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    Condoms and Commandments

    I dropped my nephew off at the condom distributing table of his high school the other morning. Business was brisk, as you can imagine whenever the potent combination of sex and freebies is offered to a teenager.

    Or This?

    The condom distributing table is — no sacrilege intended — a godsend for adolescents like my nephew. He’s easily embarrassed when he tries to get a condom the old fashioned way– from a pharmacist. He even blushes when he tries to buy them anonymously from a dispenser.

    He was thrilled when he heard through the hormone grapevine that some high schools across the country were distributing the little devices to students to prevent disease or unwanted pregnancies. He was, however, annoyed that he couldn’t get them when he was in first grade, as is recently happening in elementary schools in Provincetown, MS.

    His circle of friends had hoped they wouldn’t run out of adolescence before their school instituted the same policy. Sure enough, they didn’t and my nephew’s school did.

    While he pondered the virtues of lubed and ribbed models my attention turned to a nearby table that students were avoiding the way they avoid melody. A table recruiting kids for a blood drive? A petition demanding that students speak in complete sentences? A plea for school uniforms? It was none of the above. A sign indicated that this table was set up to distribute Commandments.

    Commandments! I remember those. I approached the table cautiously, concerned that if I got too close I might be accidentally baptized. “Are these the same Twelve Commandments I learned about when I was a kid?” I asked the young woman who was seated at the table. “Ten Commandments,” she corrected. “You have it confused with the Twelve Apostles.”

    Right! It all started to come back to me. Commandments were taught pretty regularly when I went to school, but thanks to the ACLU and secularists they just seemed to drop off the face of the earth. It had been a while since I thought about them and decided to take a little trip down memory lane. I asked how much they were.

    “Oh, they’re free, just like condoms,” replied Miss Eventrude, “and still in mint condition. I thought it might be worthwhile to distribute them to students to give them an idea of how a lot of people through the centuries tried to comport themselves.”

    I was impressed because I hadn’t heard the word “comport” used in a sentence since I last read Jane Austen. “Do they work?” I asked. “Will the Commandments do as good a job as a condom in protecting someone from disease or unwanted pregnancy?”

    “Oh, much better,” she said excitedly. “Condoms have an unfortunate failure rate, even if used properly. A Commandment, however, guarantees protection. And you can store them in your wallet as conveniently as you can a condom. Another virtue of Commandments,” she continued, “is that one size fits all, boys and girls. This eliminates the messy gender battles over which partner was responsible for protection in the event sex actually happens. Using Commandments means that sex won’t happen at all.”

    I was stunned at the concept’s radical simplicity. I asked if she had a particular Commandment that she usually recommended.

    “They’re all good,” she told me, “but we prefer to offer them as a package. However, we’ll do whatever it takes to distribute them widely. If we have to break up a set, we’ll break up a set. And we’re hip to modern marketing techniques.” She showed me a flyer that threw in the Golden Rule as a bonus if someone wanted all Ten Commandments.

    “What’s the most popular commandment?” I asked. Miss Eventrude didn’t hesitate. “Oh, the first: Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.” She explained that the teen world was so filled with strange gods like American Idols, Lindsay Lohan, LeBron James, any of the alphabetical rappers, Justin Beeber, Cartman or any of the Kardashians that kids were confused. The First Commandment settles the issue once and for all.

    She continued. “Most kids won’t ask for the First for fear of being ridiculed by their peers,” she said. “But I can spot First Commandment symptoms right away. The kids sort of amble up to the table, shift their weight from foot to foot, break into a cold sweat and mumble incoherently. I make it easy on them by breaking the ice and ask if they’d like a Commandment — maybe the First? — hint, hint. They shrug in that non-committal way teens have that’s so annoying and I let them have it with ‘Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.’  They usually say something like, “Cool,” and disappear before their friends see them here.”

    A sophomore named Mary (not her real name) and a friend who acted as her lookout suddenly appeared at the table to ask about a Commandment for her father. Mary explained that her mom suspected him of fooling around.

    “You want the Sixth Commandment,” Miss Eventrude replied. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “Do I, like, need, you know, like, any kind of instructions, like,  or something?” Mary asked? “No,” said Miss Eventrude. “It’s pretty straight forward.” Her friend then urgently warned her that some of their peers were approaching. Mary quickly committed the Sixth Commandment to memory and scurried off.

    “As I told you, they don’t want to be seen at the Commandment table,” Miss Eventrude said. “They think it’s hipper to hang out with the condom people.”

    Despite the caution of the clientele, business was pretty good and Miss Eventrude said she was expanding and offering a set of values along with the Commandments. “You know, things like ‘hard work,’ ‘discipline,’ ‘honesty,’ ‘respect,’ stuff like that.”

    “That’s a hard sell,” I said and Miss Eventrude agreed. She hopes to set up tables in schools across the country to hand out Commandments and values to any student who asks for them. She figures that kids are going to experiment with values whether we want them to or not. Why not give them values that’ll protect them while they’re exploring all the others.

    An angry student dashed up to the table. He explained that he wanted to kill a friend who had dissed him and had heard that the Fifth Commandment would protect him from prosecution. Eventrude chuckled at the boy’s naivete. “You’re thinking about the Fifth Amendment .  You want the Fifth Commandment – Thou Shalt Not Kill.  It will protect you, but only if you obeyed it.

    “You mean I can’t kill the dude?” he wailed forlornly? Miss Eventrude nodded. We both saw the lad’s confusion. Our culture and society encourages people to follow their feelings and this boy was feeling angry. He wanted to do something about it, but was being told he couldn’t. Which is where Commandments and values come into play.

    “Would you like the Commandment?” asked Eventrude. “I’ll think about it,” said the boy before running off. “Most kids do take the Fifth,” Eventrude said with a grin. “If he doesn’t take it now, he’ll probably be taking it in court.”

    My nephew came over to say goodbye and I tried to interest him in a couple of Commandments or maybe a few values he wouldn’t have learned about in public schools. He was game. Most kids are interested in new ideas. They just have to be made available and packaged right. Maybe a line of Value Jeans. Or Commandment make-up.

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