You Know What

I find myself in the most obscure situations in the world. Well, maybe not *the most obscure*, but odd situations.

I was in the washroom minding my own business, and when I came out, a colleague asked me if I had a pad. I said yes, that I had both pads and tampons, and which would she prefer? I’m rather like a boy scout (except in all the obvious ways) always prepared.

She’d never used a tampon before, and when I offered to explain their use, seemed to be embarrassed. (What was I supposed to do?)

We got past this, and she mentioned that this period was unexpected. I cocked my head to the side, and I asked what she was doing for birth control. She is, after all, in a long term relationship. (And I used to teach sex ed. Situations like this make me whip out my charts and my samples. I usually try to work in a discussion on marriage and sex at this point too.)

She stumbled through an explanation – without actually using the word condom (and I am concerned that I have merely connected “his job” to “condom use” without her actually saying that.) How in the world do you have sex, when you can’t mention the word condom?

Anyway, she was telling me that she doesn’t believe in birth control – because she thinks it makes you fat, and while I’m not sure I would make such a sweeping judgment, I am also concerned that birth control is not as innocuous as we might think. (It’s my crunchy side coming out). I am also honour bound to point out that pregnancy makes you fatter than birth control ever would.

So, we have this woman, who is not a teenager, scared to use a tampon, won’t use birth control because it will make her fat, knows nothing about her menstrual cycle (periods are supposed to be regular?)

And I’m perplexed.

She is not a child. There are all sorts of information sources available to you.

There’s the internet. There’s books. There’s movies. There’s your friends, the medical establishment.

I sighed and mentioned that I used to teach sex-ed to teenage boys, and there’s nothing she could say that would embarrass me, and I would be very happy to explain how her menstrual cycle actually works.

I still cannot fathom how you could be this ignorant about your own body.

This entry was posted in Curiosity Killed the Cat. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to You Know What

  1. mrs spock says:

    Reminds me of a friend from high school who had been having sex for a year, but never had seen her boyfriend naked, and wasn’t sure she was actually having sex, because she wasn’t too sure about the anatomy. I was befuddled then.

    BUt for an adult to be that ignorant now? Wow.

  2. Jayme says:

    I never understood why people wouldn’t want to know their own bodies. I had a friend who was very ignorant about it, and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting pregnant. I gave her a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility and she was pregnant in a month. She said she’d been doing it wrong. I didn’t ask for details, though I am still curious.

  3. Angie says:

    That is kind of insane. But then again, my mother was an AIDS educator in the mid 80s, so in high school, I knew more about sex than any other person not having sex. She actually put a basket of condoms on our coffee table dressed up with silk flowers. You know, just in case anyone wanted to experiment and too embarrassed to go buy condoms. Ironically, I was a honor student with black rimmed glasses, which is really the best form of birth control there is. We also blushingly sat through “our body” conversations since we could speak. I kind of think this is a result of people naming their body parts things like Pepe. But still, for an adult to not really know how a tampon works, it is mind-boggling. You are a good, patient woman, Mrs. Spit. I may have been tempted to give her the tampon and let her figure it out for herself. If she came out with a string hanging out of her nose, I may have been a bit more explanatory.

  4. HereWeGoAJen says:

    Oh, my. I had a friend like this in high school. It was awful. She asked me if you could get pregnant if you went to the bathroom right after. Sigh.

  5. M says:

    I, too, find it perplexing… My mom is a NICU doc, so I grew up with a lot more knowledge than most, I know. I can understand the ignorance in young people, I can even understand the ignorance of IF in the case of most women because, honestly, I probably won’t know all this if I hadn’t been forced to live through it. But I was having a conversation with a fellow teacher (who is in her 30s) about why I’m being monitored so much more closely than she is (she’s about 2 months ahead of me)… She actually had to stop me because she didn’t know what a cervix is. This is a very smart, educated women who is planning on giving birth in less than a month!! How is it possible she knows nothing about what is about to happen?? I find it flabergasting…

  6. Gloria Mason says:

    I admit it took me till I had personal Internet before I figured out I had PCOS. But I will always remember how surprised I was first year university when I found out there were other ladies on my floor in residence who didn’t know how to use a tampon and were relatively clueless about their bodies. I was even more surprised about the one girl who was pregnant and later m/c. I know she attended an all girls catholic highschool….they must not have had the birth control class.

  7. Duck says:

    this woman sounds like my mother, but she is closer to 70 and has that as an excuse.

  8. linds says:

    I will be honest and admit I didn’t know everything about my body or my cycle before we started trying to conceive, but I took the time to learn and educate myself [and read TCOYF!] which was immensely helpful and necessary. But in no way was I ever as clueless as your co-worker.

  9. Two Hands says:

    It is quite staggering how little some women know about their bodies. If I was her, I would have offered to take you to lunch just to get some know-how with the added bonus of spending time with you!
    As a student midwife, we get to talk about all of that wonderful stuff so you can bet everyone I know gets a sex-ed lesson every time I see them!

  10. Chris says:

    Wow, that’s pretty amazing. In a way I wish I didn’t know quite so much about the goings-on of my less than stellar reproductive system, however, I can’t believe that there is total bliss in ignorance.

  11. a says:

    Geez, I guess the days of Our Bodies, Ourselves being illicit reading (and therefore a MUST READ) have passed. I don’t remember specifically learning this information, but I do remember sneaking my sister’s copy of that book and reading it all the way through!

  12. Donna says:

    It is unbelievable how many women have no clue about these things! I had a similar conversation with my SIL about a year ago. She is my age, TTC and has no clue how it all actually works. I offered to explain it all to her but she wasn’t interested. This should be taught to every girl before she is out of school.

  13. Donna says:

    Sorry – I had to post a follow up to my comment because this is one of my soapbox issues. How can anyone expect young people, women and men to prevent pregnancy if they have no clue how pregnancy happens?

  14. Jess says:

    Angie, if I’d been drinking milk, I would have snorted it out of nose after reading your tampon comment. LOL! It’s amazing that people can not know this stuff. It’s really up to parents to make the topics okay to talk about. My mom was pregnant half the time I was growing up and had my first sister at home while I was watching tv in the next room, so I always thought it was normal to know words like “placenta” at 10 years old.

  15. Brown Owl says:

    That is both very scary, and very sad.
    I a so glad you were there, and so very common sense. You are one of a kind.

  16. Melissia says:

    As sad as this is it is not surprising to me. My SIL is an Ivy League educated lawyer who chose not to attend any child birth education classes and when she went into labor with her first child was convinced that she has a kidney stone, regardless that she was 6 days past her due date. I insisted that she go to labor and delivery but she wanted to go to the ER for her kidney stone pain that was hurting her every 5 minutes in her back for the last 6 hours. She had no idea that you could have back labor.
    For her it was a statement, she was married for 10 years and was ambivalent about children, so this was her way of making a statement. Her husband was thrilled but I think that she felt very pressured and afraid. Perhaps there is a similar issue at play with your coworker, perhaps a cultural or family issue?
    For my SIL it was a conscious choice and she was very verbal about this choice, she knew all about birth control but chose not to learn any thing about pregnancy or child birth.
    I don’t know if she came to regret this choice or not. I can’t help but think that it would have been much easier if she had known what to expect.

  17. Debby says:

    On a completely different but related topic, Mrs. Spit, I know a woman dealing with breast cancer, probably close to 70, intelligent, funny, a great friend. She was outraged that chemo had been stopped on me. I said, “Well, gosh, I was done with it.” She said, “I’ve been doing chemo for 5 years now.” As she talked, I realized that she was metatastic. Awkwardly, I said, “The difference is that my cancer is not yet considered metastic.” Long pause. She said, “I don’t know what you mean.” I tried to explain, but felt like I was stumbling around in uncharted territory. I did not want to be the one to tell her that her cancer is considered incurable at this point, something to manage, not cure. As I spoke, she said, “I don’t know anything about that. I feel that is the doctor’s business, not mine.” I was flabbergasted. How can you not feel that your cancer is your business?

  18. Sunny says:

    SERIOUSLY?! Yikes.

    I hope your mini-lesson did some good…

  19. Amy says:

    Wow! Amazing some people know nothing about their bodies! I feel sometimes I know too much about mine!

  20. Bluebird says:

    I’m just sitting here with my head cocked to the side and a very confused and perplexed expression on my face . . not much more to say. . .


  21. Goodness, that is downright scary. You are kind to offer your explanations.

  22. loribeth says:

    I too have been amazed at how little some women know about their bodies. You would think that those of us who have been through loss & infertility would know more than the general public. After our loss, I voraciously researched everything I could about stillbirth, IUGR, pregnancy after loss, etc. etc. — but I found that even within our pg loss support group, there was a lot of ignorance and questions about other people’s situations & diagnoses that I just assumed these parents would know about. In general, those who had fertility issues seemed somewhat more savvy than those who could get & stay pregnant more easily — but not always.

    Aside from a short unit within my Grade 12 biology class (WAY too late!!), I never heard a word about sex or reproduction at school. Being a keen reader, though, I was pretty well informed, or at least, probably as well as or better informed than most of my peers. I kept track of my cycles on a calendar right from my first period (my mom would put a little star in the corner of the calendar square on the days when she had hers). So I was always aware of my cycles & how long they were. And I was always careful (probably needlessly so, in retrospect, lol) about birth control, once I got to the point of needing it.

    Even so — I can remember reading TCOYF (post-loss), & thinking that every girl hitting puberty should be given a copy. Well informed as I was, or thought I was, I learned a ton from that book. Once I seriously started tracking my cycles & learning the other signs of ovulation, I found it amazing how many things I observed about my body that would change as my cycle progressed.

    Even though I no longer seek pregnancy, I still track my cycles & still know more or less when I can expect AF.

  23. Natalie says:

    Oh my. That’s just kind of crazy to me, but I do see it often. At least the girls I hang out with at work and otherwise have no shame in discussing birth control and sex – because really, how do you learn these things if you’re too embarrassed and scared to even talk about it?

    But this: “I am also honour bound to point out that pregnancy makes you fatter than birth control ever would.” made me laugh. out. loud.

  24. tash says:

    I worked at Planned Parenthood one summer in college, and one of my jobs there was answering the phones. And oh. my. god. the questions I got over the phone, my favorites being: “Am I pregnant?” (“Well! Let me throw a dart here and see!”) and by asking follow up questions realizing these women had the vaguest of vague notions of how things actually worked. It was depressing and sad. And if you ever see your co-worker again, inform her that some bc actually clears your skin and keeps you at the same weight. So there.

    P.S. a lot of people think while working at PP that the hardest thing to deal with would be an unwanted pregnancy. Not so. I encountered a few of these (I also ran the betas) but no one reacted with shock or horror — they all seemed to know it was coming and what they would do. No tears, no breakdowns. The woman who came in excited, sure she pregnant, and I had to break the news that she was most definitely not? Her face fell, tears erupted. I was only 20 or so, and even then I realized how hard a moment this was for her. This moment sticks with me even today.

  25. Kristin says:

    Ignorance about something so very important just boggles the mind…wow.

  26. Deathstar says:

    I’m assuming she’s one of Warren Jeff’s wives?

  27. I know she attended an all girls catholic highschool….they must not have had the birth control class.

    Wow. My very clinical sex ed class – with the movies and a discussion of fallopian tubes and vas deferens, etc – was in 6th grade. At a Catholic school. But I already knew a lot of it because my Catholic parents had gotten the Time-Life book series when I was in second grade and had been telling me the stories about how the daddy gives the mommy a seed since I was in kindergarten.

    I will say, though, that we did not have the birth control class in Catholic school. In 6th grade. 🙂 Just the class on how things worked without external blockage.

    How can these women not know how things work? Did they not even take biology in 10th grade?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *