Florence Barkway: A Letter To My Younger Self

To my younger self,

I was in a nightclub in Brighton. The music was pumping, it was dark and lights were flashing. I met a boy who looked familiar. We started dancing, which soon turned into making out against a pillar in the crowded club.

My blood was pumping, adrenaline rushing and teenage sexual libido screaming. We left the club and went back to his place (well, his parents house). We snuck up the stairs and tumbled into bed. But we were drunk, so we didn’t end up having sex that night.

In the morning we woke up and started fumbling around. The boy grabbed a condom from his drawer: the one thing we learnt from sex education was always use a condom. The thing is that when he pulled out, the condom was broken – snapped, split, useless! I felt panic wash over me. OMG I’m going to get pregnant, what do I do?!

‘“I guess you’ll need to go get the…” ’

The morning after pill. I nodded and pulled my pants up. We didn’t say anything else about emergency contraception. We didn’t even exchange numbers.

I crept out of his room and rushed out of the house. The last thing I wanted was an awkward encounter with his parents after their son had just inseminated me!

It was a Sunday, so everything was closed and my parents were out. I was in FULL PANIC MODE. I had to get the emergency contraception pill. I was young and I didn’t want to become pregnant after a random one night stand with a boy I never wanted to see again.

I googled emergency doctors while on the phone waiting on hold for what seemed like hours. I was pacing around my bedroom rummaging for information given out in Sex Ed. I felt clueless.

The door slammed, my mum was home. “Florence, what’s wrong?!” – I must have looked a state. I told her everything. I will never forget her disappointed expression and the anger she was trying to hide. I didn’t know if she was angry at me, or at the boy I had sex with. Either way, it made me feel so much regret and shame.

Turned out it was much easier to get the morning after pill than I had thought. We drove to town and parked outside a pharmacy that was open on a Sunday. My mum made me go in alone. I walked up to the counter of the pharmacy and asked for the morning after pill in my most hushed voice, like I was asking for something forbidden.

The pharmacist didn’t seem judgemental. She charged me £30 for the pill, which seemed like a lot of money at the time. Where was the boy I had sex with? Why wasn’t he paying for this as well? We both made the decision to have sex.

Back in the car, we drove to the beach in silence. My mum walked me down onto the stones where I took the pill in the most dramatic setting possible. To this day, I have no idea why she made it feel like such a big deal. The waves were crashing, the wind blowing, the grey skies overwhelming. She told me off, told me never to do something so reckless again, that I was too young to be taking the morning after pill.

The experience put me off sex for a long time. But the problem wasn’t the sex, or even the ripped condom, it was how everyone around me dealt with it, and how little I knew about getting emergency contraception.

This letter is to my mother, who made me feel worse about the situation. She made me feel like I shouldn’t be having sex, even though my body was telling me otherwise. If only she knew that taking that pill was me taking responsibility to do what I want with my life. I wish she had laughed about the mistake and supported me, or just told me which condoms would work better!

This letter is to the boy that I slept with, who didn’t think emergency contraception was his responsibility. He should have come with me to the pharmacy and split the cost. We could have had ice cream afterwards and laughed about our little mishap. At the very least, he could have taken my number and texted me the next day to see how I was feeling, just to show support.

Most importantly, this letter is to my younger self, who felt shame and guilt for having to use the morning after pill. I didn’t need to feel that way, the only feeling I should have had was a hangover. I wish my younger self had the knowledge to find the pill quickly so I could have sorted myself out. I should have felt empowered by my decision and my independence to have sex and make my own choices.

Sex shouldn’t come with shame or guilt. Especially when we’re young and exploring our bodies and sexuality. That time is for feeling those sexual rushes and to find love, lust and excitement! If one thing goes wrong that doesn’t mean the fun has to end, it’s just time to take responsibility. For me, that was taking the morning after pill. No shame. No guilt. My choice.

Love from,
Future Florence

ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.