Monday, May 20, 2013

Charades Gone Bad

Only a few more hours until I leave for the airport. You won't hear from me for at least a week, so I'm leaving you with something memorable. Male readers, if you are the sort who is discomfited by talk of girl parts and the occasional problems associated therewith, you might want to skip this one.

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Who knew that pantomime could be both so useful and so mortifying?

Twelve years ago, my husband and I took an extended September trip to Italy. The churches were stunning, the art breathtaking, and the food to die for. It was also hot. 

A few days into the trip, I began to experience a particular discomfort known to most women. I tried to deny it. I tried to wish it away. But after several days, I had a full-blown yeast infection and didn't even want to leave the hotel because I was so uncomfortable. Instead, we lay around in the air conditioning, watching an Italian-dubbed version of Bride of Chucky.

We had more than a week left in the trip, and the situation was untenable. One can only watch so much La Sposa di Chucky, so I went off in search of a pharmacy.

I found the pharmacy, I found the feminine products, but I found no Monistat. I wandered around the store desperately, checking every shelf, but if it wasn't with the Vagisil it wasn't there. Cue rising panic.

Back then, Monistat had only recently become an over-the-counter medication in the states. I feared that I wouldn't be able to get any without a prescription, and then what was I going to do?

Trying to control my emotions and hovering in that ghastly between-itchy-and-painful stage, I approached the pharmacist and asked for some Monistat. She didn't speak English. Didn't. Speak. English. Perfectly reasonable, given that she was an Italian pharmacist, but I don't speak Italian. Houston, we have a problem.

How do you, without language, explain that you have a yeast infection? That's right--you pantomime. Dear God.

As if I were playing the world's worst game of charades, I scratched the upper part of my arm to demonstrate itch. OK, not too bad. But I also needed to explain just where the itch was. So I alternated between scratching my arm and pointing to...pointing to...well, pointing to the itchy part. 

Hoping to end the vulgar game of charades immediately, the pharmacist pulled out an Italian-English dictionary. OK, now we were getting somewhere. But what words to translate? 

I brainstormed a minute, leafed through the dictionary, and came up with infiammazione. Inflammation. Medical and descriptive.  Perfect.

All I needed to do was tell her where the inflammation was. Flip, flip, flip. The Italian word for vagina is...vagina! But I didn't know how to pronounce it. After the display I'd already put on, I couldn't bear to mispronounce it, so I turned the dictionary toward the pharmacist and pointed to the word vagina.

Was this ever going to end?

The pharmacist nodded, walked to the back, and returned bearing a questioning look and the most beautiful box of Monistat I had ever seen. I did not need a prescription. Flustered, I must have shot the horrified pharmacist about forty-seven overly grateful grazies.

And that, my friends, is why packing for my upcoming international travel looked like this.

medicine bottles

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