The Day I Found Condoms In My Son's Gym Bag

by Lisa Noelle-Butler
Originally Published: 
Differently colored condom packages found in son's gym bag.

I’ve been talking to my son about sex since he was about ten years old. That where-do-babies-really-come-from conversation ended with his putting his hand in my face and asking me to, “just stop,” which I did, mid-sentence. Apparently, the truth that he wanted so badly to know was too much.

Over the years we’ve had sex-related talks about everything from consent to dildos. Years of therapy had inured me to any sort of embarrassment when talking about sex. That is, until the Bathroom Incident of 2018.

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A little backstory: my son, like most kids, gives very little thought to mildew or how it grows. Day after day he would come home from the beach and leave his bag of wet stuff somewhere in the house where I couldn’t readily see it. Eventually, the smell would get strong enough and a “treasure” hunt would ensue until I found the offending items and ran with them to the laundry room for some sort of mildew-extracting triage. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

After every disgusting discovery, I talked very loudly at my son until he promised to never do it again. One night, the wet bag of stuff left thoughtlessly next to the dog’s crate was just too much. I decided that this time I would try a different tack. I would extract the wet items: towel, bathing suit, maybe a sock, and hang them in the bathroom to show my son what the expectations were.

After I pulled out the towel, I thought it would be more time efficient to up-end the bag. Never again!

As the items fell out, my son came out of his room so that we were standing face to face when the box of condoms landed squarely and unceremoniously on my foot.

I looked down and positively identified the box and looked back up at my son who was visibly dying on the inside.

“We should probably talk about this,” I said, knowing that both of us would prefer to sweep those condoms under the proverbial rug and move on.

I knew I needed to say the right thing, but suddenly, I felt flustered, a little embarrassed even. All I could think was, “Ewwwwww!”

I realized, it had been easy to talk about sex when I could pretend my son wasn’t having any sex.

When he sat down on his bed, he looked again like the scared twelve-year old who had gone to see The Hunger Games without our permission.

“You’re not in trouble,” I said, but he didn’t believe me. “Really,” I insisted, “you’re not in trouble.” “You’re eighteen,” I reminded him. “Which means,” I continued, “that you’re old enough to deal with any repercussions that come with having sex.”

Unlike the small boy who lied his head off to save his ass, his response was acutely mature. “I know,” he said, “that’s why I bought those.”

Huh. Was it possible that my husband and I had done our jobs, that our son was actually listening when we talked, at least about the important things if not about the evils of mildew?

I couldn’t wait to tell my husband, “They listen when we talk! Well, one does, I think, about certain things, or at least one thing.” Still a victory.

I asked my son if he was dating anyone and he said, “Not officially, but I’ll keep you posted.”

I nodded and pressed my luck, saying, “It might be a good idea to leave those in the box until then.”

When he said, “Yeah,” I thought he might actually be considering it.

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