Why safe sex works


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I knew Nick first when he hung out at Lee's Tavern, a block down the street from my family's house in Clifton. He was my age but insisted on tipping glasses with the older war veterans had Lee's served. It was as if Nick feared the modern world, dressing like the older men down to the cuffed work pants they wore, despite the fact that most men driving trucks for his company tended to dress more like Rambo than Archie Bunker. Most of his workmates hung out at Paul's Tavern across the street, shooting pool or blowing out games on the bowling alley.

            Nick came across the street when Lee's went out of business and the liquor license got sold to some yuppie play palace on the far side of the tracks. Lees turned into a temple of sorts, and closed its doors to the general public.

            I was never a regular at either place. As a boy, I used to go to Lee's only to drag my drunken uncle home. The regular service let such a sour taste in my for the place I could not tip a glass there without thinking I was turning into my uncle. That fear also contributed to my infrequent visits to the much more comfortable Paul's. I just couldn't get too much into a bar that didn't supply live music or one without a flock of women.

            Paul's had its share of female barflies, but most were so old or soused, men didn't think of them in sexual terms, buying them drinks as if they were men. I guess that's why Nick picked Paul's as his new hangout when Lee's abandoned him. Nick seemed as uncomfortable with the sexual revolution as the older men he had called buddies across the street. He seemed unaware of the new rules but knew well enough that the old rules were inappropriate.

            Since we both graduated high school in 1970 -- each of us having been held back a year for one reason or another -- we seemed to bond the few times we did meet, and so he confided in me from time to time during that stretch in the 1980s when I still went to back to the old neighborhood and sucked up a beer or two at Paul's.

            I didn't realize just how uncomfortable Nick was about sex until the day two very attractive women walked into Paul's and smiled at us across the bar.

            Nick squirmed under their flirtations, and his nervousness eventually caused the women to seek attention from two other men in the booth section of the bar.

            "What's wrong with you?" I asked Nick after our chance had come and gone. "Don't you want to get laid?"

            "Sure I do," he told me. "I just don't know how."

            This stopped me. "You're thirty something years old," I said. "Surely someone, somewhere and some time in your life told you the facts of life."

            I didn't harp on my fear that I had encountered a thirty-something year old virgin.

            "That's not what I meant!" he exploded. "I know what sex is and I've had plenty of it before…"

            He broke off, and stared down into his drink.

            "Before what?" I asked, not quite able to hide my relief at his admission.

            "Before that disease."

            "You mean AIDS?"

            "That's it. I'm scared to death about it."

            "It's not a danger if you practice safe sex," I said.

            "Don't hand me any of that crap," he said, spitting out the words with bits of tobacco from his unfiltered cigarette. "I've had my fill of that crap, too. It ain't what it's cracked up to be."

            "You mean you actually know something about safe sex?"

            "Sure," Nick snapped. "As soon as all this talk came out about AIDS, I got scared enough to go take a class at Wayne General Hospital. There ain't nothing I fear more than that disease.

            "But when I got there, they've got some old wrinkled biddy of a nurse holding the lecture. I would have laughed, but everybody was so serious I got choked up. Half of what she said went in one ear and out the other, so I was as ignorant as I was before I went in.

            "The next thing you know I'm sitting at a bar about a mile from the hospital and the sweetest bade you'd ever meet sits down next to me, giving me the eye like those two did just now to us.

            "That babe was so hot and I was so horny, I strained to remember that that twisted biddy had said. So when we got to the motel I stood there I stretching butt naked, and breathing deep, hands high over my head when that babe asked what it was I thought I was doing.

            "`Safe sex,' I told her.

            "She let out a howl so loud it likely woke up the motel manager five doors down from our room.

            "`That's not safe sex,' she said. `That's yoga.'

            "Which was another class I took at some time or another to help me relieve my tension.

            "Anyway, this hot babe tells me all about safe sex, and how I need to use something called a condom.

            "I couldn't have been more horrified than if someone had threatened to cut my balls off.

            "`I want to put it in you, not some plastic bag,' I told her.

            "She told me that if I didn't I wouldn't get nothing from her that night or any other night for that matter.

            "I was so desperate and she was so hot. So I said okay. She just happened to have one of those spare balloons in her purse.

            "I had so much trouble getting the thing on I didn't see how anyone managed it, and once on, I thought I'd go gang green. Then she told me I had it on wrong. So she helped me put it on, but by that time, I didn't have much left worth fitting it over.

            "Limp? Worse than a wet noodle.

            "And to tell you, it's turned out the same way each time I tried this so-called safe sex -- which explains why its so helpful keeping people from getting AIDS. You can't get AIDS if you can't get it up long enough to stick it in anywhere."


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