Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gettin' Personal

Originally published Nov, 2004.

Q: Dude, why is your column so late this month?

A: Yeah, that question doesn't sound at all contrived does it? You're probably thinking that things are slow down in the old e-mailroom if I'm makin' up my own questions, lame as they may be. Yeah, you'd figure that. But, you'd be wrong.

Truth is, this column is late despite the fact that I have a plethora of preguntas (Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of preguntas?) just ripe for the answering. My inbox is overflowing with perfectly good questions, ranging from the mundane to the insane. But the doctor just ain't been feeling up to the challenge.

Please bear with me as I get a little out of character and get personal. The doctor has had an extremely rough month that included a move to a new city. I'm writing this on a borrowed laptop, sitting in a coffee shop in the Manayunk area of Philadelphia, my life in boxes, and wondering when I'll get a chance to move into my new apartment. Oh yeah, and dealing with the break-up of a very serious relationship. Hopefully, you can understand how I may be having trouble concentrating on your sex and relationship issues at the moment. To say that the break-up was caused by the move or vice versa would not do the situation justice, and that's a story I won't bother you with here. Suffice it to say; sometimes even advice columnists could use a little help.

And sometimes that help comes from very unlikely places.

Way back when I was just "junior college G", long before I ever dreamed I would be adding the doctoral title to my name, I was involved in another break-up with one of my first girlfriends, (blank). She was an intelligent, beautiful woman who I was thrilled to get to know. Of course, I'm talking about an ex-girlfriend, and girlfriends normally don't become exes when everything is perfect. Dating (blank) was not without its difficulty as she suffered from a condition known as vaginismus.

Vaginismus is a condition where a woman's vaginal muscles involuntarily contract in anticipation of intercourse or insertion. It can make intercourse very painful, difficult, and in (blank)'s case damn near impossible. For example, she had never been able to use a tampon, had passed out during pelvic exams, and had made it into her early twenties without successfully losing her virginity despite several attempts to do so. When we met she was still a virgin, not because of religious values, fear of STDs, or a notion of "saving herself"; her body just wouldn't let anyone in. As her partner, I remember that it felt as if there wasn't an opening there at all; just a hard, impenetrable, flat surface. And yeah, for a man destined to one day be banging out sex advice columns, that was a tough pill to swallow.

At the time, both of us were ill-equipped to deal with the situation but instinctively I developed a plan. It involved several nights of very painful "practice" as we used a lot of lube and gently forced entry. The process was torturous with even the smallest intrusion causing her extreme pain each night. We started small, with a pinky, and worked our way up to the size of small vibrator. At each step she became more and more relaxed and increasingly more comfortable until finally almost a month later, we were able to knock some long overdue boots. And (blank)'s boots were definitely made for knocking.

As successful as that was, sex was still a strain on our relationship and unfortunately (blank) entered into my list of exes that just recently became one name longer.

In the following decade, (blank) and I lost touch and I moved several times across the country in pursuit of my education and greener pastures. As I began researching sexuality in grad school, I was pleased to learn that the method we used to counter her vaginismus was actually similar to professionally recommended techniques. Still, I often thought of her and wondered how her life had turned out. I've also thought that our story would probably be beneficial out there to couples and women that are currently dealing with vaginismus; I've just never taken the opportunity to share it until now. Trust me, it can be overcome.

So why then, as I sit alone in this Philadelphia coffee shop trying to write an advice column after a recent break-up, are my thoughts drifting to an ex from my distant past? It has a lot to do with an email I received earlier today:

"Wow… you won't believe how many years I have tried and been afraid to contact you… There are so many things to say... mostly, I am writing to get in contact with you and actually thank you... thank you for what you offered my life. All of life is about the pain and the pleasure... I am just now remembering all the firsts you offered me and how my life drastically changed for the better due to you."

It was from (blank). After years of being out of touch, she had tracked me down on the web just to send me an unexpected thank you note from the past. And after the month I've had, being reminded of how I've positively influenced at least one person's life was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Of course she's happily married now and currently lives nowhere near Philadelphia. Oh well.

Next month, I swear I'll be back to the normal DrG, so send me those preguntas. Vamanos!

P.S. Ladies, after reading the above, if you are concerned about vaginismus or overcoming it, please bring it up with your gynecologist. There are also some great resources on the web. And of course as a last resort, there's always Philly…