Planned Parenthood holds an oversized spot in the public imagination. Depending on what side of the political aisle you’re on, it’s either a giant pink fist of resistance, or Satan’s personal bachelor pad.

So actually going to Planned Parenthood can feel a little underwhelming, because in person, it’s just … a doctor’s office. It has uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room, pamphlets that look like they were created in a middle school graphic design class and piped-in music that is always the wrong volume and always 10 years old. There weren’t even any protesters outside when I went last week, because the Planned Parenthood I usually go to doesn’t perform abortions.

I went to get my birth control implant replaced. I’ve had a subdermal Nexplanon implant in my arm for the past five years, which makes it my longest-lasting relationship. That tiny piece of noodley plastic and I have been through an awful lot together. I called her “Xena.”

But five years is the Food and Drug Administration-approved lifespan of the device. So I went to get it popped out and a new one popped in. The nurse practitioner was the same one who placed it in me back in August 2016, so it felt satisfyingly full circle to have her do it again. (Also, she has very gentle hands, which is super helpful when you’re putting plastic between layers of skin.) If you were wondering, yes, it does hurt a bit, but it’s about the same pain level as getting a cavity filled at the dentist, and I imagine that it definitely goes by a lot faster than childbirth. Also, the 2006 song “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado was playing through the speakers during the procedure, which seemed kind of inappropriate for a doctor’s office, but the comedic effect could not be beat.

I asked the medical assistant if I could keep the old implant. She said yes. Actually, what she said was: “Let me check. Nobody has ever asked that question before.” (I’ve had a lifelong talent for asking unusual questions. At least, it’s a talent for me. Maybe not so great for the people who have to answer the weird inquiries my brain comes up with.) I wanted to frame it, and my lovely new boyfriend not only thought this was a fine idea but also found me an enormous, ostentatious, 22-by-22-inch frame with a kelly green matte backing and did such a good job framing it that my mother hung it on the wall as modern art that goes with the room’s color scheme. (I think he’s a keeper.)

It’s been a big week for lying down and getting needles stuck into my arms, actually, because I also got my third tattoo, courtesy of Courtney Cavanaugh at Lionheart Tattoo in Portland. It’s a sword. Specifically, a big one – running the length of my upper arm, from my shoulder to about an inch above my elbow. Even more specifically, it’s Andúril, Aragorn’s sword from “The Lord of the Rings.”

The process took about two hours, and it hurt like the dickens, especially all the shading to give the sword depth, although the only time I actually said “ow” was when I bit my tongue by accident. But it was worth it, because it looks like a pen-and-ink drawing from one of Peter Jackson’s notebooks has alighted on my arm.

She even managed to get the tiny, delicate Elvish runes on the blade, which I was worried wouldn’t even be physically possible. (It translates to: “I am Andúril who was once Narsil, sword of Elendil. The thralls of Mordor shall flee from me.” As you can see, I am very hip and extremely cool.) In the lore of LOTR, Andúril is forged from the shards of a previously broken sword, Narsil. I liked that idea, that you can take broken bits and make something stronger out of them.

I get a tattoo to celebrate each year of sobriety that I accomplish. My aunt recently asked my mom, “What’s she going to do if she lives to be 90?” (The implication being that if I keep up the good sobriety work, I’ll have an awful lot of tattoos someday.)

Mom shrugged and said, “I’ll be dead by then, so I won’t care.” Now, she was mostly joking. We all agree that it is much better for me to look like a sailor on shore leave than to be drinking like a sailor on shore leave.

But, in the end, she has nobody to blame but herself. My parents taught me that my body was nobody’s business but my own, and that as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody, I could do what I wanted with it. And so I have.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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