MAYBE the men I was sleeping with purchased the wrong size condoms; perhaps the sex was simply too drunk and too messy; or maybe my occasionally vindictive body just decided to have a three-week-long craving for Latex rubber.
Whatever the explanation, the result was that I walked around for 7 days unknowingly carrying a used condom in my vagina.
My first foray into condom hide-and-seek was in early June, when I met Paul.
He was a visiting PhD student — Danish, attractive, witty and intelligent. We talked endlessly about the plight of modern Scandinavian social democracy, the American labour movement, dogs and Legos (overall, a high-rate date).
I liked him, and we had managed to talk without awkward silences through a few drinks. I began feeling lucky, and asked him to come over.
Shortly after my apartment door shut and locked, the two of us started having lively, consensual, protected genital-to-genital contact of the highest caliber.
Yet after awhile, he paused his heavy petting and breathlessly said, “I think the condom may have come off.”
My first reaction in this novel situation was not a worry over possible pregnancy. In addition to this temporarily sucked-up condom, my vagina permanently sports the Mirena IUD, so my condom usage is (gratefully) not primarily for birth control.
“I’ll see if I can find it,” I said, commencing a hopeless journey into my genitalia. It was no use. My vagina had become a rotating black hole, a gravitational force, sucking up the condom into its horizon and making it impossible to locate, much less retrieve.
“Do you want me to try?” Paul offered. I immediately agreed, and he began his own finger-led expedition into my innards.
His complete lack of sarcastic commentary on our odd circumstances was a grateful soundtrack. Within a few moments, Paul located the lost condom somewhere toward my cervix, deftly and gently removing the obstruction to our sexual engagement.
We grabbed another and continued, laughing only momentarily about the situation. I was filled with appreciation for his maturity.
This was the first time I had experienced this phenomenon, but it was not to be my last. Nor was it to be my most memorable.
A week later, I found myself on the path to sexual bliss once again with another man, Will.
Our experience was drowned considerably in alcohol; the sex was more messy, more heedless and more sloshed than with Paul. But once again, in the midst of it all, I heard the familiar words, this time in a voice more panicked than the week prior.
“I think the condom is in you.”
In my inebriated state, I casually waved away any worry and slurred, “No problem. I got this under control.”
I was glad my words were accurate, because Will’s slightly horrified face portrayed to me he had no intention of offering to journey into the unknown himself.
After the condom was retrieved and hidden from Will’s still-terrified eyes, we proceeded without discussion.
I don’t remember how many condoms were slapped on during the rest of the night. But somewhere along the way, we must have lost count of just how many came back out.
The next weekend, amidst a raucous night of celebration on New York’s midsummer streets, I chatted with a tall Australian and eventually asked him out for a drink.
After determining his chances of killing me were low, I invited him to my place. Having (protected) sex, I was pleased to discover that this time, my vagina decided not to suck up any condoms; and, in accordance with the unwritten rules of post-coital manners, he began touching me with his fingers shortly after intercourse.
I laid back and let him explore until I heard him ask.
“Do you have a birth control device in?”
The question gave me pause. I responded, “Yes, I have an IUD in there.” But I was suddenly perturbed.
My mind raced through the motions of the night; I felt sure that he had removed and disposed of the condom we had used.
Nevertheless, I pushed his hands away and wrapped up the evening, falling asleep after he left.
The next day, I felt jubilant despite my hangover, recalling the handsome man I had found on the streets and the pleasure we had experienced.
I had enjoyed myself immensely; but, something in the pit of my stomach felt raw. That question — “Do you have a birth control device in?” — unsettled me. I was overcome by an unthinkable thought.
Could I…would it be possible that…how long could I have gone…
Finally, I inserted an exploratory finger inside myself. Everything felt normal for a moment.
Then, my fingers brushed an unfamiliar ridge. I stiffened and moved in further. My fingers pressed down on something smooth, and I realized that I could grasp this smooth surface, that I could pull it and detach it from the inside of my vaginal wall. That it wasn’t a part of my body, but a material existent on its own.
I pulled carefully, until slowly, emerging from my vagina was an inexplicable but incontrovertible old, used condom.
My mind raced…until I knew. This condom was certain to have come from my evening with Will. Will, with whom I had had sex A WEEK prior.
What had I accomplished during those seven days? I imagined all the steps I had taken, all the meetings I had attended, all the emails I had written and Skype calls I had made.
How many times had I gone running, and sat cross-legged on public transportation, stretched out naked on my living room floor and sat not cross-legged on even more public transportation?
How many happy hours had I attended, and jokes had I told? How often had I cooked and cleaned, and texted my parents, unaware that the whole time, inside of me, my vagina was quietly munching on the used vestiges of my last sexual encounter?
Going through the mental B-roll of my week’s routine knowing I had been harboring a used condom inside me through all my daily activities made me hysterical with laughter.
I realized at that moment, I wasn’t ashamed; I wasn’t disgusted; I wasn’t feeling complete horror, because what was the point?
I had lived my daily existence, literally and obliviously carrying the baggage of my sexual life within me, and had functioned normally.
My body had done what my mind sometimes had difficulty doing: melded my sexual existence incontrovertibly into the rest of my life, making my socially acceptable and socially stigmatized sides congruous.
I proceeded to make myself a coffee and congratulate my body for outsmarting me.