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.