Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘embarrassment’ Category

A Pharmacy Nightmare: 1980s Contraception

file000848108305So, there I was, standing in the bright Alabama sunshine, sweating enough with heat and nerves to have my tee shirt cling to my chest, clutching the two prescriptions in my hand. I was an adult. Taking care of myself. A sexually responsible person.

“Get in the car,” Mom said.

I got in the car, and we tootled off to Eckerd’s pharmacy. Eckerd’s was a large drug store next to the biggest grocery store in Mobile, Skaggs Albertson’s. Everybody did their shopping Saturday morning at Albertson’s. Everybody picked up their prescriptions Saturday morning at Eckerd’s. We parked seemingly miles away and hiked to the drug store. I felt gooey all under, flustered and untidy next to Mom’s powdered and polished exterior.


Shoppers packed the store. By the front door, the cash register and the pharmacy counter used the same queue. I had a moment of panic. The 1980s was the time before privacy laws and barriers to semi-shield you in your discussions with the pharmacist. Mom had a smug smile on her face. I inched closer to her side.

“Mama?” I said.

“You’re a big girl now. Get in line and drop off your prescriptions,” she said moving to the aisle with hair curlers. Mom had great cotton-candy hair – always fluffy in a controlled Brigit Bardot bed head swirl.

Shaking enough to start sweating again in the meat-locker chilly air of the store, I waited for my time at the counter. Handing over my prescriptions, I kept my eyes down and mumbled something. The pharmacist smoothed out the wrinkles of the prescription sheets.

“These are for you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said raising my eyes to him.

We stood looking at each other across the counter.

“I’ll call you when they’re ready.”

I wandered back to the hair section where Mom hugged me.

“See, that wasn’t so bad,” she said.


Half an hour later, my heart rate had returned to normal. I didn’t blush every time I ran into a student or teacher from my old high school or the Catholic college I attended or an acquaintance from synagogue. I had begun to feel chilled from the wet shirt and had run out of things to look at in the hair section. On the way to the magazine rack in the back corner of the store, I heard a thump on the PA system. Another thump, then the booming voice of the pharmacist permeated every corner of the store.

“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. We have your size diaphragm in stock.”

Shoppers stopped speaking and looked around.

The pharmacist repeated, “Trudi Young, we have your diaphragm, please come to the pharmacy counter to pick it up.”

I turned to mother who burst into laughter. Not her most empathic moment. Mom handed me a couple of twenties. “Go on now, pick up your diaphragm,” she said giving me a little push.

Hurrying to the pick-up counter, I passed a bunch of pimply-faced boys who nudged each other and one open-mouthed girl from chemistry lab. I had almost run the gauntlet when the PA system thumped again.

“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. The spermicide for your diaphragm, Nonoxynol-9, is found in aisle five.”

Sweat dripped down the sides of my bright red face. If the earth could have swallowed me at that second, I would have been grateful.

The smiling pharmacist lay the small paper bag on the counter. I handed over the money stone-faced, stuffed the contraceptive into my purse, then high-tailed it over to aisle five. Through a mist of tears, I examined the array of spermicides in their garish boxes and squeezed my eyes shut. These were the days before waterproof make-up. When I peeked from between my fingers, a hand was holding out a pink and white box of Gynol II. The hand belonged to one of my teachers from college.

“I hope he’s worth it,” she said.

“I do too.”

“Anyway, see you in class Monday,” she said turning away.

Mom walked up to me. “Who was that?”

“Uh. My teacher.”

“What does she teach?”

“Biology,” I said, and both of us laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

Mom wiped away the mascara smudges then kissed my cheek. “You did a good job,” she said.


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Half Waxed


Over a decade ago, swayed by peer pressure, I tried bikini waxing for the first time. My friend warned me to go to a salon for the service. Being cheap and overestimating my smarts, I thought I would try it at home.

“Do you think that’s wise?” she said.

“Can’t be that difficult. They sell kits at the drug store,” I said blithely.

Bad, very bad idea. The drug store and their waxing kits lied.  I have managed to give myself a concussion and melt my underwear to the left side of my crotch. Here’s my story:

After perusing the personal products aisle of the drug store for an hour, I went to the counter for some help.  “What product would you suggest for home waxing?”

The woman’s penciled eyebrows lifted three inches.  “How much pain can you endure?”  That’s such a bad question.

“Uh, I’m not a total wimp”.  Then a client beeped me.  So I may have missed some vital information.  The phone call took some time and when it was finished, the woman was helping other customers – customers who were buying gum, newspapers, and magazines.  No waxing products.  So off to the personal products aisle again.  I picked up the most expensive waxing kit thinking this is no time to skimp.

Following the kit’s instructions, I laid out a brownie pan, plastic gloves, the block of wax, scissors, a wooden spoon, two ice packs and my contribution to the process, a small glass of Scotch for the pain.  Some of the instructions were baffling.  I put on a favorite pair of green bikinis because I wanted a clean line for the finished product.  (Note to anyone — never wear polyester undies while waxing – the reason will become apparent later).  As directed, I melted the wax in the brownie pan using the wooden spoon.  The dogs laid their heads to one side before starting a low baying sound.  I poured some wax on the right side of my crotch and then on the left side before the pain registered.  I screamed.  The animals jumped back barking.  (Another note to anyone — always test the temperature of the wax before applying.)

From pubic bone to mid thigh was bright red. There was an interesting smell.  My skin was disintegrating.  One layer of skin, maybe two.  Definitely first degree burns.  Hoping to avoid the second degree blistering, I quickly yanked off the wax from the right side.  Immediately I passed out from the pain.  The best I can tell, I hit my head on the counter on the way down.  I woke into painful consciousness, stars buzzing around my head like in a Looney Tunes Cartoon, lying curled in the fetal position on the kitchen floor.  The two dogs and the cat were looking at me with these quizzical expressions of “should we eat her now?”

By that time, the underwear on my left side had melted to my crotch.  (Polyester melts in hot wax — very important note.)  Holding the counter for support, I got myself upright and chugged the glass of Scotch with two aspirin from the junk drawer. I corralled the animals, shoved them into the utility room, and closed the door.  Taking a deep breath, I yanked at the strip of wax on my left side of my crotch.  Off came a good inch of skin and melted undies.  I quickly found the ice pack and applied it while jumping around the kitchen.  The room was dark and hopefully the neighbors had not seen my personal auto-da-fe.  Now, what do I do?  The choices were dire.

First, I assessed the situation.  The right side of my crotch was a bright red field of blisters with small patches of scorched earth.  The left side looked worse.  One inch was oozing blood like partially defrosted hamburger.  A good four inches was covered with hard wax and melted spring green undies.

Second, I outlined my three options.  I could continue to self-mutilate my crotch by tearing off the fricassee of wax, undies, skin, and connective tissue.  I’m not sure I had the fortitude for such an option.  I could call Barbara and after she stopped laughing, she could help we with the left side.  This could be embarrassing as I conjured up the image of us tugging at my crotch.  That left option number three.  I could cut off as much of the melted wax – undies – skin – connective tissue combo as possible with my old dissecting scissors, apply burn balm, and cover the wound with a dressing then go to bed.

I picked option number three, bandaged myself, and phoned my friend.

“My crotch is toast.”

“We must have a bad connection. You’re eating toast? What about your crotch?”

“No. No. In the process of home waxing I learned some important life lessons.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What did you learn?”

“Waxing is rocket science and should be left to the professionals. And. One should never wax with animals nearby.”

“Did they bite?”

“No but I think they were trying to decide if I was dead. Oh and never, ever overheat your polyester undies.  They will melt.”

“Should I call the paramedics?”

“Nah. Off to apply more ice. Stop laughing.  It’s not funny.”

“You’re a mess.” My friend hung up. I hear her laughter every time I shudder past the personal products aisle in a drug store.


Nude Ice Dancing and Artistic Revelation

Skaters' Legs

It was another one of those days. I thought, “Don’t look below the neck.” So I kept my eyes raised. Then, as happened at the last photography shoot, my silly attempts at professionalism didn’t matter.

On this second shoot for “69 Scheimpflug Street” we had sinfully beautiful models. Models with bodies marked by the events of their lives. There was some initial embarrassment on my part, some hesitancy on theirs. After their shucking of clothes, everyone got down to the work. The images were strong and vibrant. The models did good.

At one point in the afternoon, we thought we had all the images needed. I looked at Andrew, the artist behind the camera. He said, “Let them go.” I stepped back to look at the totality of the couple. The camera kept clicking. Then the magic happened. The work became seriously luscious and sumptuously difficult eroticism. In these moments when playfulness showed up, the images became the fantasy we were hoping for. They captured a quality that can’t be planned. We were brilliant.

Looking over the images, I had to stop myself from crying – the models revealed themselves. Then we, the planners, got playful.

“It looks like they’re ice skating,” Andrew said.

“Yeah. I think he’s about to throw her in a triple Salchow,” I said.

“We photographed nude ice dancing,” he said.

“On a sofa,” I said with a snort.

We giggled. We Photoshopped ice skating boots onto the male model. We belly-laughed so much we came close to falling off our chairs.

I keep wondering how often do we get in our own way – out of a sense of professionalism, hesitancy, or embarrassment? Do we edit out the playfulness in our lives? Do we over-plan the fantasy out of our lives?

So I didn’t plan this weekend. Lots of things happened – some good, some trying. But the weekend felt organic. I had space to move and breathe. People called up with ideas. I called with ideas. I forgot my phone at times. Events, gatherings fell into place. Responsibilities got met. The weekend was lovely and relaxing. And full but not crazy full.

This Monday morning, I feel ready, peaceful, and a little luscious. This is not to say that we don’t need some planning.

More we need a sticky-note, “Allow for a little spontaneity. Make space for the unexpected. Give yourself enough time to look and live below the neck.”

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