Teens want condoms y’all.
It’s a month now, but that headline on a national newspaper one sunny day in April 2017 took me by surprise, then took me way back.
A queue has formed at the small, well - stocked tuck shop somewhere in Kenya’s Rift Valley where the ghastly winds live and wheat grows gracefully. Albeit, Nairobians like me can’t get used to the windy days.
The tuck shop is at the student centre which is the go-to place for all things ‘unga’, this is the real bundus yet home for the Margaret Thatcher Library - Moi University’s finest. I’m patiently waiting in line to buy some biscuits and chewing gum, which will be my lunch on a day where I have classes back to back till 5pm. If the gods grant me my wish, the lecturer at 3pm will bounce and I will skip the rest of the lectures. I have a heap of laundry waiting for me, all my cool second hand clothes infact. These past few days the dress-code memo is 'cool'. There’s no mama dobi this side of the woods and winds, so I have to personally hand-wash.
I have a stalker.
I have a stalker.
It’s those nice stalkers who see you on the university highway and call you to say ‘hi’ and comment that they love today’s multicoloured outfit. My default action would be to look around for mystery man with trepidation as he lurks behind the trees like a phantom. But for a good reason that’s not the case.
So on that specific day, my seven best jeans and seven best tops needed a wash, a girl got to look lovely. Stalker, admirer, love of my life, ten years later, Phantom man what’s the deal? I’m still holding the Olympics torch for you.
I digress, back to the tuck shop, where I’m buying my lunch - biscuits and chewing gum. Curiosity gets the better of me as I wait on the work-study student shopkeeper who’s giving out change in slowmo. There’s this sticker posted on the shop window which I don’t decipher and that’s absurd, an advert that is supposed to lure me in. “P2 sold here” I wrack my brain every time I see it, but the minute I’m at the cyber, I have so much spam email to sift through that the last thing on my mind is to google P2.
Without consulting my brain my mouth asks the question to no one in specific. “What’s this P2”? Everyone in line bursts out at my presumed 21 year old ignorance.
Just so we are clear, I’m a little past the Taylor Swift and Beiber generation now. In my heyday, airtime and bundles were as foreign as taking selfies. I had a 3210 Nokia phone which was a hand me down, what would I do with a phone referred to as the selfie expert.
After spurring a bout of laughter I’m embarrassed as I head out to class. The 3pm lecture bounces (yippee!) I go down to the student centre cyber, on google I educate myself on P2 et al. Fighting suffocation in the loosely ventilated cyber (I once fainted in there) I wonder why the guys at the tuck shop can’t call a pill a pill, simplicity! “Morning after pills sold here”. The economies of space are not well applied but I bet you they would make a heck-lot of sales because there was a heck-lot of sex happening behind hostel curtains.
Joining university for me was a mere miracle. So I decided to milk it for all it’s worth. Don’t get it twisted, I wasn’t behind any curtains. The first few months of joining university I was in almost seven clubs. One of my very vivid memories was starring in a French play in LT3 “Bed full of foreigners". It had this ratchet scene where I’m caught with a married man and need to jump out of bed and go hide on the balcony. The juice of it was supposed to be in the type of lingerie I wore on stage.
The minute I read the script, that was the one part I highlighted in green and told the director “heck to the no”, no audience could pay me enough for that kind of show. He threatened to look for another actress and I threatened to leave. On second thought, he approved for me to wear a long night thingy which was neither lacy nor racy.
The play is well on its way, the director offers me commission for any tickets sales a few days before. Marketing 101, that first semester in uni I was rocking some fancy mahogany reddish naturalista dreadlocks. Me and the dreds rock up at his hostel to pick the tickets for sale. I decide to roam around the 4th year’s hostel door to door like a missionary with my tickets. I’m absolutely oblivious to the ‘gold rush’ where first year girls are up for grabs for fourth year guys. Albeit, I single handedly fill up the first front rows of the hall for the duration of the play. In the course of selling tickets and being on stage as “Helga” I get suitors. Unfortunately, I’ve already perfected the art of exiting stage left. This “Gold” is special.
Round that time, I’m craving for more fun filled action. I join ICL (I Choose Life) and its one of the funkiest clubs I was part of. On orientation day I win a dancing competition and under my seat there is a surprise sticker which brings with it a month’s worth of shopping. Those biscuits and gallons of juice go a long way in entertaining and making new friends.
So at ICL, we are selling the A,B,Cs before the TV show Shuga was even a concept on paper. Abstain, Be Faithful and use Condoms. In a little while my tenacity in spreading the ABC gospel has me bumped from trainee to peer educator and assigned to a group of funky college mates called “IZMOTO” the gang is on abstaining fire. As a facilitator back then, I carried condoms in my college bag for when I needed to facilitate (we choose the A remember). In October we’d wear red and do cancer awareness and campaigns around campus.
Convincing peers to go for tests at the VCT centre came with the job and was the proverbial taking a mule to the river. I went in there often, since once someone was convinced to go check their status, I had to be a good example and agree for my finger to be pricked first before any blood was drawn from my willing participants.
The one thing we didn’t have to carry were wooden dildos for special demonstration of condom use- that one stayed in the I Choose Life (ICL) office. Picture this, I’m looking for lip balm during my Comparative Politics class and the damn thing falls and rolls all the way to the lecturer’s feet. He lifts it up, the entire class is in ripples, then he asks_________jaza pengo hapo.
So the ABC of this story is that at 21 I had no idea what P2 was and at 22 I was a guru in matters sex education teaching college guys how to put on condoms et al.
So excuse me for asking what a fifteen year old wants a condom for... for what? For who? For when? For where?
They all need to take a chill pill no pun intended. At 22, maybe I was a little bit slow than most but these teens need to get to 20 before they make such audacious demands.
At 15, they need to be figuring out physics, chemistry, biology and hesabu which in high school is a killer and the biggest threat to attaining higher education. They need to be mapping out how they are going to work fancy jobs at 20 as social media managers and take cruises around Indian Ocean and holidays in Seychelles and the Maldives.
With the internet, social media, project X and stupid games like BWC it’s going be hard. Parents, what to do? crowd those kids with so much responsibility? – read education, chores and more chores. Ban the TV and phone if you have to. Irresponsible behavior is a red zone at 15. Corporal punishment is banned but home thwaking is still admissible. Well, that’s the easy route.
The hard and more necessary action plan is to crowd the social media, mainstream media with so much content that directly and candidly addresses all matters sex. Also, teach the damn sex lessons in schools - properly, make them exciting and interactive. If teachers are finding a little bit too touch hire consultants. Trainers at ICL need to approve that part of the curriculum!
Again I ask, Condoms for what?