BESSLER: Nearly condom queen

In the span of my first three weeks at Yale, I was politely but decidedly rejected from two a cappella ensembles, one folk group and the Jonathan Edwards buttery staff. But none hit as hard as the demoralizing email I got last week. I had failed in my bid for JE Condom Monarch.

Two weeks ago, I got an email about paid positions hired by the JE College Council to maintain the college’s facilities. I scrolled down. There, spelled out in Gmail typeset, was my destiny: “Condom Monarch.”

The job’s duties were extensively described. First, get bags of condoms from Yale Health. Then, distribute said condoms to JE and McClellan entryways. The email cautioned to “refill often.”

There were two spots, each paying $150 per semester. I decided to apply. It wasn’t just the money; it was the title. I wouldn’t just be a condom carrier — I’d be a queen.

I imagined for myself a glistening crown and a regal velvet robe. My loyal subjects would kneel humbly at my feet. My nation would be sovereign, mighty and 100 percent STD-free.

All I needed was a fellow monarch — after all, carrying around a bunch of condoms every week with a total stranger didn’t sound like much fun. The email suggested one monarch be a Community Health Educator, so I immediately thought of my suitemate Joyce, who had just gotten into the program. When I read her the job description, she immediately burst out laughing.

I don’t know how I managed to inveigle Joyce into joining my quest for the throne, but we hatched a plan to apply as a team. The email asked applicants to give a “vision” for the position, so naturally we drafted two replies with the gravity of a formal internship application. I wrote about my passion for community service. Joyce may or may not have mentioned “checking for air bubbles” in the condoms.

A week later, the word came back from JECC: there were an unprecedented number of “qualified applicants” so the council would narrow us down based on our emailed statements to determine who would get an interview. We would find out in a week. Welcome to Yale.

I struggled to imagine qualifications other than functioning hands and legs.

We waited anxiously. We cornered JECC freshman at lunch to make our case (though adhering to campaign ethics, we never resorted to bribery). Our freshman counselor heard us obsessing about it so much that she sent a letter of recommendation to the JECC president, titled “Condomz.” Twice that week, I introduced myself to someone in JE and was referred to as “that condom girl.”

Then, on Sept. 21, a small victory: an email saying we’d made it to the final round. We’d each be required to give a two-minute presentation on our qualifications and goals for the position in front of the JECC, followed by a Q&A period.

As Joyce and I prepared our talking points, we realized the most daunting task of all wouldn’t be the presentations themselves. It’d be making sure we could say “Condom Monarch” without dissolving into laughter. As we walked over to JE for the interviews, we repeated the phrase over and over until it lost all meaning.

When my turn arrived, I walked nervously into the master’s house and was greeted by the amused expressions of 20 JECC members. I made my speech, mentioning how I wanted to get involved in JE as a freshman since I could already tell it’d be a huge part of my college experience.

When I finished, one girl raised her hand. “So … just to clarify,” she said, “You think JE will be a big part of your college experience? Or condoms?” I struggled to find a response as the JECC let out a collective giggle.

That night, our plans came crashing down. A jovial Facebook post alerted freshmen that JECC members had decided after the interviews to just save $600 and refill the condoms themselves. In a word: heartbreak.

Joyce and I had already planned our reign. We’d joked with other freshmen about putting “Condom Monarch” on our Facebook profiles. We’d imagined our future employers scanning our resumes, only to find the title listed under the “job experience” section. And against all odds, we’d actually begun to care about the position.

But JE had risen up against its monarch and had stolen the throne. I suddenly felt a deep compassion for King Louis XVI. If this was democracy, I wanted nothing of it.

I’ve recovered since that night (faring considerably better than Louis XVI). And maybe to the relief of my parents and future employers, my extracurriculars won’t revolve around Yalies’ post-Toads tomfoolery. I won’t be Condom Monarch, but I haven’t given up hope. I’ll find another kingdom to conquer.

Abigail Bessler is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at abigail.bessler@yale.edu.

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