I know when the romance started for me. I was at summer camp, where all the best romances begin, getting a windbreaker or a jean jacket–some outerwear-oriented excuse for busting in where I wasn’t supposed to be. At the sink, I saw my counselor, older, cooler, and in my memory, always blonde, popping a candy necklace pill out from a plastic flip-top compact.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to know what I was seeing. But I did. She was on the pill. Having sex. Which somehow made me feel a few steps closer to having sex myself. Inside that pink clam shell was the secret of adult life. Everything I needed to know about sex and men in its own handy dandy carrying case.
Now, of course, I realize she might not have been having sex, and I want to swaddle my younger smartypants self in a thick blanket, knowing when and how she’ll have the easy answers bruised out of her.
But there was no reasoning, then. And no reason to reason … I was in love with the pill, and as I grew up, I could see I wasn’t alone. It was the hot girl’s one and only punchline in Sixteen Candles and Roseanne’s cool-mom badge of honor, and long before that, Loretta Lynn was singing its praises for good reason. The lyrics make it clear how much the pill could change the fundamental facts of a woman’s life.
You wined me and dined me when I was your girl
Promised if I’d be your wife you’d show me the world
But all I’ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill
I`m tearing down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the pill
But we’ve been romancing the pill for over fifty years now–you don’t need me to tell you how she can do you wrong. The side effects are legendary, and they can get you coming and going, when you start taking the pill and then again when you stop. There’s the cost, anywhere from $15 to $50 a month, the heckling blowhard talk radio hosts, the Internet trolls, and the latest unwanted side effect brought to us by the court challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate: the dawning realization that your boss has opinions about your vagina.
Maybe it’s time to give our first love a little tough love. Take a look at one of her big sisters, the diaphragm. It’s a cervical barrier method, and it’s been around since the 1880s. Before the birth control pill hit the market, it was the American contraceptive of choice, used by a third of all married couples. These days its popularity has plummeted, but it’s nothing a little rebranding can’t fix. Given the right’s knuckle-dragging march into the past, you can even say it’s trendy!
Like the best second loves, the diaphragm rights the pill’s most egregious wrongs.
- It’s a barrier method. No hormones to enter the bloodstream. Some women may be sensitive to the silicone, some may be sensitive to the spermicide that must be used with the diaphram, but sensitivity is sensitivity–a blood clot can be fatal.
- You only need one. Diaphragms last for about two or three years.
- They’re cheap, anywhere from $15 to $75.
- You only need to use it when you’re going to have sex. Worried about spontaneity? You can insert the diaphragm up to six hours before you have sex. If that’s not enough leeway, it probably should be, and if it’s not, now you have something to do while he puts on a condom. Nothing like a show of good patient faith to show him you take safe sex seriously.
- They’re just as portable as the pill, and their plastic clam shell carrying case looks every bit as nifty as the pill’s. The upside is you don’t have to open it every day you’re not having sex and think about all the sex you’re not having.
Though my allegiance is clear, you should use the birth control method that works best for you. If you’re looking for less cheeky advice in making that decision, you might want to go here.
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.