First off, a slight confession: I almost left the city the first time I bought condoms.
Okay, the CVS at County Line Road was not that far from my parents’ house in the Northeast. But I specifically drove to a drugstore a little bit away from my place for extra security. From what, I can’t remember. Getting caught? By who? But it seemed weird to buy condoms at any of the drugstores near my house. Buying condoms was terrifying.
It’s silly, looking back at it. But it’s true: Sex is terrifying when you first start having it, and it was only due to my neurosis and a smart girlfriend that I was prepared for it at all. Buying condoms is now just another part of life, but I remember very much when it was almost a challenge. A scared kid might not be prepared and might not have a condom. This helps lead to Philly’s troubling high rates of STDs, which don’t compare well to other cities. We’re No. 1! Oh, wait.
Enter the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Take Control Philly campaign. Teens can get condoms for free through the mail or at various locations throughout the city. The sites are everywhere: Atomic City Comics (see, comic nerds do get laid!) on South Street, 5th Element Salon (good for having sex with Leeloo) on 4th Street, and several different locations of the fabulous sneaker store Villa (yes, including the one in The Gallery), and five different places on 12th Street in between Chestnut and Market, a stretch that shall now be called Condom Alley. Transplanting my teenage self into 2012—God, no!—I could pick up free condoms from the health center near the Roosevelt Mall.
Come to think of it, I probably could have picked up condoms at the Cottman Avenue health center in the 1990s, but I didn’t know about it. Maybe that’s because I went to Catholic school, but it was also because I was a dumb, scared kid. The Dept. of Health did a survey and found that 90 percent of students were on Facebook; for a $3,000 ad buy on the site, Take Control Philly was able to increase the number of condoms ordered from eight a day to 39. The city distributed almost 60,000 condoms by mail and distributed 2.6 million at centers. Give kids condoms and they’re more likely to wear them, preventing STDs and teenage pregnancy. Plus, it’s pretty funny: The Facebook page has a bunch of high-school kids asking for condoms in bigger sizes. I wonder what they want people to think!
But the best publicity stunt of all was a contest to vote for the design of Philadelphia’s new limited-edition Freedom Condom. The black-and-teal design was a runaway winner with 143 Facebook ‘Likes’, outpacing the yellow-and-purple runner-up (73). The midnight green and white condom, the colors of the Eagles, finished last with 17; my blue-and-yellow choice was next-to-last with 25. The kids clearly still love the teal, just like when everyone was running around in Charlotte Hornets Starter jackets in the 1990s. And, hey, this condom is the colors of The Philly Post! Think of us when you’re having sex.
There’s more: Starting Monday, the 215th person to order some limited edition Freedom Condoms will receive a free pair of sneakers in the blue and teal colors! I’ve never really thought about color coordinating my sneakers with a condom in my pocket before, but now it’s kind of all I want to do.