The Embarrassing Honeymoon Jock-itch Story
And Why it Taught Me the Single Most Important Lesson of My Copywriting Career
I don’t want my wife to murder me in my sleep, so let me be clear.
My wife did NOT give me jock-itch on our honeymoon.
I’d gotten altitude sickness a few days early. The jock-itch was likely the result of multiple bouts to the bathroom while sweating during a full days ride on a train (the Glacier Express, widely considered the most beautiful train in all of Europe. Not that I would know, I slept most of the way. Shout-out to the extremely nice Japanese couple that sat beside me. And my wife for making excuses for me the whole way.)
That’s a story for another time.
Do you know how to ask for jock-itch relief spray in German?
So, let me ask you something.
If you have a problem in a foreign country and can’t speak the language, what do you do? You find a person and act out the problem, right?
The hope is, your hand gestures get the point across. And that person will understand and provide a solution.
So how would you play this little game of charades in Austria where they speak German? Here’s how. First, grab the attention of some random stranger and say, “Sprechen ze english?” That means “Do you speak english?” in German. When they say “nine” (no, in german), you then:
1. Put your index finger up (the universal motion for, “wait one moment”), and then…
2. Violently make a scratching motion on your crotch
3. Act like you are shaking a can of jock itch spray, stop shaking, and then…
4. Wiggle your index finger like you are pressing the nozzle on said can of jock itch spray
5. Make a spraying “psssss” sound with your mouth, make a look on your face of pure pleasure, and then quickly…
6. Turn both palms upward with a quizzical look on your face making the universal “Do you know what I mean?” look
Well, you can probably guess…
This did NOT work well.
Most people responded with absolute horror. Mothers clutched their children. Grown men cowered in fear. In one small town the little old lady manning the pharmacy got her big burly husband to physically escort me out.
Of course, my wife is horrified. After all, we’re supposed to be on a grand tour of the Austrian Alps. But instead her brand new husband is basically sexually assaulting himself in front of strangers.
This goes on for two days until I finally I come across someone who speaks english.
In short order, he revealed why I was scaring everyone.
Europeans don’t use aerosol sprays. They banned them back in the 1990’s. They use creams.
And if they don’t use sprays, how can they understand the finger wiggle motion? Or the “pssss” sound I was making with my mouth?
They don’t have context for it.
In short, language was NOT the barrier. Context was.
Spray wasn’t a thing in their reality. Cream was.
That’s why everyone was horrified.
This has taught me many valuable lessons. Perhaps the most important is this:
There are LEVELS to knowledge.
That just as I understood what aerosol was much better than the average European person… the shaking, the pressing the nozzle, the spray…
And the reason why all of those things combined would make sense…
There are people out there who have an intimate understanding of things that I don’t even know exist.
And I can either try and figure those things out on my own (the hard way)… or find people that already know the answer (the easier way).
For example, after I had my back surgery and my pain came back (with an MRI proving the same disc I had surgery on bulged back out again)… I thought I was done. My life would be one back surgery after another to fix the problem.
But then I met someone who cut the pain by about 60% in under a minute.
All because he intimately understood something I didn’t even know existed.
I firmly believe I’d still be in pain today if not for that. Instead, I train jiu jitsu 3x times per week with no problems.
From this, I tackle life a much different way. I no longer use all my energy and intellect to try and solve problems and/or figure things out on my own.
I direct my energy and intellect to find/vet people who have the solution I need. Then, I implement.
A good example is my jiu jitsu instructor Guy Scuderi.
Unlike the typical approach to instructing, which is just to teach the attack/submission. He teaches defenses to submissions.
Why is this better?
Because you can’t show the defense without first showing the attack. As a result, this approach inherently 2x’s learning in the same time. And since you know defense 1a, 1b, 1c etc… in algorithmic fashion… it makes you harder to submit AND gives you a deeper understanding of the mechanics.
That’s the difference between constant struggle… or… faster (not necessarily fast, but faster) fix.
And by the way, the German word for jock itch is jock juckreiz.
– Rob Gramer