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I recently saw an ad for Emu oil on television. It apparently is used for treating the aches and pains from arthritis. You rub it in and, supposedly, like magic, the pain is gone. But it’s the punch line that I love: ‘and it doesn’t stink’.

Well, I argue, if it doesn’t stink, of what possible use can it be? I love a good stinky remedy. Like Vicks. When I have a cold, it’s the best, most soothing, comforting thing I can find. There is truly nothing as delightful as slathering it on your chest and hunkering down under the bed covers, cocooning yourself in the warmth and aroma. It probably doesn’t do much for one’s spouse since it engulfs anything within a thirty-foot radius, but that’s of minor concern when you’ve got a cold. Actually, when I was still married and had dreadful colds, I would simply move to another room to sleep so I could wallow in my stinky cocoon alone. To be fair, I suspect that helped the marriage last into its third decade rather than imploding after a few years. I suppose, conversely, if one wanted to end things sooner, one could list Vicks as an ‘irreconcilable difference’.

For years, since she first began to use Chinese acupuncture as an arthritis remedy, Gill has also used something called ‘Plaster for Bruise’. It is available though our acupuncturist or at the Chinese grocery store. It is a strip of medicinal we-know-not-what, sticky on one side, that you cut in suitable lengths and slap on your aching parts. (Caution must be used on deciding WHICH parts, as it hurts when ripped off and could take some delicate skin with it.) By the next morning, your back (or whatever) feels wonderful. While it is superior to drugs with labels that warn you ‘not to operate heavy equipment’ or may cause your head to spin and fall off, or give you cancer, it has certain drawbacks. First and foremost of these is that you must cancel all social engagements (even trips to the grocery store) for days after its use. It stinks to high heaven. In a nice way, but it is something of an acquired taste, as it were. People smell you before they see you. Then come the comments: “Oh, that poor little old lady.” You could be in your thirties (as Gill and L’il Sis know well), but the plaster screams ‘old person’. It smells like every nursing home you’ve ever been in…okay, minus the urine overtones. And it lasts. Even when you scrub it off, it seems to emanate from your pores. I’m only guessing what it does to the marriage bed.

Last week, my back was sore. Having ingested the maximum daily dose of Tylenol (who’s kidding whom…I was well over the max. My theory(as one who suffered from debilitating migraines) is often, if two is good, six is better and eight is fabulous!), I opened the little can of magic plaster, cut myself some and slapped it on my back. I had just settled myself in bed when L’il Sis popped her head in my room.

“Oh, it’s one of THOSE nights,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked in what I will candidly admit was a cranky retort.

“Mom, I can smell you downstairs. And I’m cooking something with a lot of garlic.”

I was slightly miffed at her comment. The house often reeks with garlic and something hippie-ish called Tempeh that she bakes in the oven. I’m sure it tastes delightful (!) but it permeates the house. But have I complained? I have not. So for her to make comments on my personal stink hurts. And I don’t say anything when SHE uses the plaster.

I recently read a novel in which the main character, a woman, develops an addiction to narcotic painkillers. She manages to function as a wife, mother, and worker…until she doesn’t. The main benefit of Plaster is that you couldn’t hide your addiction to it. Everyone would smell your dirty little secret.

Which makes me think: I may have just solved the whole pain/addiction thing. Make pills smell like old people and that will turn everyone off the habit. Genius!