There’s always something jolting about stumbling upon memorabilia from a past relationship, no matter how ill-fated an affair it may have been. Cleaning the fridge and finding the bottle of Moet you’d bought for the never-attained two-year anniversary; going through stacks of papers and seeing a business card from the bar where you had your first serious discussion. Songs, dresses, bridges, street lights. What becomes of these fragments of an imagined future? Do you drink the champagne out of paper cups with a randomer out of spite? Do you donate painstakingly selected outfits to the Salvation Army? Even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t tend to assign meaning to objects or entities, a drop in temperature or a faint whiff of a certain cologne can trigger memories.
But what if the relics in question are less sentimental and more, shall we say, synthetic?
Henry Miller wrote: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” As you may or may not know, I went to Israel this summer. (If you don’t know, we’re obviously not friends because I don’t think I’ve had one conversation since returning from the Holy Land on August 4th that hasn’t digressed into an encomium-cum-rant.) While Israel as a location in and of itself was phenomenal, it was the entire eye-opening experience of being in this powerful place with incredible people that made it more important than other trips had been. Unfortunately, eye-opening doesn’t necessarily mean smile-inducing. My first order of business after getting home was to get rid of some baggage before unpacking my luggage. Bittersweet though any breakup is, this one had been a long time coming, and I felt liberated, inspired, and ready for a new chapter of life.
I arrived home, beatific, ready to do my ritualistic post-journey unpacking and organizing. But when I opened my top drawer, my independent-woman heart fluttered. I careened back in time to the night before leaving for Israel. A drunken exchange in a Hudson Street bodega. A coy smile to the counterman. Me slurring “Go Big or Go Home” as I handed over $12.99 for a 12-pack of Trojan Magnums. A three am fight. Drunkenly passing out. Hungoverly leaving for JFK without consummating what we didn’t know would be the last night together.
Obviously, there were bittersweet emotions surrounding the initial post-breakup contact with an entity affiliated with the ex. But more importantly, I’m now saddled with an unopened box of roomy rubbers.
Nothing is more of a downer than meeting someone, getting hot and heavy, and then realizing at the crucial moment that neither of you has a condom. As a result, I’m the kind of girl who packs a prophylactic in the pocket of her purse, which, FYI, makes me safe rather than slatternly. However, there’s always something slightly awkward about carrying around something that someone else is ultimately going to wear. It’s kind of how I’d feel, were I a guy, about a Hope Chest: Why does the woman get to pick the linens? I’m going to sleep in the bed, too. Shouldn’t this at least be a mutual decision? Maybe I want separate bedrooms. Plus, there’s still a stigma surrounding a female who’s packing heat: Do you go out assuming you’re going to get laid? Is this a regular thing for you? Why do you have strawberry-flavored condoms? And the always-educated: “Wait, do you, like, have a disease? Because I’m totally clean, so…I’ll just pull out. Unless…” Right. I want to use a condom so you don’t get my syphilis; the fact that I’d never choose a Mets fan for the father of my unborn child has nothing to do with it.
But back to the Magnums. If working in a restaurant has taught me anything, it’s that assumptions get you into trouble, and you can never assume anything. Some Americans, for example, have never heard of salmon. On a parallel note, just because a guy has a loud voice and is a big dick doesn’t mean he has one; sometimes a meek mama’s boy rocks a magical member. Now, I’m not a size queen. But I am rational. Example: Let’s say the penis is money. If I have a bomb weekend at work and walk out Sunday night with a grand in my pocket, you can be sure that I’ll be sipping a Maker’s Mark and eating steak. On the other hand, if I have thirty bucks to last me a week, I’ll buy ramen, season it with filched vegetables. I’m skilled at making small amounts work in my favor. That said, no one can buy food with zero dollars. Late last year, I had what can’t even be referred to as relations with a otherwise lovely and intelligent South American lawyer. I say this because when I sheathed the sword, rather than the bishop bulging with the luster of tight latex, it looked like the fucking penis was wearing a poncho. I felt so bad, mainly for embarrassing him, but also for deigning to fuck a Fruit Roll-Up. (It was winter.)
Imagine the following: I end up going out several times with a friend of a friend who is brilliant and can sustain a challenging conversation without becoming pedantic, and who’s on par with me in the looks department (whatever that means). I’m doing that thing where I read the newspaper to be more in the know than I actually am, we have a dinner where we drink a mid-priced Italian wine while talking in a way that’s obnoxious to others but endearing to us about how while New World wines may stimulate growing economies, we’re just so old school, and who doesn’t love Amarone (pronounced with an Italian accent even though neither of us speak Italian)? We have an after-dinner bourbon and go to his apartment to look at his collection of dictionaries. I spill wine (Trader Joe’s Shiraz) on my white shirt, which I take off because being in a bra doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. He takes his pants off for the same reason. Somehow, a mashup of The Kills and Mozart’s “Flute Concerto in G” starts faintly playing in the background; one can only assume it was on a timer. At which point I go into my Joyce Leslie purse and say: “You interned at a non-profit for women’s reproductive rights last summer, so I’m assuming you can fill this baby out, right?” To which he responds: “My across the street neighbors never took me seriously!” and cries all night clutching his teeny peeny. I grab the wine and bounce.
So how to proceed? Obviously I could push the box to the back of my closet and start to look for guys who are intellectually stimulating and have shared interests. But I could have also taken the GREs and gotten a scholarship to Columbia. Anyone who says that sex isn’t an important part of a relationship is obviously doing it wrong. Do you know how much faster I run and write when I’ve had good sex? Almost as fast as I run and write when I haven’t had good sex in a really long time. I’m not saying that I’m going to ask for an inch number after I ask for a phone number. But I hate wasting, ironic as that sounds to some in a convo about condoms. So for now, I’ll accept my role as the female version of the Prince in Cinderella, and hope I don’t humiliate anyone in the process.