The only thing constant in life is that buying condoms is always an awkward experience. In the beginning of one's sexual adolescence it starts out as a downright embarrassing process and only becomes less so with age. Maybe it's because we often don't even call them by their real names, instead only referring to them as ones, or thingies, or supplies.
A majority of people's first time buying condoms start off more-or-less in the same manner and utilize a tactic I like to call The Trojan Horse. It's when you buy a pack of gum or some other random thing at the store for absolutely no reason other than to try and conceal your actual purchase of prophylactics. It's all part of an elaborate scheme so that the cashier doesn't look at you funny, since there's always the risk that you'll get the one douchebag out of 1,000 who does.
The best Trojan Horse story came from a girl I know via text message.
“Basically what happened was I bought champagne, lube, a toilet plunger and condoms all at once while really needing to pee. [But] the guy checking me out at the counter didn't quite understand that.”
“Why not?” I replied.
“…duh! He thought I was going to get drunk and DO the plunger! And because of me needing to pee it all seemed very urgent.”
Nothing is quite like running out of condoms at the exact wrong moment. And when I began asking people if they had stories to share, one girl felt uncomfortable telling her tragically comedic tale to me directly. Instead, she had a mutual friend tell it to me in her place:
Girl meets guy in college. But she felt uncomfortable about fucking him in her shared dorm room, so they ended up renting a cheap motel room where they ran into the ultimate mood killer at the peak of touch. Neither party had a condom and she wasn't ready to trade in her textbooks for a lamaze class, so she made him leave to purchase some. Obviously in a hurry, he ran across the street in his underwear and ending up buying a packet of love gloves with loose change he had managed to keep in his clutches the entire time.
The methodologies of condom buying have changed over the years due to wondrous technological advances and, in some cities, irritating obstacles, thanks to meth heads whose incessant cough syrup purchases inspired placing certain essentials behind bullet-proof glass and making it that more difficult to pick up a pack of condoms. (And Robitussin.)
Remember when they first came out with DIY electronic check out stands? They were pretty similar to the ones we have now, except they used to announce everything you bought out loud. Thankfully, some engineer decided to make the devices more discreet because no family on their weekly round at the supermarket really needs to hear THANK YOU FOR PURCHASING YOUR TROJAN MAGNUMS in an automaton voice.
But those damn meth heads. Thanks of them, we now have to physically ask clerks to open that glass case of goodies for you. At first it was just to block the junkies from stealing medicine bottles, but then pharmacies started getting hip to the fact that they're pretty good deterrents for all kinds of thievery. Including, but not limited to, electric toothbrushes and condoms.
I'll never forget one late-night trip to Rite Aid. There were only four employees on duty: the manager, a man in his early 40s, and two elderly female cashiers who must've been in their late 60s. I felt it was only appropriate to ask the manager if he had the keys to open up the condom drawer, but I guess he had a hard on for messing with midnight shoppers, so he yelled out to the closest of the two cashiers and told them this gentleman needed condoms. FML.
She led the way to the back of the shop at the pace of a drunk turtle. It was so slow, in fact, that another shopper, who just so happened to be an attractive girl in her early 20s, was able to stop and ask the cashier to open up the electric toothbrush cabinet, too. The only catch was that we still had to stop at my destination first. FML part 2!
I couldn't help myself and busted out my iPhone to capture the innocent cashier kneeling down to open up the case of rubbers. [see image at top]
“You're so bad,” said the girl who had just recently joined our adventure
Condoms were poking out every which way at the cashier's face as I took the shot. Then, out of the corner of my eye, the girl who had just snickered at me grabbed some lube. It felt like a scene from “The Twilight Zone.” Or, at the very least, like I had just been escorted to the wicked aisle of fucking by an Asian version of my grandmother. I then had to follow her back to the front of the store, again at a turtle's pace, chanting “FML part 3!”
Out of all the various scenarios that can go down, the most awkward is when you catch someone you know standing with you at the condom aisle. One stranger recanted an extreme version of this when he and his mom, who happened to be slightly intoxicated at the time, both stood in line to buy a box of rubbers. There they were: him, his boyfriend and his mom, all standing in line to buy condoms. But the storyteller's face began to go flush red with embarrassment when he revealed he had thanked his dear mother right at the checkout stand.
In pop culture nobody has expressed the feelings expressed in my article quite like the comedian Tom Green. In one of the episodes for his self-titled MTV show, he captured the quintessential awkward condom buying moment on camera. However, in his the tables were turned and he made the cashier feel like the awkward one when he waited for her to pick up his box of rubbers. He blurted, “I bet you know where those are going to end up tonight.” The look on her face was brilliant.
It's obvious what you're planning to do with the condoms you're buying, especially when there are other tools of the trade on the conveyor belt. One reader recalls the night she lost her virginity, trying to stuff her then-boyfriend's giant Sicilian cock into a regular-sized Trojan and realizing they were going to need to make a trip to the 24-hour grocery store to buy Magnums. And lube.
So off they went, one of only a few couples perusing shelves at 2 a.m., and when they piled the XL condoms, jug of Astroglide, gum and Advil on the counter all they could do was avert the judging eyes of the granny-esque clerk. She might as well have had a sign on her forehead that read, “I'm about to get FUCKED,” while he essentially wore a sash that said, “Hey everyone! I have a giant dick!”
The awkwardness of buying condoms is actually a much longer story that also involved the difficult choice of figuring out what brand to pick. Although, this should become an easier task after reading this article by Barbie Davenporte, “Sex Ed Site Plans Most Comprehensive Condom Review Ever.”
But before the advancement of the Internet, some were often stuck in stalemates when it came to condom choice. including one friend of mine who is a commercial artist, whom we shall name Cunningham for the purposes of concealing his identity. He confided in me about his difficult time as a youth picking out which condoms to choose because he was allergic to latex and plagued by the unconditional fear that lambskin condoms were just pieces of soggy woolen flesh that you wrap around your cock.
It's a wild world we live in. So, even though I've just recanted some horror stories of buying condoms, don't forget that they're still necessary — especially if you have no interest in getting a disease or a crazy girl pregnant. *Insert* Don't be a fool, wrap your tool, or something like that, toddles!