Monday, 31 October 2011

Embarrassed? Moi?

I was out and about today in the chemist buying soap, deodorant, the usual stuff, and noticed the euphemisms for products that should endorse 'Embarrassing Bodies' on TV. I wondered why they didn't have an 'embarrassing aisle' that you could head to. It would be easier to locate the products you needed. And they could have environmentally friendly paper bags to put over your head, holes cut out for vision, so nobody would know who you were. Couldn't have plastic of course, not just for the sake of the environment but for safety reasons - asphixiated while looking for Athlete's Foot cream would be tragic.

According to this article in Glamour, the following are: 

The 10 Most Embarrassing Things to Buy at a Drugstore

Buying tampons from a male drugstore clerk used to embarrass me, but not so much anymore. Tampons are a fact of life. But, somehow, buying any of the following very personal and revealing items, could be a tad cringe-worthy...
Maxi pads (especially the super-duper, almost-a-diaper variety you have to wear after having a baby)
2. Anything "anti-fungal"
3. Wart medicine
4. Condoms and lubricant
5. Yeast infection medicine
6. Pregnancy tests (you know the clerk is looking at you like, "is she, or isn't she?")
7. Personal wipes (because you're announcing to the world that "toilet paper isn't enough to clean this business.")
8. Prescription-strength deodorant
9. Lice shampoo (set it on the counter and watch everyone around you take a big step back)
10. Anti-stink foot powder

I'm not sure I totally agree with this list. There are things on it that are mortifying - often classified under 'feminine hygiene' - but some aren't too bad. Condoms at least show you are attractive enough to have a sex life. That's good isn't it? Pregnancy test ... well, I wouldn't care unless it was the local chemist who knows me and would start staring at my belly every time I went in. Maxi pads - after you've had a baby you tend to lose any dignity in that area and so these things really don't cause much concern. I'd be cringing if I had to buy Tena Lady at my age because there's no excuse for not keeping up my Kegels.

Interestingly they haven't put things like constipation medicine. I remember, a week after giving birth, going to Boots to ask what I could take to speed things along pleasantly and painlessly. I muttered my problem in front of the Indian chemist who obviously didn't think constipation was a humiliating condition at all, and proceeded to discuss options at full volume.

- 'Have you tried okra, madame?'
- 'Er, no. Can't stand the stuff.'
- 'It is a traditional remedy in my culture. It is very good for constipation!'
- 'Oh.'
- 'Are you getting enough fibre? Lack of fibre is a main cause of constipation, you know!'

At this point, the queue forming behind me did take a visible step back, in unison. I felt my face flushing very red and I started to sweat.

- 'I do eat enough fibre. I just can't ... go'
- 'Well you must try some natural senna. It is very good for getting things moving again!'

I agreed hastily, shoved the packet in my bag and raced out of the shop... as a breast pad fell out at my feet. I've never asked for advice on personal matters again at a chemist although now I see they have special cubicles where you can divulge your problems in private.

You can of course buy things online and some chemists have a useful link to embarrassing problems. Great - except these problems tend to be acute and you need relief in hours, not days. And I am damned if I am going to pay express 24-hour delivery for a packet of Cystitis powder. Then there's the recommendations that come through via email. If the website is like Amazon, it might remember your purchase and then send you an email 'Selected especially for you from your favourites!' - with a list of anti-fungal medicines. Nice.

The other oddity is the naming of these things. Why, for example, do they put a twee sign for 'feminine hygiene' above a section including sanitary towels, tampons and 'feminine wipes' but they then call something for piles 'Anusol'? Where's the logic in that? And why are women meant to be wearing barely-there underwear and rollerblading in hotpants when they have their period - because if they wear the latest silky towel they will feel beautiful - when no one dares to suggest to haemorrhoid sufferers that they should go space-hopper racing?

Bodies and their products are funny things. Perhaps if we took the euphemisms away we'd all feel happier and less worried that one problem was worse than another. Until then, I'll send my husband out for the shopping...

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