Sure, married people live longer...but so do house cats.

-Bill Maher

As God is my witness, I'll never buy condoms again.

Do we all agree it's healthy and responsible, yes? But the purchase of them is to all fledgling involvements what kryptonite is to Superman (i.e., you'll never see the two in the same room).

I should've learned my lesson a few years back when I bought the Economy-Size 36 pack (on sale at Walgreen in the convenient "family-size" which might be more accurately dubbed "the anti-family size.")

At that point of purchase, I was happily and monogamously (on my part) involved with someone who then promptly dumped me for some big haired Pop Tart-and there the Econo-Pak mocked me from my nightstand, where it sat, like a ticking time bomb, until the remaining 33 expired.


Clearly, I was cursed. The label may have said Ramses, but it should've read Kenahora.

I thought I was at least on the right track recently when I didn't set out to buy them-I merely made an impromptu decision to pick some up during my Sunday morning grocery shopping; an impulse buy (I rationalized) probably wouldn't have a jinx factor.

Bolstering my false bravado, I already had a cart packed full of perfectly wholesome fare (avocados, Life Cereal, butter, milk, key limes, the new InStyle with Kate Hudson on the cover, Krispy Kremes, cucumbers....Yes, a single woman can buy wholesome cucumbers; they were for GAZPACHO, so get your minds outta the gutter).

I figured this cornucopia of camouflage made the embarrassment factor negligible-and would cut down on the humiliating spectacle of mothers who might draw their children closer to them, averting their eyes from the proverbial Whore of Babylon...normally never seen during daylight hours.

Then I got lost.

The feminine hygiene aisle seemed a likely place to start, but Nope. False alarm. On closer inspection-nothing but Monistat as far as the eye could see....which I stared at so long, perplexed, that fellow shoppers started making a really wide berth around me.

I darted off just as one of the stock boys approached-he'd been so nice and helpful earlier when I couldn't find the unsalted butter on my shopping list-that I didn't have the guts to send him off in search of something personal. (Though for all he knew, I guess the butter could've had a personal use too. My new soccer-team neighbors have recently added a Slip 'n Slide to our street, for example, and it's possible I'd offered to pick up lubricant on their behalf.)

The pharmacy seemed the next logical choice, but again, No Dice. Lots of cold and flu remedies. Painkillers. Ointments. Enemas. And so on. One of my girlfriends volunteered later that they were probably underneath the counter, behind the gate that's LOCKED when the Pharmacy's closed. How stupid is that? It's a 24-hour store for Pete's sake. And of all the things you might need access to on a 24-hour basis, I think everyone agrees that condoms rank somewhere above Centrum Silver.

I really wasn't in any dire need for this product in the first place, but by now, I was down to the principle of the thing, and I was on a quest. Determined to succeed in what had now become a mission (and a certifiable hex).

I bought all my groceries and drove straight over to the nearby drugstore, which was just barely open.

So of course, the entire store was manned by one employee at that early hour: a sweet, elderly woman, who was 73 if she was a day.

I wandered around nonchalantly for a few minutes; lingered over some candles and picnic supplies and a few coconut monkeys; before casually ambling up to the drug counter and tipping a modest, suitably pessimistic 3-pack of Lifestyles into the gaping maw of my empty basket.

At the checkout, maybe it was my imagination, but all I could hear was her disappointed tone of reproach, "why aren't you at church?" or maybe "you should go home and put on a bra, Missy!"

Though all she really said was, "and your change is $4.12; have a nice Sunday honey."

Still, I think we ALL KNOW what she MEANT by that.

Worse still: all that, for nothing.

Of all the prospects I had-and there were several going into the weekend-now there are none.

Admittedly, I ruled one out when he picked me up for dinner wearing a necklace. Yeah, it was some sort of religious artifact (and it happened to even be my religion), but men and jewelry don't mix. The only exceptions are Medic-Alert bracelets which let the paramedics know your allergies and any life-threatening conditions (and even those are iffy-a REAL man would never allow a little anaphylactic shock interfere with his sartorial choices; a real man would just have the info tattooed someplace subtle).

At any rate, all contenders have disappeared in a variety of ways, some subtly, some abruptly. But much like Miranda on Sex and the City, no one has to drop a safe on my head. I know when a guy just isn't into me. I may not take rejection well (no Big Talks please), but I can SURE as hell take a hint.

And it's all good.

There are no more vacancies in FriendshipLand, and mercifully, I'm many devout years and exits away from the hustle and bustle of Marriageopolis.

If the off-ramp to HibbityDibbityVille is temporarily blocked, I feel sure there'll soon be a break in the traffic, and we can all merge right back onto the sexpressway. According to the expiration date on the box, I have until December of 2005.