Well, things have changed. 10 years ago, I had to sit in a large waiting room with hundreds of other people, surrounded by posters about AIDS and HIV and wait for what seemed like hours. What made the wait particularly embarrassing was that there was a bloke in there I recognised from a previous encounter. I had to think for a while to work out whether or not I had actually slept with him - I then remembered I hadn't, it was only a snog. It was my friend Ruby who had actually slept with him. But still, you know you have fallen a long way from the innocent convent girl your mother was so proud of when you are sitting in a clap clinic trying to remember if you've slept with the bloke in the chair opposite.
This time, it was much more civilised. The waiting room was more or less empty (obviously Brighton's sex life is much more responsible these days) and I didn't have to wait long. After about 10 minutes a 12-year old wearing a white coat came out and called my name. I followed the child into a room and she shut the door and introduced herself as Dr Speculum (no, I can't remember her real name). I resisted the urge to ask her where her mummy was and tell her a clap clinic wasn't really the place to be playing doctors and nurses and realised that I am now of the age where not only policeman look like children but doctors do too. I consoled myself with the fact that she had very small hands, so wasn't going to be hurting me too much on my sore bits when she stuck her hand up there later.
What then followed I can only describe as the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition. This girl child asked about a million questions on my sex life - here is a sample:
- when did you last have sex (ok, I grant you, this one is probably relevant)?
- was it normal sex? (oh god, does oral sex count as normal?)
- have you had sex with a sex worker (I ask you, do I LOOK like someone who would go to a prostitute for sex - why don't you just ask if I AM a sex worker - that would be more likely)
- how many partners have you had in the past 6 months? (whatever I say is going to be the wrong answer to this girl who, I now notice, is wearing an engagement ring)
- did you have oral sex with them? (yes, I know middle aged women aren't supposed to do such disgusting things, but yes, I did, and I'm quite good at it, actually)
- did you have sex with a man (erm, doh, YES!)
- have you had sex with a foreigner? (does an Australian count as foreign, or do I only include people whose first language isn't English?)
She then caps it all off with a nice little homily about contraception:
Q "When was your last period?" A - "um about 3 weeks ago".
Q "so you had unprotected sex with your partner in the past 3 weeks?" A - "Yes".
Q "Are you using contraception"? A - "No".
Q "Aren't you concerned about pregnancy?" A - "No",
Q "Why?" Because I'm not, you daft tart. I am 48, my eggs are fried, my partner is sorted in that department, and, in any case, what does it have to do with why I'm here at the moment? For all you know, I might WANT to get pregnant at 48!
I am so annoyed and embarassed by all the intrusive questioning that I nearly walk out there and then. Anyway, luckily she moves quickly onto the main business, i.e. getting me up on the couch with my legs spread and her and a nurse with a torch and spatula thingy up my fanny. There's a bit of fannying around (ha ha, I know, corny..), while she whips that one out and replaces it with a longer one and eventually manages to get whatever she needs to scrape off my cervix and internal walls to send off to the labs. I briefly wonder if there is a porn film somewhere that finds this sort of thing erotic. Frankly, I am in such a bad mood after all the questioning and poking around that I decide never to have sex again.
I'll know whether or not I have something sinister in about 3 weeks.