Use Caution

In our first year of marriage I left Austin Peay to work full-time, but my wife Chrisie continued pursuing her Social Work degree. One course she had to take in the Spring was Human Sexuality. It was a ridiculously explicit class taught by an, um, interesting professor. I would listen as Chrisie complained about something he made them do in class or how he pushed the boundaries of what was appropriate. I was thankful I didn’t have to take the class. Unfortunately, Chrisie had a project due with which I got to help.

One problem with her professor was that he didn’t seem particularly interested in teaching Human Sexuality or encouraging an open discussion about the topic so much as pushing his own particular agendas (it’s true, I’d wager anyone who had this professor could name him by this point and would also agree with my assessment). This was also displayed in the types of projects he allowed.

Chrisie picked the topic of “Safe Sex” from the options he provided and then immediately ran in to trouble. She wanted to do a poster about abstinence, but her professor would not hear of it. In fact, he intimated that doing so could result in a failing grade in the course.

Chrisie was faced with making a poster conforming to her professor’s ideal of Safe Sex. She knew she would have to incorporate condoms in some way, but had difficulty coming up with a theme she liked or an execution for the idea. When she came home, she explained her predicament.

“I know exactly what we can do. I have the perfect poster idea,” I immediately said.

“I thought we could . . . wait, what?”

“I have the perfect idea,” I repeated.

“We get a plain white poster, make a stylized silhouette that suggests two people, um, together, that vaguely looks like the Nike symbol. The we put ‘Just DON’T Do It!’ in bold letters.”

“I can’t do abstinence.”

“Of course you can’t do abstinence. We married and we’ve already . . .”

“I mean I can’t do abstinence as the project,” she said as she rolled her eyes at me (which I make her do on a regular basis. She’s a very patient woman).

Oh. Okay. Well, I still have the perfect poster idea.”

“I do like your idea, but I just told you I can’t use it.”

“No, I mean I have another perfect poster idea.”

She just stared at me for a moment so I continued.

“We’ll make a big traffic light in the center of the poster. We’ll cut up construction paper to make the circles of ‘light’ and the stoplight itself. Then we’ll put big letters within each circle representing the lights. ‘STOP’ on the red one, ‘CAUTION’ on the yellow, and ‘GO’ on the green. Then will add more words outside the stoplight. To the left of the yellow we’ll put ‘USE.’ Then we’ll add ‘BEFORE YOU’ to the left of the green and ‘AND HAVE SEX’ to the right of it. Then the entire message of the poster reads, ‘STOP! USE CAUTION BEFORE YOU GO AND HAVE SEX.’ It’s brilliant!”

“Noooo, actually it’s kind of bland. It’s just a stoplight and some words.”

“I’m not finished yet. There’s more.”

“Saying you’re not finished already let’s me know there’s more, you don;t have to say it again.” She paused again before continuing, “Never mind. Just tell me the rest.”

“Ok, so we have the big stop light and the words which spell out the message . . .”

“You mention that already.”

I continued as if I hadn’t been interrupted, “. . . we make a bunch of small traffic lights all over the poster out of red, yellow, and green condoms. They’ll work great because they’ll already be a circle of color centered in a square, so we just have to make little rectangles out of three condoms. It’ll look cool and reinforce the message of the poster in a visually interesting way. A plus for sure, baby!”

“That could work!” She hugged me and made me promise to help her. Then asked, “Wait. You just came up with that?”

“Um, no. I’ve kind of had that idea for a while.”

“You’ve had the idea for a poster about condoms for a while?”

I should explain that I had spent time as a Health minor (and then a Health major and back to a minor again). There was another version of Human Sexuality taught in the Health and P.E. department (which has since be renamed to Health and HumanPerformance, possibly because it just sounds cooler, but more likely because certain administrators at Austin Peay consider renaming or redefining things without any real change to be progress) which was much less graphics but also had projects. I didn’t take the course (mostly because my father taught it at the time and I did not care for that level of awkwardness), but once a semester several classrooms had posters, most of which related to condoms for some reason. OK, so the reason was probably that the clinic on campus had a bowl full of condoms in its waiting room which made them readily available and, more importantly, free.

Each time I saw once of these posters I was struck by how unoriginal and bland most of them were. Later, while waiting at an intersection I had the idea for a poster. I was even a little disappointed  I would never get to use the idea, because it put all the other condom posters to shame. That’s why I had the concept fully formed and ready to implement when Chrisie needed it.

We were able to finish the first part of the poster fairly quickly. We got the main stoplight and the words together that afternoon after a quick trip to purchase supplies. While at the store, we looked for colored condoms. They didn’t have any colored condoms. They had every other style imaginable (and several I had never imagined). We even asked. That was not awkward at all.

We decided we would try gas stations next. We went to several and had the same result. We never thought it would be that difficult to get the specific condoms we needed. Soon we realized we were going to have to do what we did not want to do. We drove to the adult bookstore that had opened amid controversy near downtown Clarksville.

“I don’t want to be in there any longer than we have to,” she said to me.

“Fine by me, we can be in and out as quick as possible.” Which, as it turns out, is a poor choice of words when parked outside a sex shop about to buy a large quantity of condoms. Soon after walked through the blacked out doors, we realized we should have followed the advice of our own poster to “USE CAUTION.”

We had called ahead to make sure they had colored condoms in stock. We didn’t want to go there in the first place, so we certainly didn’t want to of there was no reason. They assured as they did have them in stock. How I wished I had asked about how they had them in stock.

After we entered, I was about to go up to the counter to ask where I could find them condoms. I didn’t have to ask. The counter had candy jars full of exactly the type of condoms we needed for the poster. Not in packages. They were labeled for individual sale.

We knew we needed about 30 total, so Chrisie pulled out the correct amount of each color and piled them in my arms. When we had enough, I stepped to the cashier so we could buy them and get out. Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, my sweet, honest to goodness girl next door, never even thought of being in such a place type of wife says, “Well, since we’re already here. Let’s just look around a little. I’ll never come back so I just want to know what they sell in here.”

She walked away toward a wall filled with, um, products. I followed after her (again not heeding the poster). Now I was walking around an adult store with a literal armload of condoms. We began to attract the type of attention I never want to experience again.

“My word,” she said as she stared shocked at one product, “I had no idea.”

“Honey,” I said, “we really need to leave. Now.”

She opened her mouth to reply and then noticed what I had. A guy who licked his lips as he was approaching us.

“Yes. Go now. Good idea.”

We made our purchase as hastily as we could and left even more hastily, discussing our belief in the need for a shower. Relieved our adventure was over, we finished the poster at home.

She turned in the poster, which went on display. Over a few days, condoms began disappearing from it. Condoms were always stolen from those posters after they got put on the wall, but I truly had no idea why they would steal from ours. It was pretty obvious that we had used staples to attach the condoms to the poster. Staples that went through the condoms.

The grade? Chrisie received an “A” for her poster. Apparently, there wasn’t an “A+,” after all it was the perfect poster idea.

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.

About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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3 Responses to Use Caution

  1. Adam "icepick" says:

    wow. i wonder what would happen if you saw the creepy guy from the adult store again at like burger king or something… thanks for the good laugh.

  2. Cindy says:

    Now THAT was funny!

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