Take The Test!


So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.

Thank you Tony!

For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?

The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.

What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)

Here at work, we believe that knowledge, indeed, is power.:)

Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.

At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?

11 out of 11 Passed!

On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the  test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.

Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.

***

Note: EDITED to add this.

If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.

Act NOW!

Total Fitness: The BREAK-UP Guide


NOTE: Published in this month’s issue of TOTAL FITNESS magazine. Grab a copy TODAY!

***

Who made the rule that you have to be friends with your Ex? No, seriously, how can two people who, at one point, shared everything in their lives –both emotionally and sexually, to the complete extent–ever break out of that mould and erase the past and pretend like it never happened? Some people manage with ease and élan, but some are just unable to.

I remember a very long time ago when R and I broke up, I often wondered ‘How can I be “friends” with him, when even now, when I’m not in love with him anymore, some part of me flinches to see him looking so good and taking this whole thing better than I ever could? How can I be friends with him, when he has successfully ruined my last three flings, because all of those guys looked at me and said,“Um…are you still hung up on your Ex?” How do I explain to people, that it is not because I am “into” him per se, it’s just that for a year and a half, he was the most important person in my life. He was my best friend, with benefits. We shut out everyone else, just being with each other. That he and I were like some stupid packaged deal that you cannot have one without having the other as well? And I hate that he’s able act all “Oh, I’m so over you” around me, and I turn into this completely different person, who’s being snarly and bitchy and picking fights for no reason at all. I might as well just paint myself red and run around waving a sign, saying “Remember me? I used to be your girlfriend. We used to date.”

That was six years ago and contrary to what my broken little heart feared before, my life did not end.  In fact, shortly after the proverbial bruise has disappeared and my ego has had a chance to repair itself, I woke up in a place where flowers are much more vibrant, the air a lot fresher, and dreams are much closer to reality.

Most of us who dare to love and make a decision to cast all else aside, are never spared from the lashings of a break-up – any break-up. When we are in a relationship, we tend to conduct our lives in a certain pattern or structure and this goes on for what seems like ages that when things finally come to a halt, we feel a great deal of pain and desolation. But usually, the pain is due to the fact that we suddenly have so much time in our hands that we don’t know what to do with – no more going to the gym together; no more candlelit dinners during anniversary and birthdays; no more hanging out with other couple friends, and yes, no more sex with the same person night after night after night.

Face it, the inevitable has arrived. You are no longer in a relationship and the sooner you accept that; the sooner you allow yourself to look past the hurt and wish the other party well, the better and stronger you will be. Getting over an Ex, especially if the relationship was the most intense you have had yet, can be a long and arduous process – but you will get there. Now to make sure you don’t self-destruct, here are some tips you can apply post-break-up:

  1. Find A Good Distraction. Go ahead, mull over the relationship and its demise, but NEVER obsess about it. If it ended, there must be a good reason why and there is no use trying to relive the good days over and over again in your head. So he now has someone new and it hurts like open-heart surgery without anaesthesia — but you have to move on. How to do this? Take on a new hobby. Start a blog. Get active in sports and group activities. Feed your creative side by reading great literary works or dabbling a little in poetry and prose.
  2. Keep Your Space and Ditch Memory Triggers. Usually, after a break-up, we go through the ‘We used to’ phase – ‘We used to come here every Saturdays’ ‘We used to shop here a lot’ – and it’s very normal. What is abnormal is when you insist on clinging to memory triggers:  Little gifts, dried-up flowers, and framed photos that you put on display on top of your office desk or the corner table in your bedroom, forming a little altar of love begone. See that trash bin over there? Use it! And while we’re on the subject, STOP CYBERSTALKING YOUR EX. Terrible idea.
  3. Love Yourself and Embrace Your Inner Goddess! So he dumped you for someone else – or a new toy (Don’t laugh, it can happen. A toy or hobby can sometimes be just as good a substitute to a tiresome lover!) big deal. Whatever she looks like, never use it as an excuse to wallow in self-pity and think yourself unattractive and unlikeable. You are beautiful and someone is dying to be with you. Keep your options wide open and don’t shut people out.
  4. Deal With the Hate Phase Positively. 9 out of 10 breakups are antagonistic, no matter how the splitting parties try to make it appear amicable. If the reason for the break-up is infidelity or betrayal of trust, expect rage to be boundless. But sooner or later, this phase will come to pass – unless you or your partner are chronically vindictive. Nonetheless, you should find a way to channel that hatred and rage. Be open to your friends about your feelings or write about it. By unburdening yourself of negativity, you are that much closer to achieving catharsis.
  5. Do NOT Rethink Your Decision…especially when break-up is caused by one party’s infidelity. It is very common for people to turn messianic thinking you can save that person from himself and if you find yourself going down that road, STOP and RUN the opposite direction! You wouldn’t want to be sitting in the front row for the re-run, believe me.

Men’s Health: What She’s Hiding From You


Coco Martin for MH May 2011

NOTE: Published in this month’s issue of Men’s Health Philippines. Grab a copy NOW for full story. And why not a hundred more for the whole village while you’re at it?

***

Since time immemorial, men have been cast in the stereotype role of a cheating husband or boyfriend. We’ve seen them all, the many different ways they pull off their indiscretion: some do it so furtively they were never caught, while others seem to have no compunction at all in brandishing their extrarelational affairs. And society seems to have accepted this as norm that for a time, men appeared to have had a monopoly over this game called cheating. Not fully realizing that women – ahhh yes, women – are just as capable of  such depraved behavior in their relationships.  In fact, with the emergent cases of cheating wives and girlfriends leaving their partners, it can just as easily be inferred that women are more likely to have emotional affairs rather than one night stands or repeated casual encounters that never progressed beyond the hotel walls.

Grace, a 38-year-old Creative Director for an advertising agency and mother of four children, considered leaving her husband of 15 years for another man. In the end, it was her husband who made that decision for her. This is her story.

***

When I met my husband, *Lawrence, at a common friend’s birthday party, something stirred in me – instinct maybe? – and I just knew I had to be with him. He was charming, well-built, and what he lacked in the sharp intelligence department, he more than made up for with his sense of humor. And I had his undivided attention. So when I got pregnant with our first child barely a year into the relationship, we decided to get married. Just as *Lawrence was attentive to me as a boyfriend, he was an even more devoted husband and father to our first-born. There was so much love and passion in our marriage during these first few years that it never occured to me that things can go wrong. Until it did, and unfortunately, I caused it – the breakup of a seemingly unshakeable union.

It was in 2006 when things started to shake up a little at home. I was at the crossroads of my career, caught between staying in the small company I have worked for for so many years and moving on to a much bigger one with a lot more responsibilites. Many a night I have stayed up until very late, weighing the pros and cons of an imminent decision I was due to make, but my husband never seemed to notice any of it. I would curl up next to his body and he would no longer draw me closer to him as he instinctively used to, even when he’s in deep sleep.  I have always kept my hopeless romantic tendencies, but 11 years and four children after, it was only but natural for romance to wane a little.  I mean, we still have sex once or twice a week and though it seemed more and more perfunctory each time, I still consider it a pretty good batting average given that most of our married couple friends are no longer as sexually active – at least not with each other. I was 34 and lucky to have it all – a loving and responsible husband, beautiful kids, a good career, and loyal friends – until I made that one very foolish decision to stray.

Because YOU Need To Know...

Men’s Health: Read Her Dirty Mind ‘The Married Woman’


MH July 2009 Issue

Name: Bambi Reyes** (not her real name)

Occupation: Group Manager for Sales
Status: Married, 4 kids
Last Hookup: 2 days ago
Number of Active Partners: 2
Looking for: Non-reproductive, purely recreational sex with men other than husband
Tuesday, 11:30AM
ENTERING THE INFIDELITY ARENA
The day started just like any other, painfully trite. Even the morning sex with my husband has failed to give me that certain kind of jolt to keep me energized at least for most part of the day. Gene, my husband, seems to have retired behind the wall of marital ease. He seems to have already forgotten the preludes to sensual desire, which left me in a state of isolation – with my needs and jungle natures unsatisfied.[1] I went down to the smoking area with two of my colleagues. It was there that I saw him again. I’ve seen him twice before and I thought he was interesting and I told my colleagues that. I can get his number for you if you want. Says my friend Nikki and though I tried to play it goody-goody by discouraging her, I was secretly hoping she’d get his number just the same. As if she read my mind, Nikki walked over to where he was standing and came back saying, His name is John and I gave him your number. In spite of my pretences, I was beginning to feel the once all too-familiar spark of anticipation for what’s going to happen next. Is he going to call me?

9:45PM
GETTING DOWN TO IT
Gene is in the living room watching TV. I took my place in the dining area, laid out all the paperwork I pretended to review on the table and tried my best to look busy. I know it’s unwifely of me but I’m hoping he’d go to bed soon and not bother me with another one of his 5-minute sex which I have come to despise. Not only does that kind of sex leave me unfulfilled, it also makes me feel like a discarded rug after. How did we end up on the opposing sides of sexual spectrum when we had it so good in the beginning of our marriage? I don’t want to think John had anything to do with this – how I’ve grown acutely aware of my husband’s shortcomings. John. I got his text message shortly after I reached home, I replied. Thus started the manic sms exchange which I didn’t want my husband to suspect so I switched my phone to silent mode. By this time, John already knows I’m married. He is too, apparently. Let’s have dinner tomorrow, he said. Sounds like a plan, I said.
Wednesday, 8:30PM
FAST AND FURIOUS
Before dessert is served, we were both treading heavily waiting for the slightest pretext to leap out and ravage each other like primitive animals. Let’s get out of here. We walked hurriedly to the car park and when I saw that he was parked in an almost obscure spot, the wheels of my imagination started spinning wildly. I can’t remember the last time I had sex inside a parked car but I thought now would be the perfect time to recreate the experience. In the backseat, we fumbled with belts, trouser zippers, buttons, and my silk panties while our mouths, teeth and tongues hungrily sought each other. John was on top of me and I had my left leg curled around the curve of his buttocks. Soon, his engorged penis was rubbing against me, drawing sparks, and prodding me to open wider for him. I was raising myself tautly toward him, bracing myself for the sexual climax that was about to come and when it finally did, I was half-faint from pleasure.
10:35PM
HELLO, REALITY
I cheated on my husband. The enormity of what I had done came over me like a giant wave when I reached home and saw my youngest son sleeping soundly on my husband’s lap on the couch. Crossing the distance between the main door and the couch to greet my boys felt like taking the Walk of Shame. Later that night, I was the one who initiated the sex with Gene. He was a bit surprised by it but my enthusiasm and uninhibited passion got him completely aroused he didn’t ask any more questions.[2] For the first time in many years, I felt closer to my husband that night. Or was it residual guilt masquerading as affection? I looked at his sleeping form thinking how vastly different he and John are. Whereas John is lean and sinewy, Gene looks every inch the father-of-four that he is – portly and floppy-armed.
Friday, 11:00PM
MY SECRET LIFE
I saw John again the night before and he took me to the hotel room he was staying in for the night. He told his wife a cock-and-bull story about an overnight planning session with his staff and begged me to stay with him for the night. I couldn’t. But as a compromise, I told him I can stay for a couple of hours – my husband thinks I’m out drinking with the girls anyway. John is so flexible and athletic he taught me many things I had never experienced with Gene and with any one of my Ex-boyfriends before I got married. Sometimes, I’d use these new things John taught me with Gene and in those times, I actually enjoy sex with him.
Monday, 8:00PM
IN TOO DEEP
I made excuses to Gene just to be able to see John twice over the weekend. I couldn’t stop re-enacting various scenes in my mind: John bending me over the kitchen sink or how firm and shapely my legs look propped up on his muscular shoulders as he takes me deep and hard. By this time I know I’m hooked. Keeping two relationships is becoming increasingly difficult but I am captivated by the intensity of pleasure and the danger that come with each rendezvous.[3]

[1] In his book Infidelity: A Survival Guide, Dr. Don-David Lusterman cited Sexual curiosity, Lost sense of fun and excitement in the marriage and Inability to accommodate a partner’s needs, desires and expectations as among the reasons for extramarital affairs. He also debunked the prevailing theory that all women are in search of emotional attachments as part of their involvement in extramarital affairs. For some women, it can be just all about the sex.
[2] Michelle Langley, author of Women’s Infidelity, said that there are 4 stages that women often experience in the course of their long-term relationships with their partners and it usually begins with the loss of sexual desire (Stage 1). Women at Stage 2 experience reawakened desire stimulated by an encounter outside the marital relationship and may experience tremendous guilt at some point and they will try to overcome feelings of guilt by becoming more attentive toward and appreciative of their husbands. But this ‘appreciation’ will soon turn to ‘justification’ as the affair drags on.
[3] From Stage 2, Michelle Langley in her book Women’s Infidelity, zeroes-in on women at Stage 3 – they are involved in affairs, ending affairs, or contemplating divorce. Women who are having affairs experience feelings unlike anything they have experienced before or what is typically referred to as being in love. But these women are also typically in tremendous pain, the pain of choosing between their husbands and their new love interests. They typically believe that what they are doing is wrong and unfair to their husbands, but yet are unable to end their affairs.

One Night Only.


Have you ever been on a one-night stand?

I know of some people, myself obviously not included, who have and they all agree that it’s a strange sort of memory to look back on. Usually, ONS ensues after a break-up (for some of them much earlier than that) where one party who was once thoughtful, sacrificing, concerned, and blindly in love all throughout the relationship snaps (always for a particular reason or excuse)and things like commitment and fidelity and trust became abstract concepts that needed some serious “rethinking” rather than the way of life they had always thought it to be.

You see, once commitment flies out of the window you can have a lot of fun. Hypothetically, if I had at any point in my past relationships ever actively cheated on my partner – well, I’m sorry, but spending time feeling guilty for, uhrrrm, other pleasures is something I probably won’t be caught dead doing. So, one night stands. A friend of mine recommended Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart and he said it got him to thinking a lot about one night stands. (Mental note to self: Pick up a copy and see what it’s all about. You liked The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, right? This one should be right up there in the same alley.) Okay, so where were we? Right, ONS. You see, I’m not very censorious about sex. I believe that so long as you don’t hurt whoever you are with, whatever you do is your own business and ought to be enjoyed the way it’s designed to be enjoyed. Assuming, of course, that you are in a relationship and your partner is not exactly a fan of pleasure derived non-exclusively, then you should not be indulging in this particular game.

Following that train of thought, if one-offs are generally acceptable to you, here are some things I learned from friends which we agreed should be passed around – because the game is always more fun when both players know the rules, don’t you agree?

1. Learn to pick up the vibe if somebody’s sending you some. Insecurity and/or the whole ‘who me?’ pretend-disbelief can keep you alone in bed for some time.

2. Remember you are where you are with him solely for the sex. Check-in your emotional baggage at the door.

3. This may very well be the ONLY impression you will ever have to make, so WORK IT, baby.

4. Play safe. Suit up. Put on the latex. You know what I’m talking about, right?

5. Keep it friendly and light, right up to the goodbye the morning after. And no, you have no right to expect breakfast.

6. Virgins must come out with it beforehand. Some men (yes, there are still a few of them out there) are terrified of deflowering women they don’t exactly see themselves bringing home to mum.

7. If there is any indication that the morning after will only bring regret, keep your knickers on. Simply put, get into it for the sex, not because you’re drunk, high, or lonely.

8. KISS – Keep it simple, silly! Relax, it’s just sex. But be well-mannered enough to switch your phone to silent mode.

9. Lastly, bring out your trump card! Feel free to experiment. Your temporary partner has no idea of your usual style and is most likely devoid of expectations. So there’s your chance to wow him. And it may not be all about wowing him. Who knows what you’ll discover about yourself and the sex diva lurking underneath?

Having said all that, I guess I should also mention that some of the guy friends I had a discussion on this with agree that there is nothing quite as sexy as the woman (that’s you!) you have made a move on grabbing the bull by the horns, so to speak, and taking the initiative to cover the rest of the distance.

Image taken from here.

Said I Love You But I Lied…


Romantic relationships are full of oddities. All of us long for, nay, demand a relationship that is built on trust, openness, and intimacy. Sadly, relationships don’t always work that way. By observation, you can just as easily deduce that couples often lie about their feelings for each other,  their level of commitment to the relationship, and the affairs they have on the side – whether emotional or merely physical. Although when you think about it, there’s a very fine line separating the two.

In some cases, downplaying, ignoring, or looking the other way when confronted with these relationship paradoxes, work. Until the day that it doesn’t anymore.  Sooner or later, you will catch your partner in one of their lies. Naturally, you will lose your head over the fact that someone you trusted with everything you have has deceived you and you are completely clueless as to the whys and not so much as the hows, but thehow many times . Interestingly, this is a classic two-way thing in the sense that your partner can just as likely catch you in one of your attempts to mislead – and you would be at a loss as to how to handle the situation well yourself.

My share of relationships (the number is not THAT high, believe you me!) has more or less taught me that when it comes to love and romance, most of the things we subscribe to are fairly inaccurate. No, NOT everything can be solved by “open and honest communication” and yes, misleading a partner is not that hard to do. It may seem heartbreaking to those who have such idealistic views on relationships, but the truth is, in our romantic relationships, there exists a constant juxtaposition of candor and deceit.

When we’re in love, we are inclined to view our romantic partners with stars in our eyes. We think we know them well, thus, we place a lot of trust in them. And moreoften, this is where the alarm bells start to go off. Because while our trust gives us a sense of security and comfort, it also also becomes the breeding ground for deceit.  “No, my boyfriend will never do that to me. I know him very well and I can tell you for sure that cheating is beneath him.” Six times out of 10 (please feel free to countercheck the ratio, hahaha), there’s another woman beneath your boyfriend while you’re out with the girls. This blind faith opens up the floodgates to deception.  After all, who makes a better victim than someone who is eager and willing to trust everything you have to say?

Did you also know that ultra close relationships create the need to,uhrrm, dish out a few untruths? We all love the many rewards that relationships offer, but they also tend to be debilitating. I’m sure most of you have, in one way or another, felt the limitations of a close-knit relationship. No, you can’t go out with friends tonight. No, you can’t wear that – my handkerchief has more fabric than that dress! No, you can’t eat too much of that – your cellulites are already popping out like varicose veins. These very common scenarios simply show that intimacy, if not managed well, can cause you to lose your freedom and autonomy.

And this where lying comes to the rescue.  And because not telling the truth sometimes  helps us deal with the constraints that our intimate relationships impose,  we continue to enjoy the benefits – sexual, emotional, and what-not –  of our romantic relationships while pursuing extra-relational goals and activities behind our partner’s back. And what about guilt, I hear you asking.  And I say, what guilt? I have met a few people who openly admit to having extra-relational affairs and believe me, there isn’t an ounce of guilt in their demeanor. Not even a fraction of it.

Not to say that we all must lie to our partners because most of the time being untrue is not exactly a deliberate act on the offender’s part. For women: Perhaps your partner tripped and fell on a woman who just happened to be spreadeagled on the floor at that time. For men: It can also be that your lady partner has an undiagnosed fear of being alone at home such that one night when you had to work overtime and your bestfriend just happened to pass by your home, he and your wife…Okay, that’s rather heartless, but you do get my drift, right?

To play it safe, most of us refuse to acknowledge deception by a loved one. But as your friends become more open with their personal encounters with the deceiving kind and you examine your own behavior more closely, it becomes harder and harder to shrug-off the degree to which people can be so secretive about extra-relational activities.  In this case, I cannot speak for people who are at the receiving end of betrayal, but I have been on the same boat twice in my life and this I must say, there are no words to describe the pain. Think of all the macabre things Dr. Hannibal Lecter is capable of doing to another human being – it’s almost on that same level.  Unfortunately, the way I handled my affairs did not exactly give me the outcome I would have preferred to achieve. My fiery temper (not to mention, irrepressible tendencies to get illogical and irrational about certain things) has caused me to lose someone who could have been a dear friend, barring differences and all. Ultimately, it does pay to have a more open mind about certain complexities of romantic relationships – and not be so quick to judge and yet slow to forgive.  Maybe it’s time I ask for forgiveness.

 

Image taken from here.