He yelled, "Helena Andrews has the best p**** in the world!" into the receiver, and the line went dead-leaving the next man on the other end speechless. I didn't hear about this mobile hit and run until weeks later when the podiatrist I was dating at the time just so happened to mention that he'd gotten a courtesy call about my vagina.
Thing is I had a clue as to which ex-man(iac) would take the time out of his busy schedule of being nuts to start a phone tree about other people's property. But then again, it could've been anybody. Well, not an-n-nybody. But a few bodies. I never found out whom because investigating something like that is not just embarrassing, it's exhaustive. Granted the list of unusual suspects wouldn't be Traci Lords-long, but Lord knows it'd be longer than Mother Mary's.
That was nearly five years ago, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to ruin me with newly released information that says 48 percent of black women between the ages of 14 and 49 have the virus that causes genital herpes. Perhaps the podiatrist might have taken my pocketbook's prank caller more seriously this week.
Add to that the 2010 urban myth that a young woman dressed provocatively in a "Prostitution Free Zone" was stopped by D.C. police and then questioned about her "profession" because she had more than two condoms in her purse. Someone told me that story very seriously over brunch last weekend.
In January, the Washington City Paper, which first reported the "three condom" rule, clarified. "According to D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump, carrying condoms can lead an officer to suspect prostitution-but there's no three-condom arrest rule," wrote Amanda Hess in her CP blog, The Sexist.
No mention of an unfortunate condom-carrying kid in Kardashians by Bebe being mistaken for a prostitute. But the fact that a group of college-educated 20-somethings sat and seriously discussed the probability of such is a clear indication of how dangerous the perception of sexual liberation is among the single. After said mimosa-fueled discussion, I searched Google, consulted a local journalist and got laughed at by a public information officer in order to confirm the tale. I came up empty, but I still believe the tale of the girl who carried condoms could be true.
In a story about the latest doomsday data to out of the CDC, The Root wrote "…it's no surprise that black women draw the short straw when it comes to getting genital herpes." As of late, it seems as if we've been drawing that straw on a regular basis. As if the game is rigged somehow.
A girlfriend of mine thinks these newest statistics are just another arrow stolen from black Cupid. Another reason for men to be afraid of the big, bad, bossy, black woman-or at least whatever ticking time bomb she's hiding underneath her skirt, as some kind of sexual suicide bomber. Another friend, Dex, has a different perspective: "If you have a nice girl without herpes, you better put a ring on it." Who knew our common denominator of coupledom could get any lower?
The best way to combat the spread of herpes, according to the CDC, is to limit the number of people you have sex with. But the agency doesn't offer its take on which number we should limit ourselves to. Three, two, one, zero? Counting backwards is the opposite of what happens to a sexually active single girl's "numbers" as the time stretches between 10th grade health with Mrs. Malone and midnight in the gray area between relationships.
Actually, I was six when I learned how to spell sex.
"Wanna know how to spell it?" Hamed asked one day without being prompted.
"Yes!" Of course I wanted to know how to spell it.
"S-E-X," he hissed slowly, leaning over to deliver the top-secret message directly into my ear, his lips brushing up against the tiny hairs on my lobe. One time, my mother, Frances, caught us in the back of her old Chevy pickup truck in our underwear. I was on top. Immediately afterward, our two mothers sat us down and said that what adults did was different from what kids could do. "They're just mad," Hamed explained to me later, "because we do it the right way."
There was a wrong way? Back then I figured it had to do with the fact that the two of us were a boy and girl and our mothers were obviously two girls. But there wasn't a hierarchy of rightness in my own 6-year-old head. In the years that followed, sex was neither totally casual or consecrated. But as the trend continues toward breaking down the lives of black single women into statistics, sex seems an obvious point of entry into the debate on what it means to be a woman without a husband (or a boyfriend or a homie lover friend). Are we expected to be virgins or vixens?
In a place like D.C., where the incident of AIDS rivals that of some third-world countries, condoms breed suspicion and now herpes lurks behind every other hookup, how can anyone feel safe single? Perhaps all of this is part of a conspiracy to scare my hoohaa into hiding and my heart into monogamy. If so, Frances is probably spearheading it in an effort to get some grandbabies.
Good thing they're giving away free female condoms down at the hair salon.
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.