Updated: Nov 22, 2020
I have UTI at the moment. I haven't had one in ages so it has cast my mind back to school, specifically the last year or two I was there, where, strange as it might sound, having a UTI was kind of cool? Or at least it earned you some kind of respect. I never questioned it particularly at the time but now I'm thinking about what having an infected urinary tract makes you cool in the eyes of a load of 17/18 year old girls.
I suppose, first of all, it heavily implies you've had sex recently- and as we all know having sex is really cool. Also, I guess it also includes you into some sort of selective club. Back when we were all getting our periods for the first time it was similarly cool to have menstrual cramps and to take the week off swimming. Whenever anyone was complaining about having cramps (or a few years later a UTI) you had the chance to go "girl, I've been there" thus implying you have started your period too, which is also really cool, as we well know. Then I suppose it has quite a snappy acronym. UTI could definitely be a nightclub or a swimwear brand.
The thing is, people never really commiserated much together over getting a proper STI which would imply and result in all of the same things. That would be shameful and gross. But whether you have an UTI or not was hot goss well into first year of university and having a carton of cranberry juice on your desk was somewhat of a status symbol. Pregnancy scares were super cool because they were very dramatic, you got to go into town and have a little chat with the pharmacist in the little room if you were getting the morning after pill or a test, bring along your mates for support. Have the test inevitably come back as negative and then get a Costa.
These are all cool because they are grown-up things- so we thought. Grown-ups have periods, have sex, get UTIs or pregnant from doing so. They have problems to overcome. When a group of silly and spoilt (which we were) girls in their late teens got any kind of issue, it was not a problem to overcome with maturity and strength it was a bit of drama because we all knew, in the only sensible part of our brain, that we were not really pregnant, that our cramps would probably go away in a day or two and any UTI in a week. Any real issue that any of us had were not actually that cool. Think you're a lesbian? Yikes. Financial troubles in the family? No-one wants to hear about that. You've got an eating disorder? Gross, stop throwing up in the sink all the time. All in all, most of us had very few issues but any we did have were usually kept as secret, with a few exceptions.
So what was going on? Did we just liked the attention and feeling grown-up? I suppose. I liked to prang on about my waitressing job all the time for a similar reason. Or the pill! We loved talking about the contraception we were on even if it was doing pretty light work from the lack opportunities we had to conceive. I suppose we were just trying to assert ourselves, same way that we, like most teens, would give smoking and drinking a go. Having a hangover was very cool and something you'd try to bring up whenever possible. In all reality, there is, and never has been, a hungover 17 year old. I thought I was hungover but really I had no clue- I was honestly more likely to be a bit sleep deprived. It's strange because having a hangover as an adult is basically a bit pathetic but also kind of fun in a naughty way. Like you're kids again. Kids thinking their grown-up for being hungover and adults thinking they're kids for also being hungover.
That's I suppose the flip to this. It's basically lame but kind of endearing as kids decide that periods, bras, smoking, sex, UTIs and pregnancy scares are cool and adult. But it is really pathetic when adults engage in stupid childish drama and attention seeking by behaving like teenagers and painful attempt to stay cool. You might have a UTI or a hangover- but any performance of it takes away any coolness. For god's sake don't write an article about it.
But then again, maybe it's better that these issues, in fact particularly feminine issues, are now a status symbol in the weirdest way, rather than a source of shame. I'd much rather hear a mate complain about her UTI than have her feel embarrassed about it and not even know the symptoms of it because it was so taboo. Equally, I'd much rather have a 16 year old girl feel proud and mature for having sex, than have her feel so disgusting and sinful for doing it that she doesn't use protection or get the morning after pill. Is it really so bad to bring a friend or two along? Surely it's better than taking a test alone and facing that on your own. And I'd rather have teenagers show-off for getting the coil fitted. That's far better than it not getting it fitted and hopefully might encourage others to sort of their own contraception. I know I put myself on the pill after some of my friends were on it. They were really on it to improve their skin but that was besides the point, I thought it was cool. Even hangovers, there's something nice about girls feeling like they can get drunk and be a bit undignified if they want and not feel like they've let their sacred womanhood slip. The next step, I guess, is to see it extend to other things. Make teenage girls think talking about masturbation is cool in the same way teenaged boys think it is. Or those other more serious things I mentioned earlier like being gay. While eating disorder have to stop being seen as romantic and a bit cool by some people (hello Cassie form Skins), they can't carry on being the extreme opposite for other people; too shameful to even admit to yourself, let alone to someone who could help you. That whole approach is more of an issue for teenage boys but that what's hot or not for the lads is a a whole other can of worms which I'm not the best person to delve into.
So while I'm no longer exactly proud of having a UTI in the same way I was when I was 17, I'm clearly not ashamed by it, otherwise I wouldn't have written this silly article. So, pass the cranberry juice, I say and next time with some vodka too, because I am really very cool.