Funny the World...


April 27, 2000

What’s a Catholic school-educated old lady doing sitting in the middle of a college campus handing out condoms? I went to a job fair at Sacramento City College today. I was a volunteer with Breaking Barriers, a non-profit organization which provides services to HIV and AIDS infected people in Sacramento county, does AIDS education and outreach to the homeless of Sacramento, and does things like this--being a presence at public gatherings to give information on AIDS and to pass out condoms.

It was quite an experience for me. Walt and I married in a day and age when the big question on the first date was whether or not to kiss good night, and when white wedding dresses meant virginity. Walt and I are about to celebrate our 35th anniversary and we were a good catholic couple, having a kid every couple of years ‘cause the Pope said that birth control was a no-no.

And I’m supposed to be an expert on condoms?

My partner this day was the volunteer coordinator for Breaking Barriers. He and I set up our display table, and filled a huge bowl with free condoms. Gee...they come in colors! textures. What a education for me.

Throughout the day, we filled the bowl three different times, and each time the condoms disappeared. I watched with amusement the reaction people had to the bowl. Young oriental girls would realize what was in the bowl, put their hands over their mouth, and giggle uncontrollably (these girls came back later to get some condoms, though). Our first customer tentatively picked up one condom and then saw some of the flavored condoms. Slowly he began to select... chocolate... mint... (banana???)... vanilla. He seemed disappointed that we had no grape flavor. More and more condoms went into his pocket. He walked away with his pocket bulging optimistically. Some guys appeared embarrassed and would palm one or two and look around furtively as if they hoped nobody would notice. Others would dive in and take them by the fistful. A professor-looking type walked by and pocketed a couple. Two older blue-collar workers walked by several times, pretending not to notice the display, but eventually casually picking up one on their last pass. One girl said that her boyfriend was coming home for the weekend and she wanted to be ready. She took a dozen or so. Another woman said her husband was coming back after a trip and would be so pleased to see how prepared she was. One girl tentatively touched the pile of condoms in the bowl gingerly, as if they were going to bite her. Her nose and lip curled as if she smelled something distasteful. She didn’t take any.

While we gave out the condoms, we talked to the people about Breaking Barriers, and about the virtues of volunteering to help make life a little better for people living with AIDS. One woman said she would help children, but she refused to help men "because I don’t believe in that." I told her we didn’t discriminate with this disease. We just helped people who were sick, to make their lives a little easier.

At the end of the day when we were packing up our stuff three young girls came up to ask about condoms. They said they heard we had flavored condoms. The bowl by now was empty, but we pulled out the box they had come from, which was still half full of condoms. The girls squealed and dove into the box, exclaiming each time they found a new flavor. They took some for themselves, their classmates, and their teacher. They reminded me of my kids going through their Halloween candy--and I realized that it is definitely a new day we’re living in from the one in which I went through adolescence. The message of the day was that sex is alive and out of the closet. The meaning of the day was that precautions need to be taken because sex can kill you, and it doesn’t need to. I marveled that I felt so comfortable handing out condoms to these kids, and I marveled about how strongly I felt about the need for condom distribution.

When I came home I talked with a good friend who is living with AIDS. This is not a good day for him. His numbers aren’t good. He has new symptoms. He’s in pain. "My eye hurts. My head hurts," he said. "I need to eat something now. No, I have to take pills first. Sheesh. I'm so tired of having AIDS," he sighed. "I'm just tired of battling this disease that keeps on screwing up my system... it just gets to be too much and I want to scream."

I knew why I felt comfortable handing out condoms. Maybe those young girls squealing in delight because they found a strawberry flavored condom will be protected. Maybe they won’t have to worry about this rotten disease.

Maybe some day no one will have to go through one new hell after another. Maybe some day, no one will have to die from this disease.

dickie forever

I'm flying to Washington D.C. at 10 p.m.

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created 4/27/00 by Bev Sykes