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How to Buy Condoms: A Girl's Guide

8 things you need to know before your next rubber run.

Photo: Thinkstock / The Nest

1. Plan ahead
Don’t wait until you need ’em. There’s nothing lamer than being forced to hit pause on a hot-’n’-heavy sesh in order to dash out to the nearest drugstore for a love glove. It’s hard to maintain your dignity (or your arousal) when it’s 2 a.m., you’ve got third-degree bedhead, a hastily thrown-together outfit (are those his pants?), and condoms are the only thing you’re buying (or charging, since you forgot cash). To save yourself the humiliation (and buzzkill) next time, start thinking of condoms as the household staple they actually are, and refresh your supply before it runs dry.

2. Shop proud
When you do go to stock up -- in broad daylight, no less -- here’s how to avoid the shop of shame: Wind up browsing the rack alongside some awkward guy? Don't just grab whatever’s at eye level and dash out. Instead, smile and stand your ground. While you definitely don’t want to be the creepy, overly friendly woman in the condom aisle, you do want to broadcast the “hey, we're all adults here” vibe. Just pretend it’s cereal, and peruse until you find your lucky charms; then grab ’em and head to the cash register. And even if the woman ringing you up bears an uncanny resemblance to Grandma, hold your head high, make eye contact, and politely thank her for your change.

3. Broaden your horizons
The drugstore isn’t your only option. Those adult stores (aka sex shops) aren’t just good for bachelorette party goodie bags and crazy sex toys; many of them are pretty upscale. Plus, the salespeople are well versed when it comes to their wares, so they can give you the nitty-gritty on things like fit and feel. Be bold; ask questions. We promise they won’t snicker (come on, condoms are G-rated for these guys). Want to find out more about ribbing or order a box of mint-flavored condoms without having to look anyone in the eye? Good news: You can browse from the privacy of your own pad. Online shops stock hard-to-find brands and offer helpful extras like free shipping and customer reviews (which is slightly odd, but hey, it’s good intel).

4. Know that size matters
Think he’ll be flattered that you bought a box of Magnums (the XLs of the condom world), even though you both know he’s more of a small…or medium, at best? Think again. There’s nothing less flattering (or safe) than a baggy condom. You might as well punch the guy right in the ego. He wants to be reminded that he’s not Magnum material about as much as you’d enjoy being reminded that you’re not size-two material. Like jeans, when it comes to condoms, the right fit is key. So put those giant things down -- and if he’s not quite the standard Trojan size either, specialty shops (see # 3) sell a great selection of more “fitted” brands.

5. Look out for #1
Remember: It’s not just about him. He may wear the darn thing, but it’s going inside you. So go ahead and choose a style that caters to your wants and needs. Allergic to latex? Sensitive to spermicide? No problem. Prefer a little ribbing? You got it. By taking condom duty into your own hands, you can sidestep any irritations or annoyances that, let’s be serious, probably aren’t on your guy’s radar.

6. Avoid gimmicks
Hey, they call them impulse buys for a reason. While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a handful of novelty condoms for fun (think: glow-in-the-dark, studded or flavored), you’re not running a carnival in your bedroom (we don’t think). Chances are, your guy will probably prefer a more basic model, at least for regular use. So snag a few with all the bells and whistles if you want to try them out, but come home with something plain and simple too. And definitely leave anything that might upstage the main event at the store (read: no need to cover his man piece in the American flag).

7. Mind the box
It’s not just mindless marketing (we swear) -- some condoms really do tackle special “issues,” so reading the label is crucial. Case in point: Extended Pleasure means there’s a touch of mild numbing cream inside the tip to help prolong things. While that may sound great to you, some guys have trouble reaching the finish line when wearing a love glove, so this guy could backfire (or should we say, fail to fire?). On the other end of the spectrum, ultra-thin sensitive condoms were designed to combat loss of sensation (a common complaint among condom-wearing dudes). But if he’s quick with the trigger, more sensation is probably the last thing he needs. The point: Taking a sec to read the fine print could pay big dividends in the sack.

8. Go big or go home
Sorry, we’re still serious about staying away from the Magnums (unless you’re one lucky girl). We mean buy in bulk. Unlike, say purchasing a 40-pack of TP at Costco (which, while practical, is still weirdly depressing), picking up a jumbo box of condoms sends a positive message. (Think: I plan to have sex with you many, many times.) Trust us, he’ll appreciate the gesture.

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-- Hallie Goodman

See More: Love & Sex , Sex Q&A