Monday, March 19, 2012
"Which underwear should I wear to the gynecologist?" and other ladies' etiquette questions
I have never excelled in the medical patient arena. I have been known to faint when visiting people in the hospital, require grand distractions while having blood drawn, and am enormously grateful that George Clooney now has a career outside of ER, which for me was unwatchable television. I say all this to explain, at least in part, why I felt so apprehensive as I got ready this morning for my 9AM doctor's appointment, pap smear included.
The anxiety started in the shower when the thought crossed my mind I should do a little neatening up around the area of soon-to-be-focus. I am staunchly opposed to the practice of waxing back to an infantile state that is in evidence on so many magazine covers these days, but a little tidying seemed in order. It was, I reasoned, no different than brushing, flossing, and gargling before visiting the dentist: a general courtesy. Then I remembered I ate Taco Bell for lunch before my last dentist appointment and felt a little bad. (Sorry, Dr. Shaibani!) My concentration must have slipped thinking about the whole Taco Bell incident because next thing I know I had nicked the highest altitudes of my inner thigh. Now I was going to have dried blood on my leg which would make the doctor think at creepy best I shaved just for him (did I mention the doctor was a him?) or, at worst, I have hygiene issues.
With one arm wrapped around my thigh to try and staunch the blood with a clot of wet toilet paper, I started thinking about the next challenge: which underwear to wear? A thong was definitely out. Boy cut seemed suitably modest until I noticed one pair had hearts on it, the other polka dots -- way too frivolous for the business at hand. I settled on a pair of navy blue briefs that, despite lace edging, seemed to send an appropriate signal of modesty. Next up was what outfit to choose. It had to be something I could maneuver in and out of easily, so I chose a loose dress. Unfortunately it went with a pair of espadrilles that were just an inch too high to look sensible, but by this point I was running late and had no time to change. As I left the house my husband asked why I was dressed so posh, which was the second time I felt creepy that morning.
Of course once I got to the doctor's office I realized all my fuss was for naught. The nurse had me wearing nothing more than a sack of a robe with a gaping back by the time the doctor arrived. His opening salvo was to inform me his female colleague was going to perform the pap smear portion of the exam. I must have looked disappointed as he quickly followed with an explanation that 99% of his patients are male and he is much more familiar with prostates (turns out he is an internist, not an OB/GYN), which left me feeling somehow snubbed after all the work I had put in. He did, however, give me a consolation prize of a breast exam. And since I have just turned forty, he also set me my next challenge: choosing the right bra for a mammogram appointment.