In an 8th grade teacher meeting the other day we were discussing the things that we were doing in our classrooms. Our science teacher was covering the dreaded sex section of the curriculum and she said that one of the boy’s gotcha questions was……..where do you buy condoms? Which is funny to me since you can purchase a condom anywhere from stores dedicated to selling them such as “Condoms to Go” to your local Minyards and Krogers. Now days they are displayed out in the open for God and everyone to view and buy. Back in junior high I certainly would have been too embarrassed to ask such a question of my teacher.
When I was growing up, to get a condom you either had to go to the Pharmacy and have to ask the man behind the counter for them or you found a gas station where there was a “rubber machine.” It was a badge of honor to carry around a condom in your pocket. I started telling this story to our eighth grade team and the science teacher looked at me and said, “really….. that was a thing?”
When I was in 7th grade I told my mother I was going out to ride my bicycle. My mother told me to be home in time for dinner. I filled my pocket with some quarters, jumped on my bicycle and rode like the wind up to the gas station I was told had a “rubber machine.”
Oh the anticipation
I got to the gas station and the bathrooms were around the back. I was already sweating bullets and nervously looked around hoping that no one would see me there because everyone would surely know what I was there to do. I did my best to act nonchalant and quickly made my way around back to the Men’s bathroom. I opened the door to a filthy nasty bathroom that I would not dare venture into these days…..and there bolted to the wall like a Tabernacle of boyhood fantasies was the condom machine.
To add to my nervousness there were choices to be made…..colors, textures, natural or latex and something called “The Tickler.” It was almost enough to make a young man’s brain explode. I put my sweaty hand into my pocket and pulled out my quarters and as my hand shook, I slipped them into the machine and pulled the knob to make my selection. It felt like I was playing a slot machine. Out popped a condom and I quickly put it into my pocket so that I could make my get away before I was found out. I had gotten what I came for and I was filled with such excitement. It was short lived.
Unexpectedly I had walked into a drug sting.
No sooner than I opened the door, I was grabbed by a policeman and pushed against a wall. “Don’t you move!” the office screamed at me as he pushed the bathroom door open and presided to check the toilet inside and out. “What were you doing in there?” the policeman screamed at me. I started stammering and he then yelled at me to empty my pockets. Out came a few extra quarters and the freshly purchased condom.
“Is that all you got?” he asked………..”Yes sir,” was my only response as I held my head in shame. He then said “Kid get out of here quick.” I jumped on my bicycle and took off like greased lightening. I pedaled as fast as my little skinny legs could pedal. All the way home, I remember constantly looking over my shoulder. I was fully expecting to see that policeman following me home to tell my mother what I was up to.
I got home and said a prayer thanking God I hadn’t been followed home by the police officer. When I got home I went directly to my room. I was still shaking as I fumbled with the small square packet in my hand.
I laugh when I think back about that memory. Thankfully I wasn’t sexually active in seventh grade and the condom eventually was used as a water balloon.
The great awakening
When I was in 7th grade the book, “Everything you always wanted to know about Sex” by Dr. Rubins was published and went directly to the top of the best selling list. I had a friend in my 7th grade class, who ran a clandestine library out of his locker and he had a copy of the “the book.” He would check the book out to his friends and by the time I got to “check it out” the pages were thoroughly dogeared.
I stashed it among my notebook and books and made a beeline for home. I remember telling my mom that I was going to take a bath. My mom probably figured something was up but I don’t remember her questioning me about it. She was probably just glad that I wouldn’t be coming to the dinner table smelling like a pubescent boy.
I took Dr. Rubin’s book into the bathroom with me and turned on the bathtub and then sat on the toilet and cracked opened the book and instantly became adsorbed. Yeah so adsorbed that I didn’t come to until all of the sudden I noticed that my feet were standing in water. I looked up in horror to see the tub completely full and water rushing over the edge like Niagara Falls.
I had to drain half the tub and then use over half of the clean towels to dry the floor. I remember my mom asking why there were so many wet towels.
I devoured that book quicker than any book I had ever read before or since. And like so many times when you are confronted with material that is over your head…..you end up having more questions than answers. And so it was with me.