more open-mindedly. Not being a scientist, it will be, forgive the pun, a lay job.
When I was young, I thought “we all do it.” I realize now this has never been true but had we talked about it, perhaps — well, perhaps.
I vaguely recall from a fog of medication, the colorectal surgeon shaking forceps above me saying, “This is not good!”
I had gone a long time being impractical.
If doing “it” “that way” is a source of delight, one should have all pertinent parts looked into periodically. I am not being figurative. It needs to be scoped out. I think best with a trusted practitioner, one who can ask the appropriate questions. Your cooperation is of the utmost importance. Not all health concerns show up at the front door. Some give no notice at all until they have fixed themselves a nice cozy place to put down roots.
My physician removed several viral warts. HPV, human papillomavirus, was not mentioned. He, like I, may not have made the connection, but he was aware of my activity. We were able to address his concerns without it shutting me down. Priceless, as they say. Even with the introduction of an HPV vaccination, the information I got about this virus didn’t seem to fit me. It was for young people, young women, especially who had not yet become sexually active. If it had been available, would I have stepped up? I had not even told my parents I was dating.
In fact, the vaccination for HPV can be beneficial for those “doing it” like me, even after sexual activity has begun. And that will help prevent several types of cancer. It was only after my colon cancer that I began to see this possible connection. Ninety percent of HPV infections resolve themselves, but there is presently no test for the active virus in men, which is one more yellow sign at the intersections on our street: CAUTION.
Ask your trusted health practitioner about this. All methods of blocking the virus should be reviewed. It’s your health, treat it as it deserves to be treated.
We have seen fluctuations in sexually transmitted infections. When you are getting tested for STD you can amp up the goal by saying how you are being risky. Honest Open and Willing is less risky than Vague Evasive and Denying. Some restrictions may apply.
My primary care doctors have shown limitations in their knowledge, which we have worked on. For instance, I think of being sexually active as using all sexual apparatus, including “that way”; they thought it was just having sex with someone else. Neither is wrong, the one, however, is incomplete.
I do not spend hours cataloging the risk I posed to others between my ages 19 and 35, but in these thirty years since, I have put deeper thought toward it. Mindfulness helps sort through the puzzlements. I want to see my health, including sexual health as something of value, something durable and delightful. I had to come to believe this and then make the decision to treat it accordingly.
Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, 6:30–8 p.m., 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8.