Originally published on Buzzfeed and republished here with the author’s permission.
I was supposed to be at the restaurant in thirty minutes.
I opened our text conversation and, for the fifth time in a half hour, typed then deleted my excuse for canceling on him. I scolded myself for thinking I wanted to date. I looked in the mirror and tried to regain my composure.
I imagined what it would be like to tell this cute, blue-eyed stranger that no matter how loud he made me laugh or how attentively he listened to my childhood stories, I may never be able to have sex with him.
I felt like I was going to be sick. I pushed the thought out of my head, erased the text, grabbed my keys, and walked out the door. There was no turning back now.
Dating isn’t easy for anyone, I assume. But it feels a lot more complicated when you’re a straight woman with medical conditions that prevent you from having vaginal intercourse.
When, exactly, was I supposed to bring that up? Women’s magazines and online advice columns never taught me how to handle this.
As I parked my car, I could feel beads of sweat dotting the back of my neck. When I met his eyes in the restaurant, my anxiety skyrocketed. All I could do, during our routine discussion of our jobs and our interests, was nod my head at the right times and laugh when it seemed appropriate.
The cocktail menu boasted a tequila drink “known for making your clothes fall off.” My date made a joke about it. My hands started to shake. I barely remember the rest of the night, but I do remember that I never heard from him again.
Up until then, my sex life had been defined by the question “What’s wrong with me?” About two years ago, I was given an answer. I was diagnosed with endometriosis, vulvodynia, and vaginismus – aka Vagina Problems.
The diagnosis means a lot of things for my reproductive organs, but the main takeaway is that my genitals are often in a lot of pain – inside and out – and especially when penetrated. I may never have sex, and I will have pain in that area indefinitely.
My “sexual experience” consisted of doctors poking and prodding me and men looking disappointed at me for something I couldn’t explain or help.
My doctors told me I could have a sexual experience in other ways. But I never bothered to ask them how that would work when I flinched at the mere touch of a man. They told me there was more to relationships than just sex. I figured that was pretty easy to say when you were able to have sex.