Friday 18 January 2013

Johnny Come Lately

My supplies are running low. Pretty soon I’ll be calling up my bro to arrange another shipment. It’s not something I like doing. It’s awkward for him and I’m always worried about exactly how customs will react, but needs must. There just aren’t any decent local suppliers and anyway, I’m really not sure about the quality of the locally available product.

The good shit.

I stocked up last time I was home. Bought a few dozen packs of condoms in Boots. I should probably clarify that. I wasn’t wearing boots, and neither were the condoms (though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie). Boots is a chain of chemists/drug stores in England. Slightly more upmarket than Superdrug. You can tell this from –
a)    The name. You know exactly what you’re getting with ‘Superdrug’. The lower orders can be so uncouthly literal, don’t you find?
b)    The prices. Ever so slightly more expensive for no apparent reason.
c)    The fact that on your itemized receipt, condoms are listed as ‘family planning goods.’

They are, however, the only things described as such. Pregnancy tests aren’t called ‘family planning goods’, and nor are diaphragms, sponges, or coat-hangers. Here’s a hint: if you’re trying to use a vague, catch-all term as a euphemism, and you only use it to refer to one specific thing then, it’s not vague or catch-all any more; it’s the actual thing. There are no parents of teenage boys who, upon finding a crumpled receipt listing ‘family planning goods’ in the pocket of their son’s jeans whilst doing the wash, think to themselves, ‘Well, maybe he’s bought a wall calendar for everyone’s appointments. At least he’s being responsible.’

I’m a proper adult now, so buying contraception isn’t as embarrassing as it once was. Still though, you buy a whole gross in a single transaction and you do suspect a few eyebrows will be raised. Only one way to deal with that. Bluff it out. Deadpan. Emotionless. “Yes, I will be having a lot of sex. What of it?”

I shall also be smoking, drinking,
and gambling. Problem?

The lady behind the till of the Tottenham Court Road branch has other ideas. Initially completely professional; the huge pile of prophylactics I dump on the counter causes not a flicker of enquiry. She takes a box from the top and scans it. Looks at the screen. Looks at the box and the pile. Looks back at the screen.

“Terry!” she barks across twelve aisles of shower gel and razorblades, waving the johnnies in the air. “Terry!”

Oh, christ.

The security guard stirs from his vacant repose by the front door, sees what she’s waving, and raises an enquiring and not unamused eyebrow.

“Terry! Says there’s a special offer with these! Have a look, will ya?”

No no. It’s fine. I don’t even have a loyalty card. I know I could get a special receipt so Mum could get the points on hers, but that’s not really going to happen, is it? She never bought the ‘wall calendar’ line before and is unlikely to start now.

Terry takes his own sweet fucking time strolling over to aisle four. Till Lady continues to hold the box aloft. Liberty enlightening the world. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and I’ll humiliate them with a dozen Pleasuremax.

Terry’s finally reached the appointed place. Looks. Bends down. Rises with a packet in either hand and brandishes them high, to be better observed by all who wish to see.

“Comes with some free lube!”

Jesus. Kill me now.

Terry approaches the counter. Lube still raised high in a semaphore of frictionless mortification. Slaps both down and looks at Till Lady in a manner which makes clear that if they’re not shagging already, it’s something Terry would very much like to see happen in the near future. “Says he can choose.”

What? If you think I’m offering any opinion on this sordid little masquerade of shame, you’re sorely mistaken, my friend.

“Well, Love,” Till Lady now, talking to me with a barely suppressed smirk. She’s enjoying this just a bit too much. “Which do you want, Menthol Cooler or Lusty Tingler?”

To which there’s really only one possible response.

“Well,” I say, “which would you recommend?”

Temporarily out of stock.

You and I both know that the reason I was buying such a huge quantity of condoms was because I was coming to Japan. By this point, the struggles of the gaijin male with Japanese condoms are pretty thoroughly documented. No point adding to that too much. I’m not going to start with the humblebrag regarding size, as I believe is customary at this point (though obviously I must assert that my penis is of such colossal size and majesty that it is at all times carried before me on a mighty litter borne by a team of specially trained albino water buffalo, and on clear nights is easily visible from space). That’s not why I have issues with the locally available rubbers. No, I have to get them sent from back home because, well… Because I have allergies.

That’s not really so ‘Alpha Male’ now, is it? Perhaps I should have stuck with the traditional ‘they’re insufficiently capacious for my gargantuan Western todger’ line. But really, it’s my contact allergies that I’m worried about. Wouldn’t have the first inkling about their size because I’ve never tried them.

The image searches for this post are soul destroying.
Here's a basket of puppies.

‘Contact dermatitis’ it’s called. We first realized it might be an issue when I was about twelve. I was swimming a lot at the time and that meant verrucas. The family remedy for this was to stick a bit of zinc oxide tape over it for a couple of days. Starve it of oxygen and when you pull the tape off a bit of the wart comes with it. Rinse and repeat a few times and you’re golden.

I was on crutches for a month.

For once, I’m really not exaggerating this for effect. I developed a blister on my heel the size of an egg and had to use crutches for a month because I couldn’t put any pressure my right foot. Something, clearly, was up.

So I had to do a ‘patch test’. They get a few dozen little metal discs, put a drop of a different suspect chemical on each one, then tape the lot of them to your back for a week. You’re not allowed to get them wet, which made showering a problem. This alone would have been unpleasant, but remember that you’re wearing a carapace infused with stuff they quite specifically think will irritate your skin. I’m still squirming from the memory. After a week they take it all off and see what’s caused a hideously painful allergic reaction and what hasn’t. As a child I somehow expected more from modern medicine.

Turns out I’m allergic to a fuckload of different things. The biggest reaction was to something called colophony. It’s used in glues (such as for sticking plasters) and occurs naturally in conifer resin. If I ever cut myself decorating the christmas tree I’m fucked, basically. That was the reason for the blister. There was also mention of ‘fragrances and colourings’ probably being a difficulty. You see? That’s how you do vague and catch-all.

‘Fragrances and colourings.’ Useless. Just useless. So what I have to do is experiment. Deodorants, soaps, shaving gels, detergents and on and on. Stick with what you know is safe, and introduce one new thing at a time. If you develop an unsightly and uncomfortable rash then you know it’s not for you and you need to try a different brand.

Over time I’ve managed to find acceptable local substitutes for pretty much all my personal hygiene needs. Except deodorant, though that’s not because of my allergies but because Japanese deodorants are shit. It’s been a long and not always pleasant process, but I’m at the point where I don’t have to panic if I’m running low on any of the above.

Except condoms. I refuse to test my luck with condoms. After all, isn’t the whole point of them to avoid getting an unsightly and uncomfortable rash on your cock? I’m all for experimentation in the bedroom, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Here. Here is where you draw it.


  1. Lusty Tingler - need you have even asked!

    I don't usually have my sympathy for dick issues but that's pretty tough.

    1. Wasn't me doing the asking, which is kind of where the problems started.

      My dick has provoked a number of (often disconcerting) emotions in women, but sympathy is a new one. Thanks, I guess?

  2. “Comes with some free lube!”

    I will not believe this really happened, but it is a great post and possesses a deeper truth. Very Bruce Chatwin.

    Dude, I'd send you mine. My wife has been pregnant or recovering from C-sections for the better part of three years, with a small window where we made a second - clearly without 'family planning'. What this has meant, apart from a sudden passion for long runs and cold showers, is that mine may be approaching their best before date. I am too depressed to look. Oh, and she just got 'the works' done during her C-section: tubes tied.

    Taking too many condoms to Japan seems to be rather a theme with me:

    "I brought back an optimistic amount for my third year, which would have been sad, except I sold them off at a premium to desperate friends. I've never had my luggage opened, but if yours is when you bring in a gross of condoms, I’m curious to know the Japanese for: 'what are you planning to do to our women?!'"

    1. "I will not believe this really happened"

      Them's fightin' words, my friend.

      OK, so I may sometimes embellish things to tell a better story. I've never tied fireworks to a neighbour's dog, or any dog for that matter.

      In this instance though, while the passage of time may have exacerbated the horror somewhat, but it really did happen. It got to the point where I was scanning the store for a film crew or hidden cameras, it felt so much like a set-up.

      Also nice to see that the 'dealer' theme I started this post off with actually has a degree of basis in truth, too.

  3. Great story haha. I remember the fear lining up with a box of condoms at Woolworths as a young lad.

    Japanese deodorant is shit. Most other deodorant is also shit for me, the alcohol or whatever in them turns my underarm into a seething itching raw cesspit of irritation. The Nivea brand is where it's at.

    I also have to say I don't think hot cinnamon anal lube looks very commercially appealing. And is "natural" anal lube made from faeces then?

  4. That's it, I ain't never wearing shoes again. Followed your link and that verrucas just looks too nasty.

    As for deodorant... people still wear that stuff? Splash on the patchouli and showers become optional. It's good for Gaia, keeps the Eco-Villains away, and your fellow Planeteers will respect you.

    1. Generally a good idea to go barefoot as often as possible. Except in winter, because then you'll get chilblains.

      It's only as I write this that I realise how much I've been banging on about my feet recently. Good lord. I can only apologise.

  5. Ah the memories. And me coming from a religious household, in a small conservative town, trying to figure out where to purchase and stash the boxes.
    My parents were still sending me care packages of toothpaste and deoderant late into my 20s.

    1. I still get care packages, of sorts, but now they're limited to stuff I can't easily have delivered direct from online stores. Mum deals with the shoes and kids' books. My brother has to sort the less parent-friendly items (in every sense, I guess).

  6. Some of the ones at the love hotels look pretty small and worthless. Wrapping my dick in saranwrap and a rubber band is probably better...though that would hurt and "losing the rubber band could be a problem and it's not hygeneically smart and....never mind

    1. A suspicious amount of detail there, Chris. Do I detect the voice of bitter experience?

  7. Seriously, how come you can do the "repy below a post" to reply individually? What setting is it that I have completely missed using blogspot?

    Nowadays they do have some regular condoms available via Amazon, nothing too fancy if you want to have with banana flavor, odd shapes and stuff, but you can find the regular big name western brands now, happy hunting!

    1. Dunno about the 'reply' function, it just kind of happened a few months back. I don't have comments set to appear in a new window like you though, so maybe that's something to do with it?

      As for Amazon Japan, I've been using it more and more for other stuff, but I've never thought to look for condoms. Never needed to yet though, stocked up gooood, I did. Thanks for the suggestion, it might save my brother some embarrassment and effort, if nothing else.

  8. Stories about rubbers always take me back to my days as a clerk in a sex shop.

    I feel for you thought, I had the skin prick test done on my back. Reading about the test made me a tad itchy and brought back terrible allergies. I have an allergy to latex I will leave it at that. However, I am lucky enough to be married with out want for children so I got my tubes tied. Happiness for the mister and I is always a good thing.

    1. I'd have thought that by the time you've taken the decision to walk into a sex shop that a certain embarrassment threshold would have been crossed.

      I'm guessing though. Aside from a couple of purient teenage visits on foreign rugby tours, I've never been in a one. Apart from anything else, the rise of the internet since I became an adult has largely removed the need.

      I once enjoyed a (very) brief dalliance with a girl who said she was allergic to latex. She also said she had no gag reflex. To my lasting disappointment I was only able to verify one of those claims :(