China Town is filled with the cries of vendors hawking their wares. The shops spill their goods over the sidewalks, luring tourists with cheap prices and bright colors. I'm often in China Town. Anevay's school is just minutes away, and both my Muay Thai gym and one of my art supply stores (Pearl Paint) are located on Canal Street, which is located right in the thick of the neighborhood. Amid the flurry of commotion in China Town, I feel completely anonymous. It's a strange, yet strangely welcome feeling.
Today, as Anevay and I made our way down Canal Street, a man's voice stood out in the crowd...
"OBAMA CONDOMS... BUY YOUR OBAMA CONDOMS!"
I pulled Anevay through the crowd and stopped in front of the man, laughing. "Where do they come from?" I asked.
He told me about how he and his partner made condoms for each of the presidential candidates, bought domain names, and that after the election, they ceased production of all of the names except for Obama.
Poor as I am, I bought one, just so that I can keep it in my bag to pull out as a conversation starter. I can't see wanting to use it with a partner. (Although seeing as how I'm looking for a presidential boyfriend, who knows... Maybe there's a fella out there who wouldn't be intimidated by wearing Obama's cap?)
As Anevay and I traipsed off towards the subway, she asked, "well, that was cool. But what's a condom?"
Oh, man... Did I open up a can of worms or what?
I'm pretty open with my kid. She knows what sex is. She knows all about a period and what that means for a women. I don't hold back much, although I do refrain from discussing violent crimes made against women (those discussions will come... but not yet).
After a brief hiccup, I looked down at my sweet little daughter and told her the truth.
"A condom," I said. "Is a piece of thin material called latex that a man puts over his penis before a woman lets him put it inside of her vagina while they are having sex. The condom keeps his sperm from going inside of the woman, and therefore lessens the chance of her becoming pregnant. It's one of many ways men and women can practice what is called 'safe sex'..."
At this point, Anevay nodded, understanding a little bit about what safe sex entails.
See, just this morning, after singing 'We Are the Champions' on the way to school (some kids sing Hannah Montana... my kid sings Elvis, Queen, the Ramones and, among other things, Fugazi and the Beatles), we mandered into a conversation about Freddy Mercury dying of AIDS, which led to a lengthy discussion not only about AIDS, but how many people around the world are not getting the preventative care they deserve, and, finally, a talk about safe sex and responsibility.
Yes, Anevay and I covered a lot of ground today.
And yes, I realize that these are heavy topics for a seven year old kid.
And yet, I am resolved to continue being matter-of-fact as I give my daughter information. At school, Anevay roams the Internet. I want her to be well-equipped and informed enough to sort through all the garbage that might cross her path. I want her to be powerful. She is powerful.
I like to think that I am powerful...
Funny, then, that the question of what is a condom made me- if only briefly- falter. As a women, there are many ways that I take precautions to take care of myself when I'm with a partner. And yet, I've always left it up to men to supply the condoms... Sure, I have them at home (who doesn't?!), but I never carry them on my person. It's baffling!
Why leave this responsibility to a partner instead of taking it upon myself? And what message might this send to my daughter (not that I talk with my daughter about my sex life... The topic is a little more generalized)?
Don't get me wrong. I insist that my partners (save for the few that I've been with longterm) wear condoms. No condom? No sex. Simple as that.
But today got me thinking... I realized that someday, when Anevay is older (much older, I hope), I will let her know that being in charge of her body means that she should- when the time comes- be in charge of the condoms her partners wears (oh, man, the thought of this makes me feel queasy!!). I want her to know that being a strong woman means that one makes strong decisions for herself, and that she ought to always, when and if she is sexually active, carry a powerful weapon against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases... And not only by taking the pill, but by carrying condoms on her person and insisting that they be used.
My Obama Condom may be in my bag only as a conversation starter, but the one I've put next to it will be there when and if it is needed...
Check out the Obama Condom's website for more info on their product. If I were Obama, I'd be proud to be the face of a product that promotes safe sex (although truth-be-told, Obama Condoms is selling their little pieces of latex for an outrageous price... Besides the gimmick, they are, after all, just condoms, which can be picked up for free at any Planned Parenthood in the country. But hey, power to the people. It's a tough economy. I commend anyone able to legitimately make a buck... or five smackers, in this case.).
Thoughts? As a single mom- sans partner to refer to about such things- I'd especially like to hear how other parents deal with the difficult questions our children ask.
I am Melissa Banigan. I've been many things under the sun, but am currently a single mom raising an amazing kid in Brooklyn, writing novels and short stories, and working on some art (canvases and paper). I also, under the moniker melifera, produce off-the-cusp embroidered clothing and bags.