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In the middle of having sex with someone, sometimes I remember this poem I wrote called “As Distracting As A Condom.” I came up with the poem while reading a book by Barbara Kingsolver at my summer lifeguarding job. At one point, the main character and narrator of the story describes something as being “distracting as a condom”, and I had to stop and put the book down so I could write a poem about that.
The poem is all about how a condom does indeed cut strangely into the rituals of sex, but how sometimes you don’t really notice. It mentions how my mom became pregnant with me because she’s only human, and addresses my confusion at a time in my life when I had just begun to scratch the surface of having sex. Years after writing the poem, I still find myself thinking about it, and having to restrain myself from mentioning it aloud while in the physical act of being distracted by a condom.
It’s kind of strange to think about sex, and condoms, and how simple it all is, isn’t it? I remember fantasizing about being kissed for years before it actually happened, but I didn’t really spend much time thinking about intercourse before I started having it. All of a sudden I became a girl who was actively having sex, and after a few weeks I decided it was time to have a talk with my mom about birth control. It’s not like anyone gave me a talk about what to expect, in depth. No one told me that it takes a while before you’re comfortable doing it without any accompanying music to drown out the sounds you and whoever you’re doing it with will inevitably make. No one told me that there is a real difference between doing it with the lights on and doing it with the lights off. No one told me you don’t physically feel a difference, you can’t physically feel a difference, between when you’re being safe and when you’re playing with the chance of pregnancy. Your body doesn’t tell you at the moment of conception, that you’re at the moment of conception.
No one told me that you get tired sometimes, and sweaty sometimes, and your partner does too. No one told me that sometimes if you aren’t entirely comfortable with someone, you notice all their physical flaws while they’re inside you. I wasn’t aware until it happened that during sex you can notice the way someone’s skin isn’t perfect everywhere, and you can notice the way their nails feel kind of uncomfortable when they grip your bare shoulders. No one gave me a warning that at its core, having sex is something that you kind of know how to do naturally, but that also, at its core, sex can be something that you can kind of be really bad at. That sometimes you’re just not going to have a rhythm with someone, and you’re going to notice the way that your hips and their hips always seem to be going in opposite directions and its going to be frustrating, and it’s going to make you want to stop moving your hips at all.
No one told me that sometimes you’re going to be with someone in an elevator, and you’re going to start kissing them when the doors close, and your body is going to push you into them in a way that makes you feel like immediately taking off all your clothes, but you can’t do that, you won’t do that, you’re in public, and so you just pull away and let the doors open and get off on your floor. No one told me that once I started having sex, really having sex, with someone I was doing it with regularly, that I was going to want to do it all the time, and everywhere, and that I was going to end up doing it on two red lifeguard tubes, on the dirty cement floor against the employee refrigerator at one of my jobs. I wasn’t aware that after, I was going to feel both accomplished and dirty at the same time.
I wish someone had told me sooner that sometimes you’re going to be in the exact right situation to have sex, but that you aren’t going to want to, despite everything. That sometimes you can be in the middle of things, but then all of a sudden you’re going to wish you weren’t doing it anymore, and your body will betray you and make that known. I wish that someone had warned me that sometimes you won’t want to have sex to begin with, but that sometimes you’re so young and so naive that you end up doing it anyway, and you will wake up in the morning and wish things hadn’t happened the way that they did. Sometimes it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to hurt in a way that is specific and new and especially uncomfortable.
I wish someone had warned me that having sex with someone doesn’t always make you dependent on them, but sometimes it does, and sometimes it does so fiercely. And sometimes it makes you take a train at midnight to get back to school on time, and sometimes it makes you skip class altogether because you’re afraid to be by yourself after the way you’ve become used to having another person around you, and sometimes it’s going to make you feel insignificant and unwanted, in the way that water feels insignificant and unwanted when you let it run straight down the sink.
I wish someone had told me that people don’t always expect sex from you, but when they do, things get uncomfortable very quickly when you refuse to give it to them. I wish someone had told me that one day in a house in South Africa, I was going to sit quietly and look through Instagram on my phone, all while having someone else’s fingers in places I wish they weren’t. I wish someone had told me that my indifference to the prodding was going to turn into something that was my fault.
I’m glad that no one told me that sometimes having sex can make you feel like you’ve been transported, briefly, to another dimension, and that sometimes just kissing someone can make you feel like you’ve disappeared until all of a sudden you remember that you’re a creature that must breathe and therefore must surface for air.
No one told me that putting on condoms can be distracting but also extremely sexy. I had to figure out that one on my own.