I was seventeen years old, and everyone else was doing it. It was time to lose my virginity.
My first steady boyfriend, Randy, was downstairs with me in our finished basement, lights out. My parents weren’t home.
He (breathlessly): “Are you sure?”
Me (fake gasp): “Oh, yes!”
But when Randy stripped off his pants, the gasp that came out of me was real. I almost changed my mind.
The only weenies I’d ever seen were the itty-bitty fingertips between the legs of babies. (These were olden times, before explicit films and the internet.) Bearing down on me was this jutting, ugly-as-hell TUBE thing—A thing my boyfriend intended to shove up me. No way.
But I had decided this was the night. I let Randy climb on top. He worked that ugly tube inside while I lay on my back, knees bent, with the bottoms of my feet facing the ceiling.
That was the first time in my life I had ever been in that position.
Men, if you’ve ever been curious, here are a real woman’s actual thoughts from her very first experience of lovemaking:
– This is not natural.
– This is the most vulnerable position for a human to be in, on the back with the belly exposed.
– I feel like a turtle stuck on its shell.
– I hate this.
– Why have older women been LYING to younger women about this?!
I was furious. Furious at WOMEN. How DARE they not share with all girls that there was nothing at all good about sex. That it was all just a fraud, as far as women were concerned.
Even though I came, my first time, I didn’t know what was happening—it was just a physical response, like a pleasant flush of heat. That small diversion wasn’t enough to make up for the extreme awkwardness and vulnerability of the unusual position, and my lack of emotional involvement.
In my case, it took a year until brain and body got their acts together and I got the hang of it all. (I have it now. )
(If you’re still a virgin, and a straight female: This post–from Teen Vogue–don’t laugh–is a great quick read about what first times can be like.)
So…it’s the next morning. I’m in the kitchen, and the phone rings.
“It’s Maria—Guess what?”
“Rob and I did it last night.”
“You know: Rob and I did IT last night!” crowed my pal.
“You’re kidding! Randy and I did it last night, TOO!!”, I crowed back.
“Hah, hah, April Fool’s!” laughed Maria.
I wish there was a photograph of my face right then.
Yes, my dears: My first experience of the glories of sex occurred after midnight on March 31st, making me a true April Fool.
Eight weeks later, I found out just how much of a fool—for we had not used a condom, and I was pregnant.
Why did it take until the 8th week for me to know? Did I not miss a period sooner?
Even during my first adult pregnancy, my periods continued for months, although they were very light.
It was 1973. I lived in a house with two abusive parents: Parents who had not only broken my sister’s jaw, but, far worse, tried to break our sense of worth by verbally abusing us daily, accompanied by hard cuffs across the face.
Although I was underweight and hungry much of the time. I’d been forbidden to take healthy food like bread and milk to eat when I arrived home from school each day. No longer were my clothes being provided.
My father was making around $400,000 a year in today’s dollars.
Was I to give birth to a baby while living in that house, to be abused as I had been?
Having severe pet allergies, I had no other options for where to live.
I knew my fetus was better off never being born. Abortion was the only responsible, adult decision I could make.
A handful of other teen girls had gotten abortions, arranged by their parents, even prior to the Roe v. Wade decision. They had been whisked out-of-state, taken to private doctors, and come back to school to buzzing whispers.
That wasn’t going to happen for me. I was so scared. What could I do?
After extremely quiet inquiries, one of my childhood friends came to me privately and let me know that the Planned Parenthood in Downtown (Manhattan) performed abortions, for $100–over $500 in today’s dollars.
I was deeply grateful to this friend: She was devoutly Catholic, and for her to provide this information was to me a sign both of her deep caring, and also her understanding that abortion was the right choice in my case, with my family.
Not long afterward, the Pope issued an edict excommunicating all Catholics who provided, or even had ALREADY provided, any assistance whatsoever to those obtaining abortions. My friend was devastated at the cost of her help to me.
However, the Current Pope Does Seem a Big Improvement
I had $8 to my name. Babysitting back then paid $1 an hour, and jobs were hard to come by. Where would I get $100?
As I investigated my options, the days ticked by. My boyfriend told me “Don’t worry about it—I’ll take care of it.” but I wasn’t counting on HIM. It wasn’t HIS body that was pregnant.
Finally, I gave in and approached my friend Naomi. In Senior year, we weren’t as close, but I knew our friendship was still there.
I asked Naomi if she would lend me the money, without knowing what it was for, or when I would be able to pay her back. This was a large amount for back then, but she of course said Yes.
Because that’s what friends do.
The day of the appointment. I’m now at ten weeks. Randy and I meet up, and he hands over a crisp new $100 bill. What the what?!
“Where did you get this?!”
“I told you not to worry about it.”
“But where did you get this?”
“I just did. Let’s go.”
I can tell there’s something…off. But I don’t have time for it.
We bus it across the George Washington bridge, take the subway to Planned Parenthood. I sit down opposite an unsmiling, unfriendly black woman (her color will be pertinent). When we get to the part about payment, she asks for TWO hundred dollars—not one.
“But—I was told by my friend that it costs $100!”
“You came over the bridge today, right?”
“You live with your parents, right?”
“Two hundred dollars.”
She looked with hatred at me.
I grew up in a highly-mixed neighborhood. This was my first experience of negative assumptions being made about me based upon my appearance: My color, my features, my style of dress, my manner of speech.
I could suddenly tell that this woman had decided that she was seeing a privileged WHITE suburban girl who could easily afford the highest rate charged on the center’s sliding scale. It took some minutes of talking before I convinced her that I’d had trouble getting ONE hundred dollars.
Two hours later, I was led into a room where a suction abortion was performed. It hurt a lot, but not as much as my monthly cramps (my family were cramp champions).
I felt only relief.
Never have I ever felt any remorse. If I could go back in time and advise teen Babe on what to do, I would say:
“What do YOU think, Babe?”—and then I would heartily endorse her abortion choice.
Randy and I left Planned Parenthood that day and got on the subway. Almost immediately, I began feeling ill. I had to get off that shaky dark subway—now.
We slowly climbed up the subway stairs to the outdoors and made our way to a sunny triangular pocket-park, where we sat on a little wooden bench. While we sat, a very tall man came and sat close by my side. Moments later, another large man sat close by Randy’s side, so that we were sandwiched between.
The guys started talking with us, and we with them–I wasn’t feeling that chatty, but was trying to be polite. One of the men suddenly started laughing hysterically. I asked:
“What’s so funny?”
“Don’t you kids know where you are? You’re sitting smack-dab in the middle of HARLEM!”
Harlem: The Ghetto. New York City- Harlem- juillet 1970: le ghetto; containers rouillÈs sur le trottoir abritant des feux et dÈtritus dans une rue. (Photo by Jack Garofalo/Paris Match via Getty Images)
My. That WAS a surprise. (Perhaps the guys had been surprised, also: That two white-looking suburban kids hadn’t been discomfited when two large black men had sat close beside us.)
The guys explained that we had better not try to walk back to the subway alone. (It’s possible they were exaggerating, but in ’73, they may not have been.) One provided his company as we made our way back, and boarded the subway for the relative safety of suburbia.
Where I thanked Naomi, and returned her money.
My largest charitable donation each year does not go to Planned Parenthood.
It is my second-largest.
They saved two lives that day. Not mine and Randy’s. Mine, and the life of my would-have-been-abused child.
I have donated to them annually since 1973.
My mother used to tell me, often, that were abortion made legal retroactively, she would have never had me.
I learned, later, that my then-boyfriend had obtained his “Don’t worry about it” hundred dollars by performing his first major theft. He had:
– broken a window,
– stolen equipment clearly marked with the owning company’s name—but marked with removable marker!
– gone into the downtown Manhattan K-Mart, where the manager purchased these clearly-stolen goods in exchange for a crisp $100 bill.
I urged that POS (piece-of-sugar) boyfriend to make restitution, which he did not.
However, I shamefully did not break up with him quite yet. When I did, a few months later, this is the boy who raped me.