What Men Should Know

French Letters and Chocolate Hearts

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February can be a testy month for many of us. This is because, if you’re single, the 14th of February can seem like a hungry mosquito whose imminent and no doubt aggravating arrival cannot be stopped. Valentine’s Day practically spits glitter into the single gay man’s eye.

It feels as though annoying couples have romantic dinners booked weeks in advance so they can crop up everywhere on this one particular day. They conspire to sit and fawn over one another in public places; to sigh and “suckface” in order to gloat at all the lonely hearts looking on, longingly.

Valentine’s Day, love it or hate it, has become a massive monetary phenomenon, with tons of chocolate, red roses and “Just how I truly feel” cards, exchanging hands at inflated prices.
Even if you’re not single, you may scrunch your eyebrows and sneer your lips at the madness of this commercial racket and the insanity of measuring your worth by the amount of red foiled chocolate you receive. However I must also confess that if someone turned up at my door on that dreaded day, with some flowers and a cardboard container of processed fat and carbs, then I would, no doubt, find a traitorously goofball smile, lingering on my previously scrunchy face. This is because I cannot help but appreciate any token that signifies that I am quite possibly loved or lovable, however cheap and mass produced this token or gesture may be.

Perhaps it’s a crazily fortunate coincidence that the week of “V-Day” is also Condom Awareness Week. Yes, those gummy rubber border patrols in the battle against venereal diseases and infections… This is their time to shine and be celebrated in all of their glory too. Although they make quite an ambitious, or even presumptuous Valentine’s Day gift per se, I can see why these two things may share this auspicious time of the year. If you happen to land your Valentine with just the right gift to pluck his heartstrings, you may just have cause to make use of one of these rolled up force fields.

You can enjoy condoms in a variety of ways over and above presenting them to your Valentine, and there is such a variety out there that there is generally a condom for every type of person. So if a ribbed, yellow, glow-in-the-dark, piña colada flavored condom tickles your fancy, it should be celebrated for at least a week. Heaven knows our forefathers had no such selection to choose from.

“Domes”, “rubbers”, “French Letters (FLs)”, whatever you call them, have been around for a long time. Egyptians used a woven linen condom that must have “exfoliated” their manhood like hell. During the 1700s and1800s, men used animal intestinal casings (that stuff used to give “boerewors” its shape) as makeshift protection. Really? (The whole ‘sausage’ pun thing is too easy, so I won’t even go there.)

The very first manufactured condoms were made of the same orange rubber as a bicycle inner tube and had the same thickness and lingering non-sexy smell (Brings a whole new meaning to the descriptive, “He has a ‘pap’ tire”). Only much later did we discover the marvel that is latex, and begin to enjoy prophylactic use with any real kind of sensation and flexibility.

Every year thousands of singles head out into the “cruel coupled world” on Valentine’s Day, to dance and drink their woes and disappointments away, or even just to defy the stupidity of this sentimental day. This is when a lot of desperado.uhoh.co.za decisions are made and irresponsible and potentially dangerous sex takes place. You may think a plastic rose and a cheesy card may be wack things to get on Valentine’s Day, but what about genital warts, syphilis or gonorrhea? It’s also worth mentioning that HIV is not the only serious infection out there either; hepatitis can be even more dangerous in some instances. Then there’s the possibility that you may get more than one of the aforementioned “gifts” on the same night.
So even if nobody does give you an “I heart you” mug or a plastic rose that lights up with batteries, you can still give yourself something really cool that’s got you covered, like a “French Letter”. Keep it in your pocket, in case things do get romantic on that special night.

Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for Health4Men. Health4Men is a project of the Anova Health Institute NPC, funded by USAID through PEPFAR. This article represents the contributing writer’s personal views.

Health4Men would like to hear from you too! Gay and bi men from throughout South Africa are welcome to submit articles about their own lives, primarily regarding sexuality, sexual health and relationships. Selected articles, like this one, will be published in print and online. For submissions please mail media@health4men.co.za.

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