Earlier this week, President Bush addressed the nation on the State of the Union. He began his speech by telling Americans, “Every year, by law and by custom, we meet here to consider the state of the union. This year, we gather in this chamber deeply aware of decisive days that lie ahead.”

Wise words from a wise man.

The State of the Union is America’s moment of truth. It’s when plans for the year ahead are outlined, and the faith of the people is placed in the president and his administration.

All of this got me to thinking of another moment of truth — one in which, much like the State of the Union, plans are laid out, and faith is placed in the power of one man. It occurs in bedrooms across this great nation of ours and unlike the president’s speech, it is not nationally televised — though video cameras are often welcomed.

This union is between two people. I’m talking about that moment right before the filibuster when you put the condom on your caucus. That’s right — before you love her when you get out your rubber.

As the old adage goes, no love without a glove, and if you are Michael Jackson, this is doubly true. But there is perhaps no moment more awkward than the pre-sex condom application. It ranks right up there with finding your father’s extensive pornography collection or being pantsed in front of the entire eighth grade.

There is fumbling. Your inability to tear a wrapper. You’re sweating. She’s wondering what’s wrong with you. YOU’RE wondering what’s wrong with you. You hope she doesn’t change her mind and decide NOT to have sex with you. It’s a race against the clock and the clock is winning like Tampa Bay last Sunday.

In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Indiana, about one-third of American males lose their erection while reaching for protection. I don’t know what this says about American males, but a remedy for this momentary impotence needs to be discovered. And it will be. By me.

Armed with this statistic and the wise words of a friend (“There is no bigger turnoff than an STD, if a girl had one I would tape condoms to my body”), I set out hoping to discover a way to make safe sex a little more enjoyable for everyone involved.

What I found were a lot of unanswered condom questions. When it comes to condoms, the State of the Union is — puzzled.

Condom problems, I was informed, begin not in the bedroom but at the drugstore. Purchasing condoms is like buying a car: You need to decide on what features suit you (and her) best. Do you get the colored kind? Tuxedo black for a big event? A Hint of Mint? If you are in the market for a compact car, do you pretend like you’re driving a Suburban? That is to say, what size is it: a small or a Magnum?

One male replied that he chooses condoms according to name — “Rough Riders” and “Tiger Skin,” he said, make him feel like a real man.

Grrr. In the words of Duran Duran, he’s hungry like a wolf.

Once the choice is made of course, condom-buyers (typically male) find themselves, as Regis likes to say, “in the hot seat.” Except no one in this case is gonna be a millionaire. They might, on the other hand, get laid.

Buying condoms is much like purchasing beer when you’re underage: most guys like to keep it casual while they are trembling inside. Throwing down a Snickers bar or perhaps a bottle of contact solution during the purchase is the way to go. Often, fellow customers waiting in line — usually middle-aged women — shoot the culprit dirty looks. I tell men not to be scared off by such nay-sayers. As one self-congratulatory gentleman put it, “Those women should be shaking my hand and patting me on the back, not scolding me.”

Agreed. And the Oscar for Best Bonker goes to —

The fact that males are doing the condom-buying does not preclude females from storing a Trojan or two in their makeup bags. You see, having a condom around is just like circumcision: you don’t have to be Jewish to get one.

So now that we are armed with condoms, the next step is of course putting them to use, right Action Jackson? Stick it in and let the fun begin!

Not so fast — there are a few condom snags that I learned of in my research.

The worst of these instances is the case of the lonely condom. Every night, this little Trojan goes to market hoping to be put to use, and every night, this little Trojan comes home alone. The Trojan gets thrown back in a desk drawer, or might even end up in the laundry, sadly. But the one night, when the Trojan is not around, when he is left forgotten and desolate — that is the night that the Trojan is called up to the battlefield, but the Trojan is no where to be found. In the words of one unfortunate soul, “Carrying a condom jinxes my chances of getting laid.”

Um. Sorry champ. Actually, permanently smelling like the dining hall’s mushroom barley soup and Jack Daniels jinxes your chances of getting laid. Not to mention the fact that the only time you’ll buy me a drink is penny night at Toad’s. Guess what stud, poverty is synonymous with abstinence.

If chance is on your side and you do end up tappin’ that ass late one night to the sweet sounds of the “Braveheart” soundtrack, know in your heart that this is a time to be brave. Do not let panic take over; instead, breathe easy as you unwrap a smile. As far as the ladies are concerned, in that moment of condom truth when semipermanent impotence looms large, I have been told that several things may spur on the fun. A nice way to keep that woody firm is to volunteer to put the condom on for him — after all, there’s no “I” in “team.” I have also been told that nice girls masturbate (for his pleasure) during the procedure. Just remember that every time you masturbate, you kill a kitten. Please — remember the kittens.

In all of my research, I found a great number of nervous men, most with very futuristic condom ideas. The “Flip and Zip” condom was suggested, which will employ a zipper while the “Self-Propelling Roll-On” condom idea was a popular favorite. There was even a suggestion for a condom machine that would coat your member with a condom much in the same way corndogs are well, corned.

Finally, there were several bits of wisdom I just couldn’t help but include — the most practical male I spoke with suggested to “put on a condom before you go out, you know, to save yourself the trouble, just in case.” Just in case what? You ejaculate on yourself? The thriftiest of all said — “Rinse and reusing is not a good idea but it IS a way to save money.” So are food stamps.

And finally, the sensitive soul of the bunch — a major safe sex advocate — remarked that using condoms was great, because in the end, “Throwing away the condom is a good way to get out of cuddling.”

In the end, what I found is that condom application takes a little ingenuity, a little dexterity, and a little bit of love. So to the men of Yale, I say: stay hard. To the women: stay patient. And to everyone together: stay safe.

Natalie Krinsky is back and better than ever.