Unmarried Woman Have Vaginas, Too, You Know By M. Chandra

It’s the fifth time I stand before her

And by her, I mean every one of them

Once a year a journey to name the clutched insides

Colicky, crawling on the ground, a pilgrimage to identify

Why debilitation, excruciating, encompassing and perpetual

A long-term companion,

She scans me.

Head to head, no telltale yellow glint of a mangalsutra

No ring on hand, metti on toe

No veil on head, just blush of youth

Once again, and again, are you married?

I take a deep breath, no, but

(and I don’t let her cut me off at the but)

I don’t let her say we can move on

Drink more water

No more talking to me like I am 10

Don’t give her space to admonish

Ask how could you spread your legs

Again and again

Without a chain around your neck

Don’t give her space to dismiss

You might still have a hymen

Bring your parents

Show your father the proof of your sins

Don’t give her time to feed you lies

About protocol

Don’t let her get away with not hearing a word you say after the no

No you are not married

Yes you are sexually active

I am in pain, in pain, in pain

No it’s not menstrual

Yes, I am lubricated

Yes, I know how to

Envelope a penis in my folds

Listen to me! I am crawling, I can’t walk,

The contents of my bowels mixed with blood

Listen to me! I am crying, these are not in my head

Here, see the marks my fingers left trying not to scream

No I am not overreacting

Just examine me please

My hymen will not break, it’s given way for bigger than an ultrasound probe

Five years of begging,

I pay five times the fee

Sign consent forms waiving responsibility

Fight again, and again

In the waiting room, you called me Mrs., ashamed, refusing to admit

The indignity of an unmarried women in your clientele

I have never been so happy to have an uncomfortable, unfamiliar object in my vagina

On the screens, images flicker and form

You possess a worried frown

Talk about masses and shadows

For the first time I smile,

At least I know.

Chandra is a queer cis woman from South India, an amateur poet, science student, nervous, self -critical and impertinent. This particular poem talks about her experiences visiting gynecologists to address chronic pelvic pain, and being turned away without a physical exam or vaginal ultrasound due to the widespread refusal of Indian healthcare providers to provide these healthcare services due to unmarried women. This twenty year old woman has been asked to provide parental consent, admonished for having premarital sex and told to come back after getting married, so that they needn’t fear damaging her hymen and make her ‘unmarriable’.