Monthly Archives: March 2008

A modest proposal for birthday celebrations

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A short post today, not because I need to be working on my book (though that’s never stopped me before) and not because I have nothing worthwhile to say (though that’s never stopped be before), but because I’m tired of looking at the Misogynecologst post, and I’m sure you are, too.

But an update on that: I got my results back, and it appears that I will not be dying anytime soon, at least not from horrible diseases of the reproductive organs. (If he got it wrong, and I *do* die from a horrible reproductive-organ disease, I want you to sue his ass for millions of dollars and give it to my heirs. Not that the kitties would know what to do with all that money. Catnip for life would cost what, a few thousand? Um. Sue his ass and give the winnings to Mom and Dad.)

My next step is to write to the state medical board. The letter has already been composed; I just need to drop it in the mail. Then I’ll write a letter to the doctor himself

The problem with being an adult, I have realized, is that Easter rolls around and no one has given you any Cadbury eggs. How am I supposed to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ without Cadbury eggs? I can do without the empty calories of the jelly beans, the peeps, and those weird marshmallow bunnies, but an Easter without chocolate or caramel is—I’m sure you’ll agree with me here—is sacrilegious.

There was also a shocking lack of caramel, chocolate, and other edibles of a deliciously unhealthy variety on several recently observed holidays including Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, and MLK. Those wishing to redress these oversights may direct their attentions to my birthday in two weeks.

Speaking of my birthday, I present, as always, my wishlist. I would please like the following items

  • A stately castle in good repair on the British Isle (England, Ireland, Wales—I’m not picky)
  • World peace
  • A panda
  • A lifetime supply of bamboo
  • A friendly ghost, for company around the apartment
  • A life-after-deathtime supply of ectoplasm, or whatever it is ghosts eat
  • A unicorn who likes bamboo
  • A new gynecologist

Additionally, I would like the following services

  • I would like for someone to reverse global warming
  • I would like for someone to finish writing my book
  • I would like for someone to pay me a healthy salary to update my blog on an infrequent basis
  • I would like for someone to clean my house*

*I realize this last item may be impossible

And don’t forget the chocolate and the caramel. Both ingredients may be combined, if necessary.

Now I am going to continue working on the book, but only half-heartedly, because I know that you have just now read my wishlist, and that you are consequently hunting for someone to finish it for me. You have my full permission to give me that gift early. The same goes for most of the rest of the items, except I ask that you not deliver the panda before you gift me with the bamboo. Thank you.



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First, let’s everyone start by looking at a picture of me, taken just two weeks ago. There I am. See me? Got that image in your head?

Now let us consider my experience at the OB/GYN clinic today.

I picked this particular clinic because my health insurance covers it. I picked the particular doctor because he was available. I pride myself in not caring about the sex of my gynecologist. I’ll take any doctor who can get the job done. I am mature enough to accept males and females alike. And I’m really not picky about doctors, be they general practitioners or gynecologists or what have you. Just do the exam and send me out the door. I am easy to please.

After today’s experience, however, I think I’ll be finding a new gynecologist.

It started harmlessly. Prior to the pap smear proper, I sat through the routine Q&A with the doctor. We discussed my health, my health history, things like that. No problems there.

Until he asked me how tall I was.

“Five foot one,” I said.

“Okay, that means you’re…” he consulted his chart—“That means you’re forty pounds overweight.”

My jaw dropped. I mean that literally. My jaw dropped. I peered at him over the top of my glasses.

“Forgive my feminist objections,” I said, “but you can’t be serious.”

“No, this has nothing to do with beauty ideals,” he replied. “That’s what the chart says. You should be 105 pounds.”

I was incredulous. “I realize you’re the doctor, but look at me: Do I really look forty pounds overweight?”

“Yes,” he said.

Look at the picture, folks. I agree that I could lose a few tummy pounds, sure. And hell, it would be great to lose… oh, I don’t know, twenty pounds? I’d be really thin if I lost twenty.

But forty? He wants me to weigh 105? I weighed 105 pounds once, for about a day. I think I was eight years old. I truly do not think I am capable of losing forty pounds, not without developing anoerexia nervousa, and I have enough psychological problems as it is, please and thank you.

“My wife is five four,” he said smugly, “and she’s only 120 pounds.”


Fast forward to the exam room. He’d just finished doing the breast exam—I’m not exactly thrilled with having a stranger’s hands all over my boobs, but I’ll gladly take a little bit of discomfort for the sake of my health. (Hey, if I could handle having a skanky-ass greasy-haired weirdo pierce my nipple, I can handle having a medical professional help me prevent breast cancer.)

“Okay, no lumps here,” he said. “You can hook your bra back in place now. As a man I have experience in unhooking bras, but I’m not very good at hooking them back.”

What. The. Fuck?

Does he think that’s appropriate? Ribald humor is really funny when you’re joking around with your buddies in the bar. It is completely out of place when you’re practically naked, lying on your back, and alone with your gynecologist.

A female nurse did come in for the pap smear. He was a perfect gentleman for that.

Then the nurse left, and he somehow thought it acceptable to rest his hands on my knees while he chatted with my about our shared alma mater, UNC. Pardon me, pal: Just because we went to the same school doesn’t give you license to rest your filthy paws on my goddam knees while I’m lying in your office wearing nothing but an overlarge paper towel.

In hindsight, here’s what I should have done:

I should have completely ignored him on the weight issue. I tell ya, I was just about ready to cry. I tend to believe medical practitioners when they tell me about my health. That’s why I pay them lots of money: They’re the ones who have in-depth knowledge about medicine, not me.

But this guy? He’s a gynecologist, not my general doctor, and certainly not a dietician. If he wants to tell me my uterus is overweight, fine.* He can keep his fucking opinions to himself about my general weight.

And for the record, my regular doctor told me my weight was perfectly acceptable when I saw him in January. Since I haven’t gained weight since then, I think I’ll choose to believe him.

*Scratch that: It wouldn’t be fine if the gynecologist told me my uterus was overweight. Bad example. That is one body part of mine that must never grow larger.

When he made the not-at-all funny joke about his masculine skills in undoing bras, I should have told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t like his joke and that other women wouldn’t, either.

And as for his resting his hands on my knees? I’m angry at myself on this one, really angry. I have a motherfucking DEGREE in Women’s Studies, ferchrissakes. If *I* can’t recognize inappropriate touching when it happens to me, then who can? Who’s gonna fight the good fight, if not me? But—God, I’m mad at myself—even as I was sitting there in the stirrups while he used my available body parts as his personal arm rest, I was struggling internally to decide if it was appropriate or not.

NO, Jessica, it was NOT appropriate. What were you waiting for, the voice of God to clue you in? Flashing neon signs and a warning siren? Learn to use your brain and trust your instincts. And here you call yourself a feminist!

So I didn’t rise to the challenge when I should have. I didn’t call him on his bullshit there in the office. (Yes, it’s a bit awkward to yell at your doctor when you’re all by yourself and wearing nothing but a giant Kleenex, but it’s not impossible.) But I still have options, right?

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what should I do now? Find a different doctor in the practice and let it slide? Write a letter to someone? Write a letter to the doctor in question?

Awaiting your responses.

Back to basics

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Today was March fourth. Let us for the moment ignore the pesky little U in the word “fourth.” (What is it, an English holdover? Who the hell are they to tell us how to spell our words? We’re not their subjects.) Without the U, it becomes “March forth,” a homophonic factoid seized upon with delight by the local NPR station.

So my drive to work was filled with marches. I like some marches. Some of the English composers, for instance, have written some lovely marches. Good old Percy Grainger. Good old Gustav Holst.

And then there are the American marches. Ya ask me, we should have taken a cue (get it? A cue? Mwah!) from the British. They could teach us a thing or two.

(Which is it, Jessica? Do you want English spellings or English music? Make up your mind!)

Okay, I’ll go with the music. I far prefer English marches. The harmonies, the variations, the musical colours—all far more pleasing than the oom-pah rot we got from John Phillip Sousa.

Perhaps you like Sousa marches. If you are an American, they may stir feelings of patriotic pride within you. That’s nice.

If you are a tuba player, unless you have a very rosy attitude, you do not like Sousa marches. Not only do you have to play a horrid blundering downbeat motif, the sheer epitome of monotony, you have to play it while marching a sousaphone. Sousa strikes again!

A tuba is a lovely, exquisite, noble horn. A sousaphone is a bulky monstrosity that wraps around the neck. It plays hell on the lower back and it’s impossible to tune. All your labour and musical practise flies out the window when you don that wretched hunk of metal.

Fortunately I also heard a lovely guitar ballad today, which more or less assuaged the insults done to me by NPR: as if the Sousa marches weren’t bad enough, they had to bombard me with speculation about today’s primaries. Just tell me the news after it happens, folks, please. Though really I think I’d rather just stick to the music if it’s all the same.

I care about the news. I care about current events. But for the past, oh, six months or so, I’ve been tuning most of it out. Sometimes I just need to duck my head in the sand. This is not the height of civic responsibility, I grant you, but it’s my solution for combating information overload. I have recently resumed my on-again, off-again habit of skimming through the New York Times in the morning—but please, let me take it slowly, bit by bit. Give me too much news at once and I’ll just retreat again.

Back to music: I was kvetching about the poor, misunderstood tuba players. All you flag-waving blue-blooded American patriots who love your Sousa marches—well, listen to what you will, but please don’t infer that tuba players are only capable of playing heavy downbeats.

(If you would like to infer that horn players are only capable of jaunty syncopated responses, that’s fine. Horn players are a conceited lot. They need to be taken down a notch.)

We bass players are important. We’re the, er, the bass of everything. We’re nobody’s favourites; we often go whole symphonies without playing a note; we’re not very sexy, unless composers (like Ralph Vaughan Williams; have I said how much I like the English composers?) take pity and deliberately write a showy piece for us. But our role is essential and honourable; it’s a shame that no one knows us.

I posed this hypothesis to the folks at work. They agreed. None of them could name any tuba players. This is a HORRIBLE miscarriage of our American education system.

None of them could even name any bass guitar players. A discussion ensued, in which we tried to think of popular rock musicians who played bass. We failed, utterly and abjectly, we failed.

Who played bass for Pink Floyd? Not a clue.

Who played bass for The Who? (“Uh…not Pete Townshend.”)

Who, for the love of God, who played bass for the Beatles? I mean we had a one in four chance of getting that right—one in three, really, everyone knows Ringo played the drums—and still we didn’t know.

“Bet you can name everyone from Led Zeppelin except the bass player,” said Assert-y.

“There’s, let’s see, there was Jimmy Page, and John Bonham, and…”

“And Robert Plant.”.

“Right, right, I knew that. And…”

We had to look it up.

“John Paul Jones!” said Assert-y, after a visit to Wikipedia. Thing is, I actually knew that at one point. In eleventh grade US History, I remarked to myself that the dude from Led Zeppelin shared a name with the naval hero of the Revolutionary War (in which we won independence from English spellings), he of “I have not yet begun to fight” fame. That little coincidence formed a wrinkle in my brain, way back when, and STILL I couldn’t remember the name of Led Zeppelin’s bass player.

How very sad.