It’s summertime, and—hip hip hooray!—also time for me to get that yearly pelvic treat we females get to look forward to once we’ve made the mistake of making the decision that we’re “ready” to indulge in the primal act that is ultimately indulging a guy’s libido (and knocking up enough sixteen-year-olds for MTV to make a show about it!) … ugh.
So it’s that time, that day. I’m waiting to “be seen” (how polite) by “Dr. Janet Kross*,” who is so accustomed to this trade that, although “uncomfortable” seems like an appropriate word for a situation involving a thorough fingering of the vaginal canal and speculum inspection of the cervix, it isn’t.
My name (pronounced incorrectly, of course) is called, and the nurse leads me on what I think should be called “The Grey Mile” (like the movie The Green Mile, you know? Except this is a doctor’s office, not a criminal institution, and doctor’s offices tend to have grey carpet … get it? Haha.), past the counter shelving unused pee cups and latex gloves, and to a scale. This is only the beginning of what I don’t like about today. I feel like scales at doctor’s offices add imaginary weight. The number is recorded and the nurse takes me to the “examination room,” sits behind a laptop and asks me questions like, “Ever had an abnormal pap?” “Do you do a monthly breast-check?” “Besides the birth control, what other medicines do you take regularly?” “When was your last menstrual cycle?” (“Oh, you are so good!” she exclaims with relieved approval after I answer with no hesitation. Most of the girls around my age and younger that she asks probably say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” I used to be one of them, until I realized that in order to have my cake and eat it too [that is, have sex and not get pregnant], I needed to be in tune with the way my body does its thang.) And finally, “How is your birth control working for you?” (I know what she means, but my devilish smartass tendency flares and makes me want to raise my shirt to expose my hip-hop abs and say, “Guess.”)
She points to the gauzy medical gown folded on the table and tells me to change into it. There’s a sheet to cover my legs with until the doctor examines me, I’m told. What for? I think. Didn’t anybody tell you what’s about to happen in here?
Once she leaves I take the gown, unfold it, then undress wondering how in the world I’m supposed to put it on. They’re unnecessarily confusing. But seeing as the doctor is about to excavate my most private of places, I realize that prolonging the clothing-myself war would really serve no purpose. No sweat off my back. I might as well be naked.
I lie back on the luxurious exam table and count the tiles on the ceiling. Directly above where my head rests is a square poster. Brightly colored and attention-grabbing like graffiti, I wonder what it’s doing up there. Am I supposed to see it and forget that I probably look like I’m birthing some kind of robot after the doctor inserts the instrument into my vagina with the weird plastic arm that emits a fluorescent purple-blue light? I look around at the corny laminated info posters tacked up on the walls and expect waiting-room jazz to come on to complement the environment. Instead, there’s a knock at the door (in case I’m still changing … haha). After a moment of silence it opens, and in walks Dr. Kross.
I’m not sure whether or not it’s rude to say that someone looks “interesting,” but she does. As I write this, the only specific word that is coming to mind to describe her is “mousy.” It feels rude to think that, but I do.
She has a very high-pitched voice and speaks with a minor lisp. Plain brown eyes; frizzy, graying brown hair; a motherly touch—this is the kind of doctor you want when it’s time to get the inspection sticker for your vagina.
We exchange hellos/how have you beens, and she tells me to lie back so she can perform the breast exam. I rest my head on the pillow and open the front of the gown that I had never really secured to me in the first place. It’s cold in there and she immediately comments on how tan I am.
Starting with the right one, she works around my breast in small squeezes, checking for lumps. Proceeding to the left, she begins to do the same thing but stops to repeat her motions on the side of my breast closest to my bicep.
squeezesqueeze “Hmm.” (Her brow furrows slightly.)
I’m not scared.
“Oh, that’s just tough tissue mass. Nothing to worry about.”
I close the gown again and sit up, fighting the urge to ask if she’ll keep “examining” my boobs because it feels really good. But now the nurse that took my vitals and asked all those personal questions has re-entered the room, and I know it’s business time. So stirrups are pulled out, hands are washed, and legs are spread.
The second my vulva is illuminated, I wonder what it looks like. And it seems a little backward to me that people I would barely call acquaintances are getting to see it better than I ever will.
Cervical specimens gathered, I’m waiting to finally be told that I can close my legs and get dressed when the doctor says, “Well, everything looks ‘pretty’ good.”
I don’t like when people say that. When something is called “pretty” good, I hear “not-all-the-way-good.” “Nothin’ weird down there?” I ask, more direct.
“Well, I noticed you had a little bit of discharge, but that’s normal,” she says.
I think she either a) didn’t understand the question, or b) wants me to know that she knows the breast examinations she gives don’t feel health-related at all. I wanted to know if there was anything weird down there. Weird. I wasn’t looking for an assessment on my vagina’s natural lubricant.
But I guess that’s inconsequential compared to the few seconds preceding the moment I was at last allowed to press my legs together again. Because in that tiny speck of time I decided to glance at the nurse still hovering in the room, and she appeared to be gazing avidly … at my crotch.
Okay. I didn’t get any weird vibes from her prior to this crazy and inappropriate stare, and maybe she was just having one of those really loud thoughts that causes people to stare into what they think is space but more often turns out to be somewhere more awkward, but still. During a pap smear is perfectly bad timing to have one of those.
I’m not easily fazed by things, but I’m glad those are only annual appointments.
*I obviously made that name up.