“I need to get my daughter Grace’s birth control pills a few weeks early,” I said to the pharmacist. “She’s going on her first business trip.”

Then I realized that might sound bad.

“Not because she’s going to have sex with a lot of strangers on her trip but just so she doesn’t have a sudden hormone imbalance by running out of pills.”

But the pharmacist couldn’t have cared less about Grace’s hormones. He wouldn’t even call our insurance company until I demonstrated how unbalanced my hormones get when people are rude to me.

After a two-minute call, he turned back to the counter.

“They said no,” he said, waving me aside. “Next guest.”

He wasn’t a very gracious host, but on the other hand he had to do a lot of entertaining every day and many of his guests had bad etiquette themselves.

At any rate, my bigger worry was not having Grace’s birth control pills when I arrived at her apartment at college that weekend, shortly before she was leaving on her trip. But I soon discovered it didn’t matter.

“I don’t need them anymore,” she said. “I got an IUD.”

“What?!” I shouted. In the first place, IUDs scare me, probably because of the Dalkon Shield fiasco. But besides that, Grace’s doctor wanted her on birth control pills to help with PMS and mood swings.

“It was that or pay hundreds a month for birth control once the Republican health care bill gets passed. So I just had this window of time to deal with it before the ax comes down.”

That shows how well the Republican health care agenda has met its purported goal of freeing the doctor-patient relationship from federal interference.

She tried to reassure me. “Don’t worry, pretty much everyone I know got an IUD recently for the same reason. Absolutely everybody’s doing it.”

That’s a lot of IUDs to fit into the first hundred days of a presidency.

“Of course, I probably could have just gone off birth control,” she said. “I haven’t really dated anyone in ages.”

At least she hadn’t gone with that option. But it was unusual to see her so down about her love life.

“I thought you had a date with someone today in fact,” I said. “Did it get canceled?” That seemed a safe assumption since she was wearing beat-up overalls and an old fisherman’s sweater.

“Why, because I haven’t changed my clothes in two days? I warned the guy that I had yoga, math class, and pottery today so I was going to be disheveled.”

“That probably fit right in with him,” I said, since she usually dates hipster types.

She shook her head. “He wore a long-sleeved, button-down shirt and slacks. Oh -- and a nice car. So you get the point. We have nothing in common. It’s not going anywhere.”

“You never know,” I said. “It could be like Love Story. Except he dies at the end instead of you.”

But she’d already written it off.

“Maybe I’ll meet up with this guy I met at the train station,” she said.

“Is he a student?” I asked, hopefully.

She shrugged. “He was a pie-maker but he quit his job last month. Now he wants to be a bread-maker.”

“So you could say he’s an aspiring bread maker,” I said.

But she didn’t find that amusing.

Anyway, everybody had been disappointing her. She suspected another guy she’d met through friends had just asked her out to try to get in with her boss at the art gallery.

“He is an artist, after all,” she said, showing me his texts. “So he’s probably just trying to get a show.”

“Then why would he send you pictures of dogs with sunglasses?” I asked.

At any rate, I was more concerned to hear she was thinking of quitting her job at the art gallery.

“You know what the owner said to me when I told her I was thinking of leaving? She said if I stay, she’ll fire the manager and give me his job. Then she said, ‘Tell you what, I’ll give you his office and move him to the windowless room in the back. Or give you whichever of his responsibilities you want and tell him to do all the things you don’t want to do.’”

I had to admit that was lacking in diplomacy but on the other hand Grace seemed to be missing the compliment. I’d rarely seen her so down about everything.

“How about I make some dinner?” I asked, searching around for the possible problem.

But unusually for her, she had nothing to eat in the house.

“I’ll run out,” I said. “What should I get? Fish tacos from Santa Fe?”

“No, I don’t want to kill a fish today.”

“Tofu from the Japanese place?”

“I don’t think the tofu is local.”

“Then you’ll have to move out of town,” I said.

But that prospect didn’t seem to bother her much, even though usually she loves Tivoli.

“Why don’t we stroll around and see if anything looks good?” I suggested.

She shook her head. “All the places around here depress me. I always feel like I have to buy stuff or they’ll go out of business. It’d be better if they just took donations so people don’t have to buy things they don’t want. If you walk in they look at you like ‘Hey, a customer, maybe now we can pay the rent.’”

Anyway, she also had a pain in her side she thought might be cancer.

“How long has it been hurting?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt that much, but I always think of The Death of Ivan Ilych.”

I didn’t exactly get the connection but it seemed like a bad idea to ask about it, given her mood. Anyway, it was unlikely she could be too sick since she’d just spent two hours doing yoga. Instead I reminded her about her business trip and how exciting it would be. A few months ago, she’d really been looking forward to it.

But it seemed like nothing could cheer her up. She found a problem with everything.

Then suddenly she burst into uncontrollable tears and I finally realized what was wrong. Having gone off birth control pills, she had PMS again for the first time in years. Maybe the IUD would work for birth control, but it wouldn’t replace the medication that helped her, like so many other young women, feel their best all month long.

When the tears passed and she was a little calmer, I tried to suggest maybe the IUD wasn’t the way to go. But considering what the Republican health care plan would do to birth control, she really didn’t have a choice.

“Hopefully it’ll only be four years,” she said, choking back another burst of tears.

Not that I didn’t already know this, but it sure was going to be a long four years.   


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