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Its 5 o’clock at Dupont Circle’s CVS pharmacy, and a steady stream of customers begins to arrive.
Two men loiter between the “eye care” and the “vapor relief” sections. They look around. They seem on edge. They’re sizing up the condoms. I understand their distress—confronted with eight shelves of contraceptives, how’s a girl guy to choose these days? “Twisted Pleasure” or “NATURALAMB”?
I decided to make their whole experience a little more embarrassing by conducting some market research of my own.
“Most people will get the ultra-thin, or the ultra-ribbed. They’ll go with that,” says one guy in his early twenties. “But if you’re smart like me, you’ll go for the Ecstasy type.” He assures me that Ecstacy is the best: the Chateau Lafitte of the condom world. They are ultra-ultra-thin. “Its all about the feeling,” he explains.
It’s not only the brand, of course. Condom selection is also a numbers game.
“I’d get a big box. It’s a sign of commitment,” the second gentleman tells me, before picking up a pregnancy test and dragging his friend down the aisle—-“He’s got to find out if his girlfriend’s pregnant.”
A third customer has a slightly different view: “You know men are always gonna get Magnums because it says ‘big size.’ They get that even if it comes off,” she says.
This appears to be a recurring problem for her. “You know my boyfriend—well, my ex now—always used to get them, and I’d tell him he didn’t need that shit.”