About a year ago I shocked my little sister when I told her I didn’t own any condoms. No, I wasn’t running around having unprotected sex… I simply wasn’t having sex. At all. In fact, it had been so long since I’d had sex that I was pretty much ready to hang up the ‘closed for business’ sign. But because I didn’t want to traumatise my sister with the idea that this was what single life was like over 40, when I was next in the supermarket, I slipped a packet of condoms into my trolley and sent her a sneaky photo of them nestled between the yoghurt and the broccoli.
I didn’t buy them just to appease my sister though. I was also hopeful that by buying those little pieces of rubber, I would break the bad juju that had seemed to plague me in relationships and I’d find myself blissfully back in the saddle (so to speak).
It was that same hope that subsequently carried me through the embarrassing moments with my condoms. Such as when I reached for my building pass and the lanyard tangled around that little foil packet and sent it sailing through the air to land at the feet of the guy standing in the elevator with me. Right next to the tampon it had also snared. “Soooooo, single?” And also that time when I had to go through a security check-point and a condom had worked its way to the top of my handbag – all shiny and silver, with crimped edges and bold print… while I was standing next to a colleague.
Because ever since I made that purchase I have dutifully carried those condoms with me – everywhere. A single foil, occasionally two, tucked inside my purse, wallet, handbag, overnight bag – what ever the case might be. Not because I was dating anyone and planning a wild night (which would clearly require a box not simply a few rubbers), but precisely because I was single and, well… you just never know… right? Wrong. In fact I did know.
After my last disastrous relationship in which ‘he’ decided we were “just fuck buddies” but didn’t bother to share that with me, I had been less than keen to ‘hook up’, ‘give it another go’, ‘get out there’. Some of my girlfriends suggested a fling would be liberating, but I knew that it wouldn’t be for me. I have never thought about sex as casual, and every time I have tried to fool myself that it was, I have regretted it. And now I had a whole box of condoms to remind me even more how little sex I was getting…
A week ago though, I finally got sick of those little silver foils thrusting themselves out of my handbag at awkward moments and put them all back into their original box. The truth was, their very presence was starting to mess with my confidence.
Putting those little sperm / germ catches away though, it also occurred to me that as much as I joke about my lack of a sex life, I wasn’t actually that upset. I realised that my liberation wasn’t to be found in the hook up or falling into another relationship, but rather in just enjoying being in my own company. These days the truth was that I only really thought about sex when someone asked me if I was getting any. And in-between I had discovered that there was great pleasure in the small things – such as being able to go for a walk at 6am without having to first disengage from another human being. And in being able to watch that show on netflix without someone using the tension to get frisky. And in not having to change the sheets more than once a week. And even, on occasion, having to pretend that I was up for it, when really I wasn’t.
Importantly I also realised that it wasn’t about not wanting to be in a relationship or have the sex that went with it, but rather about how grateful I was for certain aspects of my life that come with being single. And how I was no longer prepared to sacrifice those things for hook-ups or mediocre sex.
That all said, as I flipped that box closed I was relieved to see that those little lifesavers also came with an expiry date – and with 2020 in mind, I could at least sleep easy knowing I had time on my side.