first time

I was in my small-town Target one night this week and found myself in line at the check-out counter behind a young, giggling high-school couple. She had lustrous black hair with silly blond highlights; her nails were carefully airbrushed in blue and purple with sweeping waves of gold glitter and tiny seagulls. He had the standard skater shaggy haircut, big pants and uber-hip tee. They stood very close to each other and murmured back and forth, smiling nervously. I was stunned to see that their single item-to-be-purchased, humming happily down the black conveyor belt, was a box of condoms. Trojans, to be specific. Nothing else: just this box of Trojans, please!

I ran through the possibilities: they’re getting these for their parents. For an older brother, home from the military. Um, a practical joke on another unsuspecting ninth-grader. Argh. I know better. And it bothers me tremendously that sex is taken so lightly, by kids so young.

And frankly (since we’re talking about sex anyway) since when did underage hookups go together to the Target to pick up a box of condoms? I would have thought she’d wait discreetly over by the Slurpee machine while he went through the line. These modern times.

I hauled my plastic basket up onto the conveyor belt: my package of cardboard “Happy Birthday” letters strung together, Chapstick, wash cloths, wasabi peas, a bag of tortillas and a jar of salsa; a few other necessities for the First’s thirteenth birthday party to which I was about to be late. I eyed the Trojans and carefully placed one of those bars between their condoms and my stuff. Yeah, the condoms are for them, not me. I got a birthday party to throw.

The happy couple — who seemed to have carefully chosen a line with a 16 year old guy at the register — didn’t look at me, so I never had a chance to open a conversation: too little, too late, wrong timing. I momentarily entertained the idea that I might say, “Wow, this is a big decision,” but ditched that. It was my first time standing in the grocery line behind a potentially life-altering event-in-the-making like this; I wasn’t sure quite how to behave. So I simply sent out a wordless, anguished prayer, and thanked God that they were using protection. I find myself still praying over them this weekend.

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