Thursday, December 16, 2004

Santa Says, "I Never Leave Home Without It." But Mrs. Claus Says He Better Not Leave Home With It

Why does there hang tucked away on a high limb of our Christmas tree next to an effervescent angel and a phosphorescent Santa a double package of condoms in bright red foil pierced by a safety pin?

Where to start?

They are there because 15 years ago we bought 5,000 condoms when we were putting condoms in takeout boxes for Chinese food -- with fortunes, too, and glitter -- during our entrepreneurial phase. Someday I will write about our entrepreneurial phase, of which condoms in takeout boxes for Chinese food were only one manifestation. Suffice it to say we didn't make money (but we didn't lose money either, not on the condoms) and we ended up with around a thousand condoms in bright red foil in boxes of 144 on the shelf in our garage.

There they were on the shelf. We did not employ them in the physical act of love ourselves because we did not require them -- by which I mean by the time of our condom repackaging (and we were an FDA certified condom repackager) my wife had passed gracefully through the climacteric.

You may be sure that then, as now, we most certainly built our day around the wild thing. You may accept that as a given. Let that be stipulated, even more so because prophylactic measures were no longer required. Do I need to talk more slowly? Did you get that down.

So, we didn't need them. I suppose we should have given them away or, later, thrown them away. But for a long time we thought we would get back in the condom business, which, once in your blood, can reach out and pull you back in at any moment. By the time we had relinquished that dream, we were not comfortable with the idea of giving the condoms away. I assumed condoms have a limited shelf life, like cottage cheese. As for tossing them, I must say I enjoyed being able to say in company that I have a thousand condoms in the garage if the conversation starts to lag.

(My misplacing the conditional dependent clause in the preceding sentence was not intended to imply a smutty double meaning. We are a lovely wholesome couple, lovely, wholesome, dull, not very popular.)

A couple of weeks ago, as some of you recall, my fantasy baseball league held its annual awards banquet. I usually buy small gifts for the league members. Last year I bought ribbons like the ones a kindergarten teacher might give out, ribbons with mottos like "Participant" or "Potty Trained." I buy them at the party store opposite the Peerless Coffee plant in Oakland near the television station. But this year I didn't get to the party store, so instead at the last minute I took some condoms, attached safety pins to them and created Good Conduct Medals for the boys.

Good Conduct Medals made of condoms in red foil? I'm feeling entrepreneurial again.

I think the rest of the league thought this was in poor taste. I don't think anyone else put their medal on. Sometimes I think my days as BCL -- Beloved Commissioner for Life -- are numbered. Sometimes I feel like Churchill in 1945. Really, I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Anyway, when I got home from the banquet I was feeling a little low. Oh yes, I could imagine the league members saying behind my back: That BCL. He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry. (First, Churchill, then Gloria Swanson, now Polonius. Somebody is trying to repair the taste deficit inherent in this discussion.)

So I took off my condom medal, which was two condoms still connected and really did look like a medal, and hung it on the Christmas tree to give my wife a good laugh.

She has not noticed the condoms. This weekend we are having a small party to which are invited some of her friends whom I have never met.

Should I take the condoms off the tree? Would that be bowing to middle-class morality, to so-called "moral values"? Would it, in short, be a victory for George Bush?

I think we know the answer to that. Come to the party and stand with me at the tree.

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