Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CONDOM SHOPPERS (A.ONYANGO)...


When I was younger I believed that sex was a clandestine act and the purchase of material in reference to it should be treated the same way. I recall buying my first pack in my mid-teen years. I bought them from a neighborhood kiosk named after the man who owned it. I had never bought them before and I had a very strong sense of shame when it came to sex and its affiliate topics.
Imagine me standing there behind a crowd of people buying sensible things like eggs and maize meal, waiting for the crowd to disperse. As soon as everyone was done, I stepped up like a secret agent about to trade important information with a fellow agent. If I had a mask I would have worn it but back then the most I could muster was a hooded jacket. So I leaned in and asked the shopkeeper for a pack of Trust condoms because all the adverts on television said “Maisha iko sawa na Trust” (Life is safe with Trust).
The shop- keeper then disappeared behind the counter for thirty seconds and came up with a packet of the infamous product. He looked left and right, to make sure no one was there, then grabbed some newspaper off the counter and proceeded to gift wrap the pack in it. Why? I suppose for the same reason most wines and spirits are sold in the same fashion; people are not supposed to know what it is even though the shape of the product under the newspaper gives it away.
He then slid the pack to me, like a CIA handler passing a note to an agent, careful to keep his palm over it until it was in safe distance for me to pick it up. Then he lifted his hand and I put my palm over it and pulled it to me before picking it up off the counter and putting it in my pocket. Then I gave him his ten shillings (yes, it was that cheap) and bid him thanks with a nod. I would like to note that the whole time this interaction took place, we did not make eye contact.
Fast forward to 2011 and I have gotten much more confident in how I purchase condoms. Recently, I walked into a pharmacy at the Uchumi Hyper on Langata Road. I was prompted to go to the pharmacy because I could not find them at the check-out counter where they are in most supermarkets. I looked over the brands and their aesthetically pleasing packages, taking my time to stop and read information on the boxes, while the lovely young lady behind the counter was giving me a look that said “This isn’t a library”. Eventually I found one that I liked and we did the financial dance. But this time there was no newspapers, no secret agent styled hand movements and most importantly no shame.
I believe the “big change” is that I grew up and my perception of sex has changed. Buying condoms is like buying anything else, it is important to get to know the options and select a brand which is suitable for you.

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