Not so long ago I spent a few years working abroad. Being single and away from the rigid Indonesian norms, I began to date several expat workers in a neighboring country. A few of them became boyfriends whom I took to gatherings with fellow Indonesian “migrant workers”. Others were just casual dates, with sex sometimes on the menu. Life was happy and looser those days.
My girlfriends weren't totally agreeing with me, but they accepted my adventurous behavior.
But then came a game changer day, a few weeks after I broke up with my most recent one.
One of my girlfriends asked me via Yahoo! Messenger in a post lunch afternoon, "Hey, your boyfriend worked for YYY*, right? Is his name XXX*?" she asked.
I was surprised, because I did know the guy, but I didn't date him. I knew him because he was in my ex-boyfriend's inner circle of colleagues, and we hung out outside office a lot too. I've been to XXX’s penthouse at least once.
When I told my friend that I didn't date XXX, I noted a sense of relief from her. And when I asked her how she knew about him, she told me to check out this blog.
I was overwhelmed when I read the blog entry and the comments. Not just because it was full of juicy gossip, but the details of the vindicated man, who was accused of spreading sexually transmitted disease (STD) to several women, were also exposed in a public space. Although some of the descriptions in the posting matched the facts that I knew, nothing was scarier than being vilified on the Internet and not being able to retaliate. And XXX, who was once my Facebook friend, deleted his account shortly after the incident.
When I read the posting, it hit me that some of the guys I dated weren't so great either. Particularly this one person, who was so shady, I code-name him Manwhore. He would literally shag any being with a vagina. Considering he was a high-risk partner, I couldn't help myself but question his sexual cleanliness.
I shared my thought with some of my girlfriends, and was surprised to found some of them had STD infections from their partners. From chlamydia to gonorrhea, even herpes symptoms that were caught mostly because they trusted their partners too much.
They were willing to have unprotected sex thinking that they were in a monogamous relationship, while their partners failed to practice safe sex with other counterparts. It was like an ah-ha moment for me, realizing that anyone could be at risk for STDs, even HIV.
After some questioning around, a friend suggested a clinic that gave various STD tests, including rapid HIV test. With two days prior appointment that made me lose sleep and required a half-day leave, I went to the government-supported research clinic for the test. It was located in a slightly shady part of town with no apparent sight of nice girls around.
It felt like I was going for an abortion, like people were gazing at me judgmentally, when actually no one was doing that. Waiting with me were two Thai women in their 20s sporting skimpy skirts and tank-tops, and an old couple. I wondered why they were there, until some half an hour later when they left the consultation room with the old aunty yelling at her (presumably) husband in Chinese while hitting him repeatedly.
That scene from Girls when Hannah, Marnie and Shoshanna gave each other pep talks and comforted each other? Yeah, not for me, who was going through it alone. Though my girlfriends did their best to support me through WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger.
After around an hour later, I was called for a consultation with an American doctor. She asked me about my sexual history, including how many sleeping partners I had had in the past three years. She was very kind and mindful, probably seeing that I was worried and edgy. She detected mild fungal infection, but no STDs or Hepatitis C.
Although my HIV rapid test came back negative, it only meant that up to three months before I hadn’t been infected with HIV. If I had sex after that, it would be safer to check again three months after my last intercourse. She also advised me to take HPV vaccine to avoid cervical cancer.
Relieved, I invited my girl friends over for a celebratory dinner of fried rice and ayam goreng belachan that night. And ever since that day, I have become more careful when it comes to sexual intercourse. It's not just the risk – I just can't let myself be in that kind of emotional rollercoaster anymore.
As for XXX, I still meet him every now and then whenever he and my ex boyfriend visit Jakarta. His attitude hasn't changed, but at least I’m not sleeping with neither of them anymore.
Chrysalic is a mid-30 woman living in Jakarta who gets punked by life every now and then.