Being a (mostly) happily married woman, it isn’t often that I find myself at the city’s Sexual Health clinic, and even more unlikely that I should be there first thing on a Monday morning. After all, instead of going out on the town, getting trolleyed, and losing my inhibitions maybe a little too much, I’d actually stayed in all weekend, and I hadn’t really done anything I shouldn’t have – well, not really…
No, I was at the Clap Clinic to offer support to my friend Claire* who had been, in the immortal words of Beyoncé Knowles in Lady Gaga’s utterly fabulous video Telephone “a very bad girl! A very, very, bad, bad girl”. Not that I’m jealous of her single-girl activities or anything – honest! But leading a rather more dull life than I’d once envisioned, I couldn’t help but notice a twinge of something at her account of the weekend’s shenanigans chez Claire – regret? Nostalgia? OK, I’ll admit it: maybe there was a leeettle jealousy involved – but only a little bit!
Anyway, as a housewife who’s at home during the day, I often get called on to accompany friends to hospital appointments, wedding dress fittings and the like. I’d been to the clinic before, when my husband and I first got together – after all, it’s always good to have a thorough sexual MOT before you embark on a protection-free relationship – but this Monday morning was a first.
On my previous visit I’d marvelled at the good humour and tolerance shown by the clearly extremely busy health clinicians, neatly efficient, clipboards in hand, calling visitors by their first names into one room, then shortly after, exiting – as if by magic – by another door entirely. Exceedingly welcoming, kind and non-judgemental, as a patient you just know that these guys have seen it all, and that therefore they’re neither bothered nor surprised by what you’ve come to share with them. These health workers are so utterly un-shockable, so forearmed with a wealth of personal and professional experience, that they manage to make an excruciatingly embarrassing situation into an impressively non-humiliating experience. On this Claire and I agreed wholeheartedly.
And needless to say, after a busy Brighton weekend the place was heaving. Waiting with Claire I took the opportunity for some serious people watching. It might not have been a Parisian café-scape, but it was entertainment of sorts to help pass the time, and with all the busy-ness of Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday night there was a fair amount of action going on.
There was the middle-class married mum, my age, with her young daughter in a buggy. There were plenty of teenage boys and many surly young girls, and I exchanged a few bashful smiles with the friends of friends of friends I spotted. But mostly – unlike the midweek afternoon when I’d previously visited the clinic – on this particular Monday morning there were numerous gay men, aged mid-twenties to sixties, running the entire gamut of their sexuality: tearing up stereotypes and showing up sub-tribes.
Of course, Brighton being an unashamedly bohemian environment with a high gay occupancy, this was bound to be the case. It made me think that if this hadn’t been an STI clinic, it would have presented quite a good dating opportunity! It also made me glad my husband wasn’t bisexual (he tried it once but decided it wasn’t for him), as I don’t think I could deal with him potentially fancying the whole of Brighton – between us, with our former joint track record, we could have ended up camping outside the Clap Clinic every Sunday night!
*Not Gemma’s real name, obviously, or she’d kill me! 😉
Whilst writing this post I listened to the following on Spotify:
Zola Jesus – Stridulum II (which was a bit dull, really, but easy to have in the background while I was tapping away)
Niki & The Dove – DJ, Ease My Mind; Under the Bridges, The Fox (equally dull – could have been written by Zola Jesus)
Emeli Sandé – Heaven (trying too hard to sound like Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy); Easier in bed acoustic version (really rather pleasant, shows Emeli’s vocal skills off nicely)
Cocknbullkid – Adulthood (not great, but unapologetic pop, and a relief after the grisly dirges from the above artists)
MJ Cole – Sincere (Ahhh, I remember this album, and his older, classic single of the same name: those were the days…)