The Contest – J. Staff
Summertime, I’m living at a friend’s house – he has two brothers and his mother loves me like the daughter she always wanted, so I can do no wrong in her eyes. Which means I can party all I like, as long as I’m up in time for work in the morning. My friends and I are ordering our first round of vodka coolers at Corley’s Bar and Grill most nights by 8pm. I am the youngest among our group of friends, also the wildest, and incidentally the only one still underage. Thankfully, it’s never an issue, I know all the door staff and never get asked for ID. If there’s a new bouncer, I sneak round the back as I know all the guys working in the kitchen – convenient, as they can simply let me in the back door.
My girl-gang is an eclectic group, with not much in common apart from a shared penchant for socialising at Corley’s. Cara* is a hairdresser at a trendy salon in the city centre – a classic extrovert and hilariously sarcastic. Angie is her slightly younger sister, quiet, sensible and conservative, she has perfect hair and never gets lipstick on her teeth. Sherrie is personal assistant to the CEO of a big local company and also the oldest, calmest and wisest. She’s a mother hen to the rest of us, frequently tasked with making sure I get home safely when I’m too drunk to make sure myself. The guys in our circle are mostly boys we grew up with or just know from hanging out at the bar. Summer is one big, hot party; these are halcyon days and life is sizzling.
Tonight, we are onto our third cocktail, beginning to lose count and things are descending into the usual comedy, as we contemplate ordering some food, while flirting with the guys in exchange for the next round of shooters. There’s a promotion on at the bar with a giveaway – free t-shirts from one of the liquor companies. Simon, the bar manager announces a contest. I don’t know if we look interested or Simon just “volunteers” us, but suddenly, Cara, Sherrie and I find ourselves on the now-empty dance floor near the bar awaiting further instruction, having unknowingly entered the mystery contest. Angie, shy and sober as usual, hangs back at our table looking amused.
Any potential anxiety is quelled by drinks we’ve consumed; we are blindfolded before the contest is announced. At this point, I begin feeling less intrigued and slightly ambivalent. Young, a tad reckless and rather drunk, I’m in a busy bar now wearing a blindfold. I suddenly feel an anxious wave wash over me as the vulnerability of my circumstances comes into sharp focus for a halting moment….
But there’s a t-shirt at stake here.
Oh, come on. Let’s be honest, I would hastily join in and attack any challenge presented to me with fervour even just to win a handful of jellybeans – the prize is not the pull for me. It is all about the winning, which prevents me from taking off the blindfold and backing out on the spot.
The suspense builds as the music is turned down and everybody gathers near the dance floor, jostling for a good view, where Cara, Sherrie and I are lined up, blindfolded, giggling self-consciously. Damn. There really is no turning back now. Hearing Simon clear his throat to announce the rules, I take a deep breath, stand tall and thrust my shoulders back a little, feigning “confident” to conceal my skyrocketing trepidation.
Our mission: A race.
We will each be handed an empty glass beer bottle and a condom. On Simon’s count of three, we have to open the condom packet, without damaging the contents, and get it safely and securely onto the beer bottle, without tearing it. As fast as we can. Blindfolded.
She who completes the task first, wins.
I feel positive and hopeful, despite having no prior experience of having ever done such a thing before, blindfolded – open a condom packet, and safely roll the condom onto a beer bottle without tearing it, in front of a lively audience, while intoxicated. And seriously, how realistic is that?
But the voice in my head is screaming “You have to win” so loud, I decide it’s worth my best effort.
We wait; tension mounting; and on Simon’s count of three, I feel a surge of adrenaline flood my bloodstream as we are handed our equipment. Like the iconic scene in Chariots of Fire, my senses block out everything as I focus on my goal. In a matter of mere seconds – less than ten and probably nearer to five – as it’s barely begun, it is all over. The contest ends abruptly as a winner is declared and the crowd cheers and whistles: I WON! I am, of course, ecstatic with the victory.
Having taken off our blindfolds, I now see Cara and Sherrie standing there staring, open-mouthed, bewildered at my accomplishment, having barely even succeeded in opening their packaging. Despite having consumed several strawberry daiquiris, with shooters in between, I have managed to competently open the package, get the condom out and deftly roll it onto the beer bottle, all without splitting it. All this while blindfolded, with lightening speed and sharp skill. As one might expect, it is my skill level which is now in the spotlight. Feeling my alcohol levels miraculously recede in the moment, I am soberingly aware of what this now looks like to my friends and the rest of the bar patrons, many of them guys we hang out with at Corley’s most nights.
Despite having just essentially portrayed myself as a total sex kitten in front of a whole bar full of people, in reality, I don’t really have any more or less practice at this activity than either of my friends, especially while blindfolded. My victory was purely down to my intent to win, which was driven by the large quantities of adrenaline coursing through my veins as the thrill of competition took over.
Decades later, I will still remember that evening and the ribbing I had to tolerate for many weeks that summer as my disappointed and shown-up friends licked their wounded pride by passing bitchy judgements about my alleged sexual exploits, which no matter how outlandish, my attempts to refute would be futile. Amazingly, embarrassing as the allegations were, I still look back on that night with a contented smile. Because aside from the fact that the entire bar saw me race two older girls to get a condom onto a rigid object with Olympic speed, while blindfolded, the prevailing memory of the Condom-on-a-Beer-Bottle Contest still remains:
I won – and we all know winning rocks.
*Names have graciously been changed to protect identity of those with less speed and dexterity