When your job involves trying to bring to market what could be the biggest breakthrough in birth control since the pill, you keep your mornings predictable. Every weekday, Saundra Pelletier gets up at 4:30 a.m., trying not to wake her 10-year-old son while she slips into her workout gear, which includes a sweatshirt with the word bullshit printed on the left shoulder. By 5, the 48-year-old single mom–who lives about a half hour from the San Diego offices of her company, Evofem Biosciences–is on the phone, often with her investors in London. At 5:30, still on the phone, Pelletier exits her garage with a quick nod to the nanny, who is on her way in. Half an hour later, she’s at either CrossFit or Fitwall, where she can work all the major muscle groups in 40 minutes. As the cool-down session begins, Pelletier bolts, already en route to her next stop and a triple soy latte from Starbucks. Since there are no locker rooms at either gym, she swings back home–the phone automatically clicking over to a waterproof speaker in her bathroom–to clean up. Back in her car, she dictates emails to her assistant, until arriving at the office by 8:30. “We get quite a lot done, actually,” she says.
I’m not proud of it. As someone who’s at high risk for HIV infection, I have a spotty relationship with safe sex. I came of age in the ’90s, when rappers like Salt-N-Pepa and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes frequently spit rhymes about rubbers. I volunteered in a South African AIDS orphanage in the early 2000s and saw first-hand the effects of unprotected sex. I even had my own close brush with HIV infection nearly 10 years ago. And yet, I don’t always do the right thing.