Everyone carries maps in their heads. The best route from here to there might be about traversing difficult terrain, by-passing traffic, or navigating emotional shoals.
I can detail the floor plan of each house I lived in growing up. But the emotional map of my childhood homes was always the same. There were common rooms with smells of good food and rooms for privacy, concentration and sleep. Basements were damp and often forbidding.
And there were those boundaries beyond which one dare not pass, like my parent’s room. Their room wasn’t scary. It was just a place I had no business being. Which makes sense. Parents need space to be together without intrusion.
Imagine my surprise then, when my mother gave me a very private gift from my Dad.
I was at the age where my curiosity about girls raged, driven by a flood tide of hormones. This gift was given to me after I digested the book about ‘The Creation of a Life,’ also handed to me by my parents. They said to read it and come to them with any questions I might have. (Yeah, right.)
The book contained many diagrams designed to dampen my instinctive enthusiasm for the wild act of procreation. It was all so theoretical. I knew what I wanted.
But I received this gift before I had the epiphany that the captivating (and sexy!) figures all the girls were developing, actually contained very real persons. Can you say ‘superficial’?
I think I was in the ninth grade.
Mini-skirts were very popular. How can I describe the exquisite daily torture I suffered watching the girl next to me in home room repairing yet another run in her panty-hose, half-way up her thigh? (Anything I can do to help?)
Trust me when I say my interests ran to the purely physical. Of course, emotions were important too. My emotions!
It was a crazy time.
One day, after school, Mom handed me a rolled-up pair of socks and said, “Dad doesn’t need these anymore. He said to give them to you.” Huh? Socks? What was that about?
Putting them away, something crinkled and inside one sock I discovered a condom, still wrapped in its clear plastic wrapping! Hot damn! Now I had some questions.
Did Mom know what she was giving me? Was I supposed to use it? Or, if not, what was the point? Did I receive it accidentally? Was it left over from one of Dad’s business trips and she didn’t know about it? Or had Mom discovered it and was sending a message to Dad? If I asked Mom, was I busting Dad? If I asked Dad, would he answer me honestly? How would I know? If it was safe to ask questions, why the secrecy? Was this the same mother who disapproved of her child watching Betty Boop cartoons because Betty was too provocative? I was perplexed and had no one to talk to.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Huzzah! What an opportunity! I couldn’t wait to use it. I felt free! I was ready. Knowing it was secure in my wallet, I didn’t walk, I swaggered. I saw things differently. People saw me differently. That little plastic package was going to make me a man!
Now I just needed a girlfriend!
Of course, my friends gave me plenty of advice. They assured me they could use it better than me. Their envy was palpable. I wanted very badly to share it, but not with them.
I knew the theoretical mechanics of the situation but there were too many missing elements for successful implementation; mainly a willing female. This appeared to be an insurmountable problem. It was excruciating, but I had to come to terms with the fact that, though granted great power, I lacked opportunity, or the sophistication to recognize it should it knock.
How to broach the subject with a likely young lady? I was clueless! Finesse? You must be joking.
My condom was going to waste. It was a tragedy!
Eventually I realized, if desperate, I could find some girl with whom to use my precious condom. But then what of the ensuing complications? Would she want attention? Dates? Affection? If expected to invest all that time and trouble, I wanted to be with someone I actually liked and wanted to be seen with. This was getting complicated.
This great power I possessed began to possess me.
Finally, the precious condom became an absurd reminder of my inexperience. Reality called me out from the dark corners of my imagination. I hid it in my sock drawer. Family tradition.
A few years ago, I visited my parents in Florida. I had kids of my own. We were all adults. Decades had passed. While recalling old times I thought to ask them. It was so long ago. I could finally put the mystery to rest. It would be a funny story to share.
I got blank stares. No one knew anything. Nope. Nothing. Wasn’t me. Move along, nothing to see.
I couldn’t believe it.
There are some boundaries that one simply cannot cross.