The Gloves Have Come On
“It’s not a big deal,” I wrote, “But if you could pick some up while you’re in New York, I would greatly appreciate it.”
With a contented sigh I sent my request zooming to Ross’ e-mail inbox. “One more thing accomplished,” I thought. For a second after I clicked the send button, I felt a brief sense of unease–was it weird that I was asking someone else to procure condoms for me? I had always gotten my own in the past and although I certainly was not embarrassed by the issue, I certainly wasn’t proud of the fact that I was engaging in safer sex.
I remember that obtaining condoms in high school was quite a harrowing experience–I would go to the drug store and have to stand in front of the wall of condoms (mortifying enough) while deciding which kind to purchase and then actually face the check-out attendant on my way out. If I can recall correctly, not even the knowledge that having condoms meant that sex would happen shortly was enough to prevent a reconnaissance pass or two down the condom aisle.
New York, however, is attempting to change all of that.
A few years ago, on my first trip to New York, I noticed that the city had rolled out a public health campaign to introduce the New York City Condom–complete with a design the recalled the various subway lines that are a hallmark of the area. I admit that I was instantly drawn to the campaign because the condoms were like little practical souvenirs. And, let’s just go ahead and admit it: I’m cheap and the condoms were free. But, as I thought about what was happening, I began to realize that the city really did have a good thing going for it.
Condoms were available at hundreds of locations across the city, and not just at public health clinics or hospitals. Condom containers popped up at bars, clothing stores, and hair salons–places that people frequently went to. Now, instead of potentially having to agonize over buying condoms in a store, you could simply pick one up as you went about your daily routine. The ubiquitous nature of the condoms would also serve to dispel the stigma of being seen with a condom–they were everywhere, everyone had them, and they were normal.
Los Angeles has regrettably yet to see something similar pop up in our midst–there was the Proper Attire campaign that was put on by Planned Parenthood a while back but I have to say that, while I enjoyed the project, it didn’t work in the same way that the New York City Condom campaign has. As state and county budgets are slashed, the prospect looks bleaker, but I still hold out hope that we, as a community, will eventually realize that this endeavor is a worthwhile project, not to mention a lifesaver.