Newly in love, my girlfriend and I decided to get Pap smears at our local Women’s Health Center. I know. It doesn’t sound very romantic. But, in a way, it was. The year was 1991, and we were on the threshold of starting our lives together. And we were so in love: crazy, giggly, can’t keep-your-hands-off-each-other in love; we didn’t want to leave each other’s side for one second. So if Pap smears were to be had, why not schedule them together? As far as I was concerned, it was almost as big a commitment as getting married—because I’m sure the pap smears were my idea. Dixie, who I’m still with twenty-five, love-filled-years later, grew up on a cattle ranch in the dusty panhandle of Texas where “doctorin’ what ailed” consisted of shaving off a piece of a cow penicillin pill and downing it with a swig of Mama’s sweet tea. Me? I was a doctor’s daughter and big on those annual check-ups.
Cut to the Pap smears: Dixie in one brightly-lit examination room plastered with empowering, multi-colored, multi-ethnic posters of earthy womyn doing things like birthing the earth from their loins, their arms sprouting trees; me in a similarly decorated room next door; our feet simultaneously propped up in pot-holder-covered stirrups; our inner most cavities being simultaneously probed by thoughtfully warmed up speculums. Make no mistake, it was love, and we were in it.
As fate would have it, our appointments ended at the exact same time—a miracle since I always saddle my health care professionals with tons of questions—and so we met up in the lobby, each of us feeling that I-am-Woman-hear-me-roar feeling. Or, I was anyway. Dixie, no doubt, was thinking: Sheesh! Glad we got that over with. Now can we get back to sex? But there was a hubbub going on in the lobby. The staff seemed all worked up—as well they should’ve been because who was visiting the Health Center that day, but Gloria Steinem! I’m not kidding! She was standing there all tall and gorgeous and in those big glasses of hers. Turns out, she had a speaking engagement in Santa Cruz that day, and was just checking the place out.
It gets better.
One of Gloria’s entourage rushed up and said, “Gloria would like to have her picture taken with you. Would that be okay?” Of course, we said, “Yes!” Or, I did. I’m pretty sure Dixie just wanted to get the hell out of there. You can see it on her face. She’ll tell you it looks like she thinks Gloria just farted.
Weeks later, the Gloria sighting a mere speck compared to the wonder of falling in love, the photographer unexpectedly dropped the photo off where I worked, and, damn it, I never got her name—or, if I did, I was too love-stricken to remember it—but her photo sits proudly on a bookshelf of our office. I have had many pap smears since, (Dixie not so many) but never one graced by a celebrity.
So, I hope you enjoyed my tale of The Best Pap Smear Ever enough to check out one of my novels. I’m slowly working on a fifth. Send me good vibes to keep going. And get your annual check-up! You never know what might happen.