In one of Seinfeld’s cold openings, when Jerry is doing standup, he talks about how purchasing condoms should be done through giving a knowing look with the pharmacist, who then places the goods into an opaque bag and rings you up.
At times, even buying tampons at a store has seemed easier because the narrative isn’t as interesting.
The cashier or other shoppers see you with the feminine products and make one of only a handful of essentially domestic conclusions: picking them up for your significant other because you’re whipped or picking them up for your significant other/sister/mother because you’re a good person.
Regardless, the unspoken question is “Why are you here buying these?” With condoms, it’s “What are you going to do with these?”
One of my friends at work was telling about how she was behind a man who was buying a pack of condoms and the cashier couldn’t get them out of the plastic box they were in. He made the most of it, though, making a few jokes about it before a supervisor finally came over to help.
It was then that it occurred to me that the condom purchase is one of those obligatory moments in life where anecdotes are plentiful.
Below are some of mine and I would love to hear yours!
I was at the Food Lion on Avent Ferry at about 7 p.m. It was time to restock the fridge with beer and I decided it was time to restock my treasure chest, as well. (Oh yeah, I keep my condoms in a treasure chest.)
The two purchases were unrelated, but as I sheepishly slid a case of PBR and a package of condoms toward the cashier, the man behind me voiced his analysis of the situation.
“Looks like you’re in for a good night.”
Food Lion was closed this night so I found myself at the Kangaroo in front of it.
I searched all over that convenience store for their contraception and only found feminine products and headache medicine.
That’s because this is one of those places Jerry talked about, where you have to ask someone to hand them to you from behind the counter.
There was no nod. No knowing glance. Instead, there was another man who was at the counter asking for the same thing.
I told the clerk I needed some too and he called out what different options we had in our condom purchase.
When my new friend chose the first one offered, (ribbed for her pleasure, I think), I, wanting to ease this transaction, said that sounded fine, as well.
No one said anything at that moment, but I thought on my way home about the fact that it was a strange feeling to be walking out of the convenience store at the same time with a man carrying the exact same brand of condoms.
I hope his night ended better than mine.
Most recently, one of my best friends was having a pregnancy scare. She was too embarrassed to go buy Plan B so she coaxed me into a mission with similar undertones to buying tampons.
As I looked around for the pills, I decided to go the extra mile and get her a pack of condoms as a smug “don’t let this happen again” message, which brings me to my biggest pet peeve with condoms: Where the fuck are they!?
Sometimes they’re stuck on the feminine hygiene aisle. Sometimes they’re on the back wall. Sometimes they’re behind the counter. Sometimes they’re behind glass or plastic. Sometimes they have a gigantic display and other times they’re stuck in a corner. If we want to encourage safe sex in this country, we need to find a way to ensure that contraception is in a more stable position in these stores instead of having the only dependable place to find them be the men’s room of dirty truck stops. Rant over.
Anyway, I found the condoms and went to the counter where I presented both Plan A and Plan B for purchase.
Since this was, seemingly, one of the few times I would be buying these goods for a reason completely devoid of any of my doing, I decided to own it.
I handed her the condoms, saying “So we don’t have to do this again.”
And then there’s the big one.
I was hanging out with Richard and my girlfriend at the time, watching a movie in my dorm room when I realized we were out of beer. Yeah, this happened a lot in college.
I had just broken up with a girl, who subsequently learned that we hadn’t quite been exclusive for a few months due to my hooking up with the girl who was currently in my dorm room.
The scorned woman freaked out and threatened to slash my tires, but Richard, a good friend who knew that I value my car more than most body parts, talked her out of it.
I knew we needed beer and that I could walk to the convenience store, where I could pick up a pack of condoms for entertainment after Richard left.
I stepped out into the cold night, leaving Richard to entertain my girl and there she was: The scorned ex-girlfriend. In the parking lot.
Was she here to kill me? Did I catch her keying my car or slashing my tires?
No. She walked right up to me, almost as if she was coming to visit. I froze.
She walked up and started talking, but my drunken stupor kept me from focusing on what she was saying. I remember her head shifting left and right as she spoke, saying that she had to come talk to me to show me that she couldn’t carry any hate in her heart any more.
I excused myself for a moment and burst back into my dorm room, which was on the first floor of a reclaimed motel with the doors facing the parking lot. I called Richard to attention and whispered into his ear who was outside with strict instructions not to let the third member of our party out of his sight or even near the window.
I went back outside and we finished our talk, which effectively gave us both closure, but needless to say I was too afraid to venture out for beer or contraception again and the party died. Still, I slept soundly knowing Cadence was no longer in danger, but damn was that close.
I’d like to close with a public service announcement: As much as contraception is a serious subject, it is, at the same time, hilarious.
Own those awkward moments knowing you’re doing the right, safe thing and joining millions of people throughout history that have experienced it. Walk proudly to that aisle and embrace the awkwardity (it will catch on.)
Or that aisle. Wait, is that them? Oh yeah, there they are. Now why would they put them here? Let’s see, now. What’s the difference between ribs and studs? Is it going to send the wrong message if I get the maximum performance kind? Will it definitely send the wrong message if I get the super thin kind? Flavors, colors. Goddammit which ones are cheapest? Wait, that’s not a good way to think about this. Oh my god, is that (insert name here) from (work, church, school)!? No, it’s not. Wait, why would it matter? Why am I shaking. Oh my fucking goodness, this shouldn’t be this hard. Haha. That’s what she said. I mean that’s what she’ll (I’ll) say. Haha. Kinda lame that I made that joke to myself. Hmm. If I buy the 36-count, then I won’t have to experience this again. But, at the same time, I don’t think I want the experience of being the (man)whore who buys (his/her) condoms in bulk. Maybe Sam’s Club or Costco has even bigger packs. Is that where you go to get like a lot of condoms? Is that where, like, prostitutes get their condoms? I wonder if turning tricks counts as a small business …
To save everyone some time, I always end up with the three-condom variety pack. That’s my endorsement.
Seriously though: Be safe. Talk to your partner about any potential health hazards they may be exposing themselves to and hope that they want sex with you badly enough (or, I dunno, they like you or something) that the two of you can find a safe way to give into your carnal desires.
And if you’re ever too embarrassed to take responsibility for your health (lame), just give me a shout. I’ve got no shame but I do have enough conviction to get you some Plan A. Or B.