All this happened because I had the audacity to want to go to grad school. To make that happen, I had to put my grown-up life on hold and live in the back room of my mom’s house until I got my fancy pants master’s degree. Having a kid in that situation would be beyond inconvenient.

So without money or health insurance, I hightailed it to Planned Parenthood once a month to pay $30 bucks for birth control in an concious effort to keep my womb fetus-free. This worked wonderfully until (one particularly broke weekend) the cost of my NuvaRings spiked $20 dollars without explanation.

For $50 bucks a month, I figured it’d be less expensive to just go on ahead and raise my hypothetical baby.  Fortunately, my thesis (and total lack of motherly instinct) knew that having a kid was still a very bad idea. But I only had $30 dollars, two of which were in quarters. Then and there I decided Susan G. Komen is somehow responsible for this nightmare and I left the clinic empty-handed for the first time in months.

The next day I sulked on over to the hair salon to beg my stylist for a freebee.  When she relented, I sat in her chair to vent about my lack of Nuva Ring dilemma, because aside from executing a mean “press n curl” she’s there to listen to me complain. I expected her to nod absentmindedly at my pain in the same way she does every other Saturday afternoon. But instead, after listening to my womb woes, she bent over and whispered the sentence every fiscally challenged person longs to hear: “I got the hook-up.”

Now “the hook-up,” in laymen’s terms, is an unauthorized connection to goods or services that is typically illegal in nature. I’ve received said hook-up on cell phone chargers, the occasional bootlegged DVD and a $50 dollar store credit at Wet Seal that I swear was for a friend. But a hook-up on birth control?  Eww.

Before I could even fix my lips to give my hair stylist a courteous, “Hell no,”  she tells me that her best friend’s second cousin charges $15 dollars for a month’s supply. Fifteen dollars? Maybe bootleg birth control wasn’t such a bad thing after all.


Fast forward to 30 minutes later and I’m outside the salon next to a rust-colored Plymouth Reliant, shaking hands with a portly young woman who introduces herself as Ruwanda. She pries open the trunk and rattles off the names of pills like list of fine wines;  “Loestrin, Yasmin, or Alesse?” Fingers crossed, I whisper, “NuvaRing?”

It’s a freakishly warm November day. Ruwanda snaps her fingers and reaches into her oven of a trunk for one of the rings I’m pretty sure is supposed to be stored at 60 degrees. When I grab for it, I’m worried that, not only has the Indian summer destroyed its contraceptive power, but that the ring may singe my va jay jay on the way up.  But Ruwanda hands it over and, lo and behold, it’s cool to the touch.

I want to ask how she gets them, but can’t, because the rule for this and any other illicit transaction is always, “Don’t ask.  Don’t tell.”

Before I hand over the money, I give the city block around us the shifty eye to make sure no one is watching. I inspect the packet with trembling hands. The little blue package isn’t some Canal Street knock off. It’s the real freaking deal. I caress the ring, resist the urge to hiss, “My precious,” and I shove it into my back pocket.

If this were an episode of “Intervention,” I’d be shooing the cameraman away not to keep my face out of frame, but to protect sweet Ruwanda’s identity. I have to make sure she’s not in jail this time next month when I’ll need another fix.

After a convincing sales pitch, I decide to buy three rings for less than the price of what Planned Parenthood charged me for one. Ruwanda even throws in a free ring, part of her new customer promotion. Before we part, Ruwanda grabs a satchel out of her steamy trunk. It’s filled with packets of Plan B pills. Apparently, they sell like hot cakes at the barbershop next door.

It’s six months later and my lady parts are still vacant, save for the NuvaRing.  Meanwhile, a bunch of white guys in Congress, none of who will probably ever get pregnant, are trying to make it even harder for me to get the birth control that’s keeping my life plan on track.  I guess to keep me from screwing half the county on the taxpayers’ dime when all I want to do is NOT have a baby before I have a grown up house, a grown-up job and all the other means to take care of one.

I’m willing to bet that Ruwanda’s dozens of other customers and the one in five women without health insurance have a similar American dream. But unlike many of them, soon I’ll graduate and hopefully be able to get a real job with real benefits. Until then, Ruwanda and her entrepreneurial American spirit will keep making my birth control as accessible as a freshly delivered pizza. So she’ll continue to get my birth control business, as long as her car continues to run.

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Shayla on XOJane! 

  • Ask_ME

    SMH. I would rather opt out of sex than buy some ish that impacts my buy on the street from a stranger.

  • Melu

    Wow. The lengths women will go for casual sex amazes me. You’re betteroff just remaining celibate until you can afford safe sex.

  • Ask_ME

    *impacts my body*

  • Krystie

    But what if she can’t EVER afford it. Should poor folks NEVER be intimate? What about poor folks in long term committed relationships or even married poor folks? You all need to get off your high horse, bc the focus isn’t sex it’s freedom to do what she needs to do. It’s her choice and thr fact that BC shouldn’t have to sold like a dang illegal drug.

  • Allie

    Assuming every woman on birth control is using it as birth control. SMDH. People like you are why she has to buy birth control out the back of someone’s car. You should be ashamed.

  • Skye

    That’s so dangerous you don’t know what type of stuff is in the pills. The best thing is condoms!

  • J.S.

    Spoken like a man.

  • emjay

    I mean I get that the struggle is soooo real but… as soon as you said the trunk of her car was steamy I was done lol

  • Nik

    Buy she SAYS she is using it for birth control, not for regulating her period, etc.

  • Ask_ME

    And what if she plugs that thing up the hole and ends up with an infection? What then?? Medical bills are more expensive than simply opting out of sex until you can AFFORD to do it the right way.

  • dirtychai

    “The lengths women will go for casual sex amazes me.”

    You must not interact with many men.

  • Pseudonym

    “For $50 bucks a month, I figured it’d be less expensive to just go on ahead and raise my hypothetical baby. Fortunately, my thesis (and total lack of motherly instinct) knew that having a kid was still a very bad idea.”

    Who raises a baby on $50/month?

    Also, when I was a full-time Masters student, I was required to have health insurance and ended up getting a plan through the school. Actually, anytime I’ve been a student, I’ve been required to have health insurance. Is this not true at every school?

    and how much money are you spending each month at the hairdresser? If she knows you well enough to give you “freebies,” then you must go pretty often. Cutting that luxury expense might be the sacrifice you need for that extra $20/month.

    It’s all good when things are going well, but when you can’t confirm where she’s receiving these pharmaceuticals from, there’s no telling what could happen. You can also nix the BC altogether and let the guys buy condoms.

  • donnadara

    This country has been trying to keep poor people from having sex for years. It’s not realistic to say celibate indefinitely. People do get caught up in the moment. And too poor to have sex? That makes me think of all of people trying to take things away from people on assistance. No school lunch, no cell phone, no refrigerator, no stove. Check out the Heritage Foundation if you don’t believe me. That sounds very punitive, and having a baby costs more than BC.

  • Anthony

    How about making your man pay for double condoms and spermicide? If he is responsible and doesn’t want kids, he should cool with dropping cash so he can safely party in your p***y.

  • Sasha

    Everyone has different things they’re willing to scrimp, save and sacrifice when they’re on hard times however my health is something of great importance to me so no thanks, I would not be purchasing contraceptives out of the trunk of a car. Clearly Shayla felt differently and that was her choice to make.

  • Anthony

    I couldn’t resist quoting a RedHot Chilli Peppers song title!

  • CeeCee

    I loved this article! I wish I could find a Ruwanda to help me out. I am in the same boat as the author; poor (yup I have job), uninsured, and a student. I have taken bc pills since I was sixteen due to having an irregular period; now I am too old to be on my parents insurance so I am having to do without. Thank goodness for Wi-fi and the ability to connect to someone else’s internet connection; otherwise, I would be without internet too..oh, the horror!

  • dee

    Oh Man, I was seriously cracking up when it got to the part about her stylist leaning over and whispering I got the hook-up in her ear. That sounds entirely too sketchy.

  • Ash

    LOL! I anit even mad at you and ur bootleg birth control! This article just makes me even more mad that GOP leaders are trying to make it harder for women to get access to this. It’s already extremely expensive.

  • Val

    Another reason to hate Republicans. They love fetuses but hate actual babies.

  • marianna

    Never ever ever ever in my life would I EVER buy any sort of medication from the back of a truck. that’s just plain stupid to me. What if you get an infection??

    From the article it sounds like you’re having sex on a regular basis, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but what about the guy(s)? If you’ve got one you have sex with often, he can’t put in $25 a month for some pills? And if not, why not just stick to condoms??

    Yeah, lawmakers are violating our rights and times are really hard. We shouldn’t have to pay to have sex. But bootlegging birth control?? That’s ridiculous.

  • ImJustSaying

    Wow… umm… I was with her (sort of) up until the steamy trunk as well. I use nuva ring and know it can last only 4 hours at 80 degrees (meaning the medicine will work once inserted) It is triggered by body heat. Which is why my pharmacy keeps it in the FREEZER and the directions tell me to keep it in the fridge before use. And even then they say to use it within 5 days. I agree with the financial reasoning but the sketchiness level is a bit too high for me.

    And to Anthony who suggested DOUBLE condoms what is that? do you mean thicker? I was taught in high school health class and on the condom box that you only use one. Please tell me you only use one. Please.

  • Kenzy

    @pseudonym as a graduate student myself i can assure it is NOT required at every university, its not required at mine as a full time student and on top that it has to be paid out of pocket

  • mEE

    o__O well…I wish you luck with your off market birth control. but it couldn’t be me. that’s kinda’s prescription medicine.

  • Apple

    Buying weave from a trunk yeah , fake handbag yeah, but birth control ? Umm no no no

  • Anthony

    I’m not using anything now, we are not in kiddie creation stage anymore. I just remember an HIV positive man talking about “double bagging” back in the eighties.
    I just figured that for young people who in the period of prime or near prime fertility, a double layer if thin condoms and spermicide would be an effective use of male contraception.

  • Skye

    I found that once people put that “we’re official” title they withdraw from condoms. I’m not a fan of bc. I think condoms are the best route along with him pulling out b4…with protection of course!

  • Overseas_Honeybee

    No ma’am. Abstinence is FREE. Sis you are taking a big chance buying BC out of a freakin’ trunk. Grad school alone can totally kill your social life. Sex would be the least of my concerns until I handled my business. #priorities

  • Courtney**

    You heard it here first from Melu, folks. People in committed relationships apparently don’t use birth control. Only people looking for casual sex. WHO KNEW.

  • Shango

    lmfao!!! Why are y’all surprised? This is the same girl that wrote about having sex with some dude even after she find out he was a possible walking STD!!!

    She is very rational!! lol

  • J

    I guess all schools are different because my school require us to have health insurance and its included in the tuition… As for those bootlegged BC, no ma’ame, you’re playing with fire. I work at an ob/gyn clinic and we keep the nuvarings in a special fridge, and tell the patients to keep them refridgerated when they get home, so good luck to you and your vajajay!

  • t judith johnson

    Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. The point being is why do government keep increasing the price of birth control and more so the availability to the working and non working poor. Health benefits and insurance should be available to all. This country should be ashamed of itself. The author has a right to her sexual health and to determine when its right for her to procreate. .

  • Pseudonym

    Hmmmm…and this is probably an illegal suggestion, but whatever, times are hard: if you have a female family member (of reproductive age) who has good health insurance but doesn’t use prescription birth control, how about you have them get the prescription from their doctor and pass it to you? Co-pay can be $7/pack of pills (not sure what it is for Nuva Ring) and you’re getting it from a reliable source AND it’ll probably been even cheaper than Ruwanda’s.

    another possible source is lesbian family members/friends.

  • Pseudonym

    No! That’s awful advice!!! There’s a lot of friction b/w the surfaces of the two condoms and wearing two makes it more likely that the condoms will rub each other too much and tear. Take not that the guy suggesting this “double bagging” technique was HIV positive. The “double bagging” technique may be why.

  • Anthony

    Pseudonym, I don’t want to give anyone bad advice, so I recommend the that the young lady who wrote this article tell her boyfriend to buy quality condoms and spermicide if he wants to maintain her amorous attention.

  • Shoogafoot Jones

    Free condoms are available everywhere. How about some abstinence? Why do personal choices (Such as sex) have to be paid for by taxpayers? When is there going to be something called “personal responsibility”? Apparently, none of these are required because the White people in Congress, who will never get pregnant, do not care about woman’s issues. Sickening. Don’t worry, you can run all town anyway while we pay for that irresponsible behavior by adding to our debt. Enjoy yourself!

  • Anthony

    Somebody is paying for those “free” condoms too.

  • Mademoiselle

    I suspect this is how women get lured into those deadly butt injections too.

  • Mademoiselle

    @Pseudonym Even if it’s required at the author’s school, she could’ve done what I did and lied about having private insurance. Usually they just ask for a policy number and a company name. So if you string together 9 to 15 digits, maybe with an A or C at the beginning, and give them a legit enough sounding company, no one goes investigating. Broke knows no bounds.

  • JeannieD

    Ever heard of condoms?

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