Everywhere I turn this week, people are telling me what they're grateful for. These seem to be the same people who spend the rest of the year, like me, complaining about stuff on Facebook, but I'm all for the change, even if it's only for the month of November. I make my big declarations of gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, and my list doesn't vary much from year to year. I can be counted on to name friends, family, health, a warm and comfortable home, and food on the table. This year though, I'm changing things up. This year, not only am I making my list public, I'm also adding something new.
I'd like to thank my birth control.
You heard me.
For the past 20-odd years, little packets of pills in a variety of colors and combinations have been my unsung yet constant companions, even if their use was often symbolic rather than necessary. Hidden in my medicine cabinet, they've served in silence -- reliable, stalwart and discreet. It's time they got a little love.
It's true that birth control is often a private thing -- we don't talk about it much and I'm guessing our dinner companions are going to be a little shocked as we go around the table this year. The topic is intimate, polarizing, mysterious and tied to all the issues you're supposed to avoid at parties -- sex, politics, religion and women's stuff. But let's be honest, birth control involves a lot more than that.
Birth control isn't about sex -- not really. It isn't about promiscuity or irresponsibility or hedonism (truth be told, I wasn't the most popular girl around, if you know what I mean). It isn't a magic pill that allows crazy women to go crazy. It isn't about politics, though aliens from Mars reading the news might think it is the single most important issue facing the United States today. It definitely isn't just a women's issue. Birth control is about autonomy, freedom, responsibility, choices, and control. Control over my body, my life and my goals. You know, the little things.
Birth control has given me the luxury of time and choice, which, sadly, shouldn't be a luxury. Having access to birth control meant I had time to finish college, go to graduate school, get my law degree, and build my career as an attorney. Despite the lawyer jokes, I think that means I became a productive member of society. Being able to have sex without getting pregnant meant I had time to build a stable and loving relationship with my husband, just the two of us, before we had a child. Birth control also let us choose when we would have children and how many we would have. No offense to Michelle Duggar, but that was important to me. I wanted a career outside of raising my children. I need to balance my professional and personal lives -- I did not want to sacrifice one for the other. Limiting the number of children we have also means my husband and I can give everyone in our family the time and resources they need and deserve. As much as I love kids, I was not meant to be the mother of a baseball team. Could I have done those things without contraception? Maybe. Maybe not. But definitely not in the order and way I wanted to do them -- and that matters.
So I owe a lot to those little hormone regulators, but they aren't the only ones. My "thank you" list also includes the doctors who wrote my prescriptions without judgment or scolding. I'll throw in the insurance providers, health care centers, and clinics while I'm at it -- because without them, few of us could afford birth control -- and the cost of the alternatives is far too high.
So this year, when we go around the table and say what we're thankful for, I'd like to bring out my pills and give them their own place setting in recognition of all they've done for me and my family. I could give them a cute turkey name card, although their generic name might not fit, and make sure they get a big slice of pie. They deserve it. My parents will be there though, which could make things awkward. Putting this out for the world to read is one thing, watching my dad squirm is another. A girl can only go so far.
So in case I chicken out and slip back into the traditional and ordinary, let me take a minute now to say what I should say before I tuck into the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Thanks, Birth Control. Say it with me today: #ThxBirthControl
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is asking people nationwide to talk about what birth control makes possible for individuals and society. This effort, named "Thanks, Birth Control," can be done in many ways including sending a tweet using the hashtag #ThxBirthControl or posting something on Facebook.
Follow Devon Corneal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dcorneal