But, Where’s the Penis?


During my first year in the workforce, I got a job as a paralegal at a legal services organization, serving low-income clients in a major city. It was during that year that I came to two life-changing conclusions:

1) I wanted to suffer through three very expensive years of law school to become a legal services attorney; and

2) I really should have taken Spanish in school.

During middle school, students chose between starting a seven-year track of either French or Spanish. For obvious reasons, the vast majority of kids chose Spanish; only the nerdiest kids took French. At 12 years old, I had only two major life goals: (1) Make friends; (2) Avoid bullies. I figured the kids in French class would be less likely to shove me into a locker. Admittedly, in college I could have switched over to Spanish but the elementary classes were offered five days a week at 8:30am. French it was.

In the six months before law school started, I decided to finally learn Spanish. To expedite the process, I took a trip to rural South America and volunteered on a farm with a monolingual Spanish-speaking family. I’ll probably explore the events of that solo trip in future posts, but the most important takeaway for the purposes of this entry, is this: Over the course of six months, I somehow managed to contract a combination really disgusting parasites.

After my return to the United States, my mother took one look at my now diminished ass, and dragged me to Doctor C, renowned in New York City for his ability to extinguish all manner of parasites. He often bragged that celebrities returning from “Save the Children” tours in what he called, “The Third World” routinely debug under his care.

The visit itself proved less traumatic than expected. The probing went surprisingly smoothly during which Dr. C talked about his grandkids and arrogantly recounted his decades of career success.  I left with a bill for several thousand dollars, an expanded sense of the depth of my colon, and several strong medications the doctor promised would clear up my problems in a few short months.

On the way out, the Dr. C asked me, rather offhandedly, whether I had a boyfriend.  At first I thought he wanted to set me up with one of his highly successful grandkids, but then it occurred to me that no grandfather in his right mind would set up his grandson with a parasite-infested patient. “No,” I responded, “and why do you ask?”

“Oh no reason, really,” Dr. C trailed off, “just because parasites are sexually transmitted and if you had had a boyfriend, I’d have recommended he come in for testing as well.”

I left stunned, my mind reviewing the adventures of the last months. It was May.  How long had these beasts been lurking in my gut? Since November?

Pangs of guilt began to plague my conscious. The next day, I gave Dr. C a call to inquire further about the nature of the sexual transmission of the parasites.

An elderly female nurse fielded my questions. If Dr. C was in his mid 80s, the nurse looked like she might be pushing 90, and I wasn’t looking forward to talking to her about sex.

I started broad, explaining only that I needed more information about how parasites are transmitted sexually.

The nurse seemed awed by my stupidity, “by sex, dearie” she said slowly, as if talking to a child.

“I see. What I mean is, what type of sexual contact leads to transmission?”

Now the nurse seemed to think I might have missed the “birds and the bees” talk, and she started explaining how sex works. “When the penis penetrates…”

I stopped her. “Let’s say for arguments sake there was no penis.”

“No penis? But dearie, how could there be no penis?”

I finally asked her about oral sex, not wanting to venture into any other penis-not-involved sex acts.

“But, dearie, during this ‘oral sexual contact,’ you speak of, where was the penis at the time?”

Again, I tried to explain that the equation involved no penis.

Thrown completely off course, the nurse said she’d have to ask the doctor and call me back. Resigned, I decided to err on the side of caution and write some really embarrassing emails to even those partners without a penis.


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