From Påssjuka to Paris… a week of swelling and love

Getting the mumps is not fun

Yes, I was immunized. Yes, I still got the mumps. As an adult. And in Sweden, of all places. Apparently the virus for the mumps is just always floating around in the air and you can just get unlucky and contract a strain of the mumps that you weren’t immunized against

The Swedish word for mumps is “påssjuka,” just in case you ever get the mumps in Sweden. Even though Dr. Per, my doctor at the local clinic, spoke really good English with a totally delightful Texan-Swedish accent, he couldn’t think of the translation off the top of his head. Fortunately, my itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny Swedish-English dictionary had the translation for påssjuka, which is odd but lucky. It made me feel a lot better to know what was going on with my face, even though the mumps diagnosis made me feel strange. I mean, seriously… I felt like I had been time-warped back to the 20th century or whatever.

On the plus side, having the mumps meant I wasn’t going to die from a sudden attack of cancer or a spider bite. (I am becoming more of a hypochondriac with every weird disease that I get, and I am seriously scared of Brazilian banana spiders. They attack when you least expect it.)

Basically, when you have the mumps, one or both sides of your face swell until you look like you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed again. Then you get tired and feverish and can’t eat without shooting pains from your ear to your neck. So I got really skinny for about four days, which would have been exciting if I had gotten all Kate Moss gaunt and hot looking, but my face was still rocking the chipmunk look so it didn’t happen.

I looked a lot like this kid, but more unhappy. My friend Katie sent me this picture.

Let me take this moment to remind you that I am currently living in Sweden where everyone is good-looking, healthy, and unaccustomed to freaky-looking people wandering in their midst. On the day that I had to go to the clinic and the pharmacy, I got a lot of horrified looks. After that, I stayed inside.

The other thing about getting the mumps at this precise moment during the summer is that I was supposed to take part in the world’s greatest bachelorette party, or “möhippa.” Two of my boyfriend’s close friends, Anna and Nils, are getting married in September, and Anna asked Simon to plan her bachelorette party for her. Which worked out really well for her, because instead of embarrassing her and making her sell hugs in the main square or something like that, 20 of her friends planned a two-day extravaganza that included 24 hours in Paris. The swelling in my face went down at the last possible moment, and I was able to take part. THANK GOODNESS.

The world’s greatest möhippa (Swedish bachelorette party)

The most crucial element of the Swedish bachelorette party (as it has been explained to me) is kidnapping the bride-to-be. She must not know when the party is taking place. The party planners might clear it ahead of time with her fiance or employer, but her fiance does NOT get to know what’s going to happen during the party. It’s all treated like a state secret among the party planners and participants.

Once you kidnap the bride, the traditions are less clear to me. It seems like basically you go through a couple of hours of embarrassing the bride and then you have a party. I’ve heard of the bride having to sell hugs or ask for marital advice from strangers in a public area, and it was pretty much the same in Vienna. A couple of times when I was out in Vienna, this group of women would approach us and try to sell us stuff from a box “to raise money for the wedding.” They sold really weird stuff, like razors and toothbrushes and stuff. If it were me, I would have really gone for the profit and sold sandwiches or something. Seriously. What do you want between 10 pm and midnight when you’re out partying?

Back to Anna’s möhippa. We “kidnapped” her in the morning by convincing her to take a walk with us into the center… She thought we were going with her to buy tulle for her wedding veil. Her friends were stationed all along the route between her apartment and the center. By the third station, Anna had realized that she wasn’t going to be getting any tulle. Along the way, her friends also delivered seven sealed letters for the different activities that would be taking place.

When the whole group was gathered, she opened the first letter…

Opening the first letter outside the city park (Stadspark).


(to be continued)

kate reuterswärd
craves Mexican food on the regular.