- Comment Policy
- Contact Us
By Dara Tafakari Mathis
I am a punch line of a black woman and my pride is bruised. You will laugh later, I promise myself, but all I want to do right now is escape and cry. My six-month old baby gurgles at me, her two teeth poking from her gums like white square Chiclets. But she brings more heaviness than laughter today, of all days, when it would be better if she were not with me.
I stare at the shelf full of boxes and pretend that one of the pink and purple options offered is better than the other. I hate the color pink. A matronly woman approaches me and I look askance toward the cough syrup, as if a lost thought found me in the wrong section. When she passes by, I snatch a pink-trimmed box and toss it in the cart that is overly big for such a small purchase. But the baby is too heavy to carry alone, and I need the too-spacious cart just to ferry her through the store. Remembering my short list of items, I blush. The KY skids across the metal gratings when I toss it in. I hide my purchases behind my leather purse and stare at Lindsay Lohan’s tabloid mugshot while checking out.
I have one more stop, soI drive to a nearby grocery store and make my way to the pharmacy window.
I should’ve put the baby in the cart this time. She slides downward on my hip, legs made slick by the fleece onesie I put her in this morning. My body juts on one side when I jostle her to keep her afloat. I am waiting for the pharmacy manager. The young, brown-skinned guy in front of me needed his manager’s approval to fill my prescription request. A glance on the wall told me to expect a middle-aged Bill Clinton look alike with a bushy mustache. Dr. Bill Clinton emerges from the back room and smiles curiously.
“What can I help you with, ma’am?”
Oh, God. I’m gonna to have to say it again. I re-wet my tongue, which is stuck to my palate. My cheeks burn with abashment; my blackness is both salvation and damnation at this moment. “I, um, do you have the Plan B pill?” I lean in closely, voice hushed, as if the B stands for ‘bomb.’ I am an adult, I think. I am married. I resist the urge to brandish my wedding ring like an ID card. There is nothing wrong with this. I hop to halt the baby’s slide down my hip, to halt my own slide into total cliché.
Dr. Bill Clinton’s eyebrows furrow. “Well, sure.” He clears his throat. “We have both the Plan B and the generic form, which will essentially, ah, do the same thing.” Neither of us specifies what that ‘thing’ is.
I pretend to do some calculations. “The generic form is cheaper?” He nods. “I’ll take that one.” He disappears back into the storage area and returns shortly with a little pink—again!—folded package. It contains one pill. He rings me up and asks if I have any questions.
“Will…How will the pill affect breastfeeding?”
He ignores the baby balancing on my jutting hip. “You should be able to continue breastfeeding with no issues. It issues a strong dose of estrogen. But don’t go taking too many of these,” he warns sternly. He really did just…I say nothing, and slink out of the store carrying baby and Plan B and black woman stereotypes and battered pride balled up in a white pharmacy bag.
I am not pregnant, I find out a few days later, thanks to the pink box. And maybe thanks to the pink pill I gulped that day as I walked away from the pharmacy. It does not matter that I vow to get my reproductive life together; a set of bushy eyebrows had sat judge and jury over my decisions and scolded me against popping Plan B like SweeTarts candy. I am relieved. And without certain legislative measures preventing employers from banning emergency contraception, I might feel the burden of an untimely pregnancy. Still, I feel pregnant as hell, full of the weight of preconceived judgments of women who need Plan B and why; full of my complicated shame for almost fulfilling the prophecy of the wagging fingers about first babies and hot-to-trot parents; full of the bittersweet hilarity of buying a pregnancy test, KY Jelly, and a Plan B pill at the same time, with my infant daughter hugging my hip.
Dara Tafakari Mathis is a writer and copy editor, sometime spoken word poet, former African-American literature scholar, and homemade soup enthusiast who lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter. Her writing has appeared in The Southern Griot and Caribbean Without Borders: Literature, Language and Culture. A fledgling feminist, her writing interrogates the politics of respectability for women, concepts of femininity, motherhood, and the intersection of race and gender. You can catch her experimenting with Twitter @dtafakari.