Sunday, March 2, 2008

Published March 2, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Much of what we do in life happens on an annual schedule. Christmas comes once a year. So do Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Every twelve months we do the spring cleaning and pay the property taxes. For women, there is another event that occurs on a 12 months schedule...that wonderful trip to the kind of doctor I'm actually too skittish to even name in this column. I had my annual appointment this week, after a long, 16 months since my last one.

I guess my year runs a little long. I have no proof of this, but I'm willing to bet that's the way it is for most women. On an unpleasantness scale in which one represents an experience that is entirely pleasant and ten represents something terribly unpleasant, the yearly visit to the "woman doctor" rates about an 87. If I had to make a list of the things I'd rather do than attend this appointment, I'd put dental work, traffic court, and my own funeral at the top of the list.

To be fair, it's not all unpleasantness. The waiting room is decidedly non-embarrassing, with its muted colors and cheery receptionists. They pipe in soft, meditative music to lull you into a fully clothed sense of security. And then there are the pregnant women and babies everywhere. There is nothing more non-threatening than a pregnant woman or a newborn.

And then they call you back. And then they put on a scale. I don't want to talk about it.

When you make it into your exam room, you're told unceremoniously that you must take everything off for your examination. In some strange act of momentary kindness, they tell you that you can keep your socks on if you want to. That's nice. You've just told me you want me to get naked as a jaybird, but I can keep my toes covered in case I'm modest about such things... (Says the columnist, as if she doesn't always consider keeping her socks on "for the principle of the thing.")

Disrobing in a doctor's office is an interesting experience. You want to see a quick change artist? Well, don't try to do it in a doctor's office, because we women change too quickly for any normal human to catch it. Every second of the 30 seconds it takes me to go from groomed to gowned, finds my eye fixed firmly on the door, as if by the power of my gaze alone I can keep it from opening at an inopportune moment. I hold onto as much clothing as I will need in the event of a duck and cover and then for one terrifying moment, I drop the clothes and dive into a paper gown (open in the front for maximum humiliation) and take my place on the exam table under a paper blanket.

This is probably the most comical moment of the whole process. Flies on walls (if doctor's offices have such things) must have a good chuckle as women try in vain to keep their bottom halves covered with the blanket and their top halves covered with the gown when doing either cancels out the other. Somehow, every woman finds a modest solution...just as the doctor walks through the door. At that point, it hits you that the desire for some semblance of decency is naive, to say the least.

The only thing I can really say about the exam itself is that it's amazing how interesting ceilings can be when you're trying not to focus on what's going on underneath them. These ceilings could have been painted by Michelangelo himself, so rapt are women by their every detail. I enjoy discovering new constellations among the holes in the ceiling tiles. This time, I found one I'm calling "Mammogramas."

By the time you're on a first name basis with the ceiling insulation, the kindly doctor pronounces you done and you're given a one year reprieve from any more embarrassing moments like these. If you're like me, you get the "Now, make sure you schedule your next appointment for 12 months instead of 16" lecture. It's the fact that I know she's 100% right to scold me that makes me nod my head in agreement. It's the fact that scheduling that appointment makes me remember...ahem...that appointment that keeps me putting it off.

Truth be told, I actually spent much of this experience with surreptitious smile on my face, as I thought of the silly column I could write and the money I could make. In a situation like that, you thank the heavens for any reason to smile. Of course, that doesn't mean I want to spend the rest of my life thinking about it, so I'll thank my readers not to mention it. Actually, I plan on completely forgetting the existence of this column and the appointment that inspired it by the time I finish this sentence.

Now, if I could just figure out why I'm only wearing socks...