What Drugstore Baskets Say About Sexual Needs And Other Tales of Check-Out Counter Judgment

I can be really judgy about other people’s supermarket/drug store purchases.

For example, I once saw a man in a West Texas Walmart buy a box of bullets and a loaf of Wonder Bread. It was like Jeff Foxworthy had willed him into being.

Or I’ll watch the woman in front of me at my local supermarket check-out load up six packages of chicken feet and, like, one cucumber. I’ll think, Is she a performance artist or just someone who’s really tired of Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals?

It goes both ways, though. Like the time I ordered a box from Drugstore.com that contained nothing but pregnancy tests and plantar wart removal pads. Or the time I was standing in line at CVS and realized that all I had in my basket was a supersized jug of Drano and a combination Sleepless in Seattle/A League of Their Own DVD.

Yes, I documented the moment. It was special.

Each item by itself might have led strangers to jump to conclusions, but together they spoke volumes.

Hey!, they seem to say, We’ve run out of shower shoes at the whorehouse!

Or, Cutting off locks of my own hair to send to Tom Hanks has really done a number on my drain!

Which is why I got nervous last week when I realized I needed to buy lube.

Lube is one of those things, like condoms or Monistat, that is never not embarrassing to buy in person. I know I should be more evolved, but I cannot look a cashier in the eye after buying something intended for use on my genitalia. I haven’t bought anything in that category since becoming pregnant, which made the lube-buying expedition that much more awkward.

It wasn’t even for sex–worse, it was for “perineal massage,” which is a polite way of saying “preemptive vagina stretching.” But I couldn’t very well explain that to the aged Indian man behind the counter. No, as far as he was concerned, I was just another third trimester lady trying to get her freak-on while her bits still technically counted as an in-hole.

I think I made it worse by purchasing the KY along with a box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese. But I needed another product for decoy purposes.

Surely you understand.

About Una LaMarche

Una LaMarche blogs at The Sassy Curmudgeon, and writes for The New York Observer, The Huffington Post, and NickMom. She dominates at mini golf, especially after a few drinks, and it is a fact that Tim Gunn once complimented her on her sandals. You can find her hawking blog posts and fetishizing candy on Twitter, and if you really want to feed her ego (which took a major hit thanks to an adolescent unibrow and a penchant for Troll doll earrings), you can become her fan on Facebook.


  1. While Monistat generally can’t wait on the postal service, I find that the other items you mentioned are much easier to order online. ;-)

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      You’re so right. I just happened to be passing the drug store and figured I needed to sack up and just buy it (not to mention avoid shipping fees and the delightful dance of the missed UPS delivery attempt).

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  2. Amy says:

    I worked at 7-eleven in high school. One night a guy came in and bought condoms, a 6 pack of beer, and rolling papers. When I chuckled, “Have a /nice/ night,” I got in trouble with my manager.

    Retail was not my calling.

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      I can’t believe your manager yelled at you for that. You were just being polite (with undertones of sarcasm, sure, but it’s a 7-Eleven, not the UN). I’ve had way worse cashiers. Once I bought a pregnancy test and the teenager behind the counter asked me if I wanted a boy or a girl. What if it had been an unwanted pregnancy scare? Jerk.

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  3. Dawn says:

    I was once behind a guy in Target on a late Saturday afternoon, whose only purchases were a 3-pack of Trojans and a pack of Dentyne Ice. My guess was it was his third date and he was hoping to get lucky but didn’t want to invest in the larger pack of condoms just in case.

    • Una LaMarche says:

      Haha, nice. That’s the kind of thing I’d do, though. Maybe the gum was supposed to be a distraction. Like, Yeah, I need these condoms, aaaand—GUM! Yes, good sir, I also need gum! Which is not at all sexual.

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  4. Kali says:

    I once served my high school biology teacher (while I was still his student) for a bottle of champagne, a bunch of roses, an extra large box of condoms, lube and a double pack of Kleenex. What made it worse what the rumour that he was sleeping with my maths teacher. I never looked either of them in the eye ever again.

    • Una LaMarche says:

      Shudder, that sounds horrifying. Were you the only cashier working? If I were him I would have hid out for hours just to avoid being served by you. Or I would have gone to another store.

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      • Kali says:

        No, he was completely unashamed of his obvious sex-night purchases and even tried to make light conversation with me about homework while I rang through his items. I still cringe thinking about it.

  5. HeatherS says:

    Well of course….I’m in my late 30′s and I still can’t buy tampons without a few decoy items in my cart. Embarrassing sex stuff is for my husband to purchase late at night on his way home for work. And last Friday I got a great kick out the people behind me at the supermarket stocking up for Irene (I think) – 3 24-packs of Poland Spring water and 3 30-packs of Budweiser. No food.

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      In preparation for Irene, my husband and I got extra large bags of Swedish Fish and Reese’s Cups, but both forgot water or batteries. Priorities.

      And I should totally start making him buy condoms and lube. Men don’t feel the same embarrassment, do they? It’s probably the opposite.

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      • Abby says:

        You know, I read that and thought you said “I should totally start making my own condoms and lube.” I was like, “that’s the DIY spirit!” while thinking, I know how to make lube, but homemade condoms?

        But really, all of these things are much much cheaper and easier to get on the internet these days.

  6. Jessi says:

    Last week I bought 7 composition books, a box of tampons and a pound of butter. I can only imagine what people thought of me.

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  7. Stefanie says:

    Oh man, I get skeeved out by buying that stuff too. And I also am over anxious for the cashier, it’s not their fault they have to be exposed to personal things. When I was 16 (a very naive 16) I was working as a clerk in the pharmacy at Target and this poor dude came and asked me where the KY was, but I had no idea what KY was.

    I was mortified!

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      In my neighborhood all of the cashiers, even teenage ones, have clearly had more sexual partners than I have. They don’t bat an eyelash–that is, if they even look up from texting.

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  8. Yeah, any anti-fungal creams for nether regions should come with a mask to disguise your identity in the check out line. Awesome when you get in line with something like that and your neighbor pops up in line behind you and is like, “Hey! Stopped in to get some nail polish! What are you doing here?”

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      I know… sometimes (shamefully) I check out with the pharmacy counter if I’m buying genital-related items, since I figure the pharmacists already know the intimate details of everyone’s life (depression, erectile dysfunction, etc.)

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  9. Melissa says:

    Self checkout is a life (or embarrasment saver). In fact, I see no reason for checkout people at all. Anybody knows how to scan. Price check people, the people that take car of the store yet. But self checkout I love!

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      Good call! So far my local pharmacies do not offer self-checkout. But I am soon going to become a devotee of online shopping since I’ll be home with an infant for the fall. (Although, I still think whomever boxed up my plantar wart pads and pregnancy tests was judging me…)

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  10. I must be weird. I went shopping with my daughter at Walmart (she was 20ish) and when we walked by the condom/lube aisle I mentioned I wanted lube and a guy about her age walked across the end of the aisle several times while we were there discussing the different types. Warming? Flavored? Tingling? O_o

    Finally picked something up and left the aisle. Daughter started laughing because she figured the guy wouldn’t come get his condoms while we were standing there.

    I had no problem at the checkout, didn’t even think about it.

    I do love the self checkout

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      I think the fact that you can buy lube in front of your daughter and she doesn’t implode on the spot (especially with a guy her age in earshot) speaks to your superhuman mothering skills. Clearly you’ve passed down an unselfconsciousness about sex that is healthy for both of you!

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  11. Teri Carter says:

    When I was 17 I worked at Wal-Mart. I was buying tampons, douche, and toothpaste. The register manager was covering for me and was like looks like you are planning a fun night.

  12. buffi says:

    One night the kid at Target was giving me a funny look when I realized I was buying a bag of Hershey’s kisses, a box of Hot Tamales, Nacho Cheese Doritos, Salt & Vinegar Potato chips, a bottle of wine and a box of tampons. Yeah, they pretty much cleared the area for me…

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  13. Becki S says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one going in for perineal massage, I live in fear of obstetrical scissors!

    I’ll be going the chicken route and ordering vitamin E oil online though :D

    Yay for the dignified joys of pregnancy!!!

  14. Dee says:

    I had a similar experience but from the other side of the counter! This past June, got a job at a home improvement store. First night on the register I had 3 men purchase a hatchet, duct tape, screw driver and a roll of plastic sheeting. Then returned 2 hours later and bought 2 55-gal. trash cans! (I think they bought the screw driver to throw me off!)

  15. MamaKaren says:

    I use the self-checkout at my grocery store when I have to buy any OTC items for my nether regions (well, except tampons/pads. Those I buy when they are on sale during my regular shopping trip.)

    One time I was buying a bunch of the bulk candy to restock the candy basket at our office, and I also realized that I needed to replenish my emergency desk stash of feminine hygiene products. The only clerk on duty was a sullen teenaged/early 20s guy. He looked at my purchases and said “Guess somebody’s having a rough week.”

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    • Darbi says:

      You should have said “I’ll show you a rough week” and then bitch-slapped him. Cause snot nosed punks like that need to be taught a lesson!
      Oh, and I think the guy should have to buy the condoms and lube since I’m willing to give him a chance to use them. Anything “girl-parts” related must be purchased by me at our house and I try to just toss them in with the regular groceries.

  16. That’s the Big Man’s job. If I have to talk to a doctor, purchase the prescription, and then ingest birth control, he? Can get the…accessories.

  17. Ali says:

    umm, Sleepless in Seattle AND a League of Their Own for $5.90? bargain! go you.
    I always feel like a walking cliche when I buy tampons, chocolate and panadol (headache tablets) in the same transaction. but as with any time when I buy tampons or condoms, I pick the youngest, shyest looking male cashier and enjoy watching him try to do his job without making eye contact with me and without touching the box for any longer than necessary. they usually go bright red too. HA.

  18. Liz says:

    I once went into a home improvement store and bought a hammer and a box of screws. I laughed the whole way home about how the cashier must have thought I was this stupid girl who didn’t know the difference between nails and screws.

  19. Tracey says:

    I worked as a cashier when I was in high school. One night a classmate came in and got in line, not realizing that I was the cashier. He was buying condoms. Very awkward moment for both of us.

    Now I work as a science tech at a high school and my purchases are often quite interesting. One time I had to buy $100 worth of antacids. That one got some interesting looks from the other people in line as well as the cashier.

  20. Magz says:

    I recently went to the store and bought some pads and a 6 pack of water. The guy who checked me out asked me if I needed a bag. I said ‘YES, I don’t need the world to know what time it is.’ He then told me I should not be embarassed about being a woman. I did manage to get a bag after much discussion! But really you think I am going to carry my pads under my arm out of the store?!


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