It’s not for my nipples
“Call me when you leave the gym,” my wife said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to have time to pick up my prescription.”
I was listening. I promise. Just not enough to ask any more details. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t remember about the request until I was halfway home. It’s been a tense eight days, what with the newborn, visiting in-laws, and straight-edge sobriety. I was happy to be getting some me time.
When I called back, my wife had been feeding Dos and had not made it to the pharmacy.
“CVS?” I asked, hoping I could slide into the pharmacy right next to our house.
“Fowlers,” the wife corrected. This pharmacy was across town in rush hour traffic. I bit my tongue.
“And what am I buying?”
It could’ve been anything.
“Nipple cream,” she said.
I’m not embarrassed to buy anything anymore.
Condoms are the iconic embarrassing purchase, aren’t they? When you think of rubbers, you think of a 1955 kid walking into Old Man Johnson’s store and trying to find a way to ask for prophylactics without wetting himself.
Me, I can’t remember buying condoms from an actual person until I was midway through college. In high school, I did what nearly every teenager did. I found a reasonable looking gas station and ponied up my two quarters in the bathroom machine. Once I hit college, I’d find a reason to go to Student Health and grab a handful of the condoms they kept in a basket on the counter. To this day, I can’t believe there wasn’t a lawsuit over Mizzou’s choice of the Lifestyles brand. I’ve always been fairly certain that Lifestyles was merely a subsidiary of the Hallmark Father’s Day card division. [Oh, and because I know my mom and wife read here, I only carried the condoms as an affectation. We all know I’ve only made love to one woman ever. And because my two kids may someday read this, of course I only had sex twice in my life].
Eventually guys learn that buying condoms in public is no big deal. Some young men even comfort themselves by thinking, “Because I’m buying these jimmy hats, people will know I’m having sex. Me man! Watch me buy rubbers!”
Kids these days can buy their condoms in bulk on the internet. The internet changed a lot, now that I think about it. Really, how many 17 year-old boys are standing in line at a convenience store trying to buy Swank or Barely Legal right now? One decent internet connection and external drive (and really, for these guys, it’s going to be external for a very long time isn’t it?) and they never have to worry about buying porn from chain-smoking grandmother in a mumu.
Sex-related purchases used to condition the young men of our consumer society. With the forced embarrassment of youth gone, it’s hard to say how the next generation of men will react when forced to go to the store for other items like tampons, Immodium AD, Tucks medicated wipes, and Depends.
Fowlers is old school.
In an age of CVS outlets popping up across the street from every Walgreens, Fowlers sticks out for its quaintness. When you walk into the little place on Laurens Rd, you expect to see a black and white man in a white coat working a mortar and pestle. I walked to the counter and gave the kid my wife’s name.
I waited next to a man who looked like he was there to put a deposit on his embalming fluid. I twirled my car keys and wondered what was so special about nipple cream that it not only required a prescription but also required a special pharmacy.
“Fowlers is one of only two compounding pharmacies in town,” my wife had explained earlier. I used contextual clues to infer that my wife thought I was stupid for not knowing this.
I don’t buy street drugs, so I have no way of knowing how nipple cream ranks up against the good stuff. That said, I have to think the kids on Phish tour could be making some nice coin selling this stuff alongside their kind veggie burritos. I mean, $40 for a container of cream the size of a film cannister? I don’t know who this Dr. Newman is, but his combination of Mupirocin Betamethascine, and miconazole is bound to be illegal sooner or later. If the kids haven’t found a way to abuse it yet, they will.
Another guy showed up at the counter. He wanted a strap to hold on his sunglasses.
“I like to ride my jet ski really fast,” he explained. It was pretty clear he was saying, “Listen, man, I’m a man. I ride personal watercraft powered by fossil fuels and I do it so fast, I might lose my sunglasses if I don’t buy this strap. That’s what I’m here for.”
The pharmacist came out and took a look up and down the counter. He took a quick peak at the nipple cream label and then scanned the customers again. Nothing he saw satisfied him. He sort of raised his chin a little bit, as if to mimic looking over the heads of all the men at the counter.
“Willis?” the pharmacist called to the back of the store.
“That’s me,” I said, and took my place in front of the cash register.
The pharmacist took one more look at me, one more look at the nipple cream, and then rang me up.
No, I’m not embarrassed to buy anything. Tell me your incontinent uncle has a yeast infection and is planning to get laid this weekend, I will go to the store and buy all his supplies. Nothing can make me squirm anymore.
I’ve never been a big fan of my nipples. No matter whether I’ve been working out for two years or on a 15-year beer bender, my nipples have always had a…well, a certain poof to them that made me a little self-conscious. In high school, I wasn’t so worried about the boys in the locker room seeing my wanker during shower time. No, I’d run from the showers like a teenage girl covering her boobs. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, really.
And, so, this guy who isn’t embarrassed to buy anything, this guy who would buy wart cream, charcoal, and Vagisil on his next grocery store trip if you asked him to, this guy who conquered nearly all his personal fears a long time ago…this guy felt the need to lean across the counter to the pharmacist and say, “It’s not for me.”
The man literally stopped what he was doing. He didn’t move his head from the cash register, but lifted his eyes up to meet mine. He paused for one second and then said quietly, “I should hope not.”