Sunday, October 23, 2005

A condom story

A funny thing about drug stores in Seattle is that you can't pick up a package of Sudafed directly from the shelves. You have to pick up a card printed with information about the type of Sudafed you want, carry it to the pharmacy and have a clerk hand you the drugs after checking your id (for what, I'm not sure). However, you can readily access every type of condom imaginable.

In DC, the condoms are kept under lock and key or hidden behind the counter. The message? We don't care if you grind up cold medicine to make methamphetamine or whatever it is--that's good for the local economy. But stealing condoms? Oh no, must put a stop to that. But think about it--who is stealing condoms? Not me. It's teenagers. Shouldn't we encourage teenagers to steal condoms? Shouldn't we just subsidize the drug stores so that it's as easy as possible to obtain condoms?

This reminds me of a story about condoms from my Seattle days.

When I was 15 I took a class called the "Psychology of Human Sexuality." It was essentially a sex-ed class. I entered college early and I'd skipped traditional sex-ed. We'd gotten one or two days of it in the sixth grade and my parents told me the basics when I was quite young, but my modesty kept me from asking my mother too many questions. She would have answered, but I didn't like to talk to her about such things. I also wasn't that interested. Curious, yes. Burning with desire? No.

The class was fantastic. The professor was charismatic and managed to make very giggle-prone teenagers listen with rapt attention. We learned about orgasms, birth control, erections, masturbation and more. That class taught me what to expect from sex and gave me a practical approach.

One day, the professor told us how she used to instruct the men in her class to always carry a condom. A female student had come to her after class and asked, "Why do you only tell the guys to carry a condom?" The professor then said to us, "Now I tell all my students to carry a condom."

I was taking the class with a few friends: Audrey, Hans and Chris. Chris was inspired by the lecture and went to Bartell Drugs after class and bought a box of lubricated Trojans. He brought them to the E.E.P. lounge and I walked in that afternoon on a bunch of kids playing with condoms, putting them on doorknobs, a baseball bat (that one broke) and anything else that seemed likely. I'd never seen a condom before and only had a hypothetical understanding of their operation. There were plenty left over and Chris distributed them to everyone there. I put one in my wallet. That happened when I was 15 and I carried that condom around for four or five years. And, no, I never used it.

When I was 18, I spent a lot of time hanging out at a local coffee shop called "The Last Exit." I was friends with a fellow, Jerry, who had a bit of a crush on me. I tried to like him, I really did, but I could never quite get there. We had a good time hanging out and I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the attention. One day he said, "Let me look at your wallet." Isn't this a common mating ritual? Looking at each other's id's, photos, other random cards, etc. I told him no. "You don't want to do that."

"Oh, c'mon. Let me see."

"No. Here, I'll just show you what's in it." I started to pull out cards and random bits of paper I had in there. Jerry grabbed the wallet from me. "You don't want to do that." He started going through it. I gave up trying to get it back. When Jerry got to the condom he handed it back to me abruptly.

"Here. Why didn't you tell me not to look through it?"

"I did tell you!" Sigh. "Let me explain why it's there..."

"No. I don't want to talk about it." He got up and went and sat with some other friends of ours. He never ever acted the same way around me again. That's one way to kill a crush.

In a little over a year, I would finally have sex for the first time.

Grateful for: sex-ed.

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