Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buying Condoms: Never Not Embarrassing

It's somewhat humbling for me to admit to myself that all of you reading this know all about my methods of birth control and that this is my own fault (special apology shout-outs to Mom, Dad, and Grandma, if she is still alive after reading this post).

Anyway, having ditched the generic hormones I found myself today, for the first time in I don't even know how long, purchasing condoms. And even though I am 29 and married, the experience was still vaguely humiliating. First you have to find the condom aisle, which is different in every drug store (in the worst cases, they are stored right in front of the pharmacist, who stands there and watches as you silently weigh the pros and cons of ultra-thin vs. ribbed). If there is someone already standing in the condom aisle but NOT buying condoms (say, a fresh-faced teenager perusing the feminine hygiene products or an elderly man looking for Gold Bond... hypothetically) you have to stand there pretending to look at something else and wait them out, or, if they don't leave soon enough, grab something indiscriminately and jet. The problem, I think—the indisputable fact that lies at the center of the condom buying equation—is that by buying a box of condoms you are announcing to all strangers in view: I am going to have sex. If you linger before choosing, you are announcing: I am deciding what type of sex I am going to be having soon.

Of course, worse than strangers NOT buying condoms are strangers who ARE buying condoms. Right next to you. Standing next to a stranger in front of the condoms is not only saying, I will be having sex soon. It is saying, We will BOTH be having sex soon. And then you have to deal not only with your own silent sex-admission to a stranger, but with their admission to you. And if the other person is a man, you have to send out extra brain-wave messages to any other strangers who might be watching: This is not the person I will be having sex with. Why would we buy 24 condoms just for today? That is clearly too much. Even for a nymphomaniac. Which I am not. He might be though. Who knows? Ha. Ha. Ha. Please kill me.

Then, once you finally have your condoms and have fled the aisle, you must check out. This is perhaps the most unavoidably embarrassing part of the experience, since you are forced to actually hand the condoms to the check-out person. Here, you are saying. These are the condoms I have chosen with which to have sex soon. Please hold them for me while I open my wallet. It occurs to me that you could see it another way. You could see it as boasting, I am going to have sex now. Jealous? In that way, condoms are a less embarrassing purchase than, say, yeast infection cream or laxatives, which have absolutely no positive spin. But I have not yet mastered the art of the confident condom purchase, and so inevitably I look down at my feet while the person counts out my change.

It's such a cliché, but is buying condoms ever not embarrassing? Why does filling a birth control prescription feel responsible, while buying condoms always feels dirty? If you have tips or tricks, as I am going to be doing this more often, please share. God knows I've overshared enough for all of us.
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15 comments :

  1. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Ever bought a pregnancy test and a pack of cigarettes at the same time? shameful.

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  2. Anonymous11:07 PM

    Go to Babeland. It's on Bergen just down the block from Pintchik. It's still a little embarrassing but not like the drug store. I mean, you're in a sex toy shop buying condoms; you have reason to be the LEAST embarrassed in the place!

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  3. Thanks for the Babeland tip, I never thought of that. And as for pregnancy tests and cigarettes, I have never done that (at the same time; I'm sure I have bought them within days of one another) but in college I had to buy a pregnancy test at our local drug store, which was run exclusively by old ladies, and in order to buy a test you had to ask them for it, since they kept them behind the pharmacy counter. In retrospect I should have just gone to the health center, since the first thing they asked girls no matter what they came in for was "Are you pregnant? Let's check just to make sure..."

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  4. As a fellow recent BCP-abandonee, I have also found myself in this scenario. Substitute in an orthodox Jewish man (side curls and all) at the check out and you'll have an accurate image in your mind. Try handing a box of ribbed, for-her-pleasure Trojans to one of God's chosen people and then have him ask if "you found everything you were looking for..."

    I make my husband buy them now. I figure its only fair given all those years I filled the pill Rx, its the least he can do...

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  5. I like this whole "getting off of birth control" movement that's going on right now. I too am letting my hormones rage freely. I USED TO HAVE PERFECT SKIN. Anyway 1. you could have posted the exact same thing about pursuing and purchasing various lubricants and 2. have you looked into IUD's? I am getting one next month and while I fear the "wicked periods for six months" (says my doc) it's a one-time deal that lasts ten years. I'm getting the hormone free one - www.paraguard.com.

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  6. i just bought some condoms yesterday for the first time in many years. it was embarrassing for all. the weirdest part was when the 60ish checkout lady mumbled something about how i should pay for them at the pharmacy next time.

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  7. this is hilarious. I never use condoms.. just kidding

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  8. why not buy them in bulk on the internet? like on amazon.com. super cheap and no embarrassment!

    the no-hormone birth control that i use and lurve is called, ridiculously, the lady comp. it sounds crazy but is based on euro-science. http://www.raxmedical.com/ladycomp.php

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  9. I've worked in a pharmacy for two years, and I must admit, I get a little kick out of wishing people a "good night" when they come through buying condoms.

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  10. at least duane reade doesn't have the condoms in the aisle but behind a locked glass window like many of the cities pharmacies! Then you have to go find someone and ASK them to come let you buy condoms!

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  11. Oh yeah been there. My husband and I disagree about whose responsibility it should be/who it's less embarrassing for. Ultimately, the best route we've found, if you find yourself unable to get around the 'condom conundrum', is online. Cheaper. Less embarrassing. And all the time in the world to consider your options if you're looking into variety. Condomdepot.com is my suggestion.

    Great post!

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  12. Oh man, you are so right. It is never not embarrassing. I try to go to the self-check grocery stores for stuff like this.

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  13. At least I'm not the only one......

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  14. I used to work at a grocery store in which all a majority of people in my town would go to. For some reason every girl hunting for pregnancy tests and condoms felt like I was the safest person to ask. I was their contraceptive messiah!

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  15. You have to have other planned purchasing activities built around your condom purchasing expeditions. That way, the condoms announcing you are going to have sex soon are just one thing among others, like the garbage bags announcing you will take out the garbage, the toothpaste announcing you will be practicing good hygiene, the oodles of noodles announcing you will eat, at some point, and milk because milk is wholesome. You should never buy condoms without buying one of these items also: Milk, bread, batteries, aspirin.

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