'Any man willing to keep you company in a room full of hormonal women is a keeper'

emma dent

Amateur social anthropologists with a cruel streak could spend a fascinating afternoon in a family planning clinic.

This is an odd term as surely most of the women and girls using them are trying to avoid having a family. While I dread to think of it, what else they could be called - sexual health centre? Having sex responsibly centre?

But I digress. All grown-up female life is there, as I had the chance to observe recently.

I made the mistake of making a Monday appointment, having forgotten that Monday is the most likely time for those panicked by a split condom to be desperate to get their hands on the morning-after pill.

Panic was the order of the day. There were girls anxiously flicking through magazines, others trying not to cry and a handful of embarrassed-looking boyfriends in tow to hold their hands and avoid the eyes of the other waiting room attendees.

I think it is a good sign that they were there though - any man willing to keep you company in a room full of hormonal women is a keeper.

This rule also applies to important outpatient appointments and accident and emergency, though you may be stretching it for a routine check-up.

As the clinic got busier, one girl left in smiles and practically danced her way out of the door. Another left red-eyed.

Etiquette guides, I fear, have no advice on what to do in such a scenario and, as you have no real idea why someone is there, it would be easy to put your foot in it. So you feel unable to offer comfort to those in distress.

I once bumped into an acquaintance in a different clinic. We agreed to stick to topics of conversation that did not include why we were there.

I advise sticking to a year-old copy of Cosmopolitaninstead. The fashion advice might be out of date but it should keep you from committing a social faux pas.