First thing. Understand that I'm not laughing at anyone. I'm not mocking or sneering or looking down. Get that through you head.
These are cocktail napkins. Made for my dear friend Alex, with whom I shared I special professional experience.
I once worked in public health and I loved it very much. It wasn't merely public health... it was actually sort of pubic health.
For five years I worked for a large, sexual health, non-profit. We had huge CDC contracts, including the National AIDS Hotline. I started on the phones, talking to and educating anonymous callers about the states of their genitals, transmission of disease, their fears, their loneliness, their anxieties. Later, I became an HIV Test counselor, delivering results, traveled for a few months to AIDS service organizations for the CDC, and went into management. But it's the voices on the phone that still remain with me ten years later.
That's the background of these stitches. These are just a few of the narratives I collected from those years. I have a box of over a hundred slips of paper, each with a fleeting question, anxiety, image.
Human sexuality is, for so many, infused with pathos. On occasion, hearing that pathos provoked a kind of gallows humor for me. The questions took my breath away. They didn't shock me. They gave me energy. They startled. They made me sad. They made me giggle.
"Mama told me that I could get herpes from wearing tight jeans to the rodeo."
It's poetry of terrible parenting and misinformation. And it is true, but not literally.
A larger piece of these scraps of narrative is churning in my mind. After all of these years.