You will most likely grow up in the U.S. because, as you know, your mother and I are gay. And although we would like to live in Vietnam or soak up the natural sun-rays seeping into our adobe hut in Chad, we fear the governments there might bulldoze a house over us for our sapphic proclivities. We could move to Europe because they are gay-lovin’ and we, in turn, love their clothes and club music, but we also fear that they would turn us into communists. Since your mother and I like to think of ourselves as cowgirls – her a horsewhisperer with the powers to comfort and heal, me an urban cowgirl with a propensity for whiskey and occasionally riding a mechanical bull – whether this self-perception is true or not, you will most likely grow up in America. It is, after all, the land of the free and the home of the celebrities brave enough to f*ck up the national anthem. (Thank you, Steven Tyler, Roseanne Barr)
You see, my son or daughter, people often miss why America is so great. It is great because it is a place that requires cajones in the most unlikely of places like on a California freeway when trying to make an exit from the carpool area – five lanes over – or when going for a simple check-up at the doctor.
Now, I have no idea how healthcare is going to change in this country through your childhood, adolescence, and eventual, young adulthood. So, let me simply explain what a normal trip to the doctor was like for me while I was still in my 30‘s…around the year 2012.
Luckily, I had an appointment yesterday, so here goes while all is still fresh in my mind.
Going to the doctor has always felt like going on a bad date for me and when I’m nervous, I joke.
There were two girls who took me into a room to tabulate my vitals, a nurse and a nursing student. I thanked the heavens that they were both bigger-sized ladies than me. I was thankful because the first place they took me to was the scale.
“Ha! The scale. Every woman’s nightmare. I better take this cell phone out of my pocket. We all know how much a cell phone weighs.” I laughed and placed my cell on the table.
Then I stepped on the scale and the three of us “bigger” girls all had a moment of silence as the digital numbers kept ticking on and on, upwards and upwards.
Alright, LED screen, I feckin’ get it. No more taco tuesdays. What a buzzkill the scale is for a girl circa 2012. She lives in a world that can give her a ready made polenta, but then also requires her to wear low-rider, skinny jeans. This is unfair. The scale can kill a girl’s happiness worse than your mother critiquing you during one night stand. I mean, honestly, why is she even here at all?
The nurse and student jotted down all my numbers and took my family history. Then the nurse asked me if I would like to provide the urine sample now or later. At first, I liked the choice of it, as if my date were asking, “Honey, would you like an appetizer or should we just skip the formalities and get to the awkward groping?”
I said, “Let’s do it now. Let’s get it over with,” like a valiant soldier trying to get through waterboarding while still maintaining her pride.
The nurse replied, “All right, go into the bathroom. Use one of the specimen cups, grab a wet wipe, and wipe from front to back.” The nurse lowered her voice when she said this. She whispered, “wipe from front to back”, as if to silently communicate, I’m going to talk about your vagina now. I have to tell you this by law, even though it’s embarrassing for both of us.
I went into the bathroom and panicked slightly because I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to wipe before or after making my “deposit”. This may seem silly to you, but this is what my mind does at the doctor – it exaggerates and exacerbates innocuous instructions. I decided to use the wipes both before and after the procedure, just in case. The whole time I kept thinking an alarm was going to go off in the bathroom and a loud-voiced, Latina in reception was going to scream, “That b*tch is wiping before the procedure. Who in the hell wipes BEFORE? What an idiot.”
I am never rational when in a doctor’s office. I am stupid like a hairless alien who is afraid of the sun.
I completed my assignment, sealed my specimen jar, and awkwardly handed my jar of hot pee to the nurse I had just met.
She took me into the next room and said something like, “You’ll need to undress in here. If you want you can wait ten minutes and then undress or you can undress now…”
Alright, enough with the choices, I thought. Just tell me exactly what to do like I’m an android. I don’t like too many choices at the doctor’s office because if given enough choices I’m going to fulfill one of them by grabbing my clothing and running screaming into the parking lot. Just tell me EXACTLY what to do. Tell me, like I’m a child.
But, instead, I said, “Wait, what? I guess I’ll undress now. Hold on, say that again. Why do I want to wait? Can you repeat that?”
The nurse repeated what she said and added the very important, “…because the doctor’s finishing up with another patient…”
Oh, that’s why I want to wait first. Got it. I sat in the room and tried to count 10 minutes without a clock like a prisoner trying to count down their sentence. Wait, has it been ten minutes? Or ten days? Or ten seconds? It all feels the same. Sh*t, I better get undressed.
I got undressed and threw on the pink, scratchy, hospital gown. It barely tied around my waist. Great, now I’m too big for the hospital gown. Excuse me, nurse, do you have a more Lane Bryant-y hospital gown? No? No, that’s fine. I’ll make due with this petite, size zero one.
I stood up in the hospital gown for the next 9 minutes as what felt like a hurricane shot through the back of my ass-less dress. Hell, I couldn’t sit down even if I wanted to. Other people had been in here, in similar ass-less gowns, and I imagined them laying all over everything, which meant I absolutely would not.
The doctor finally came in and asked me to hop up on the table. She talked to me soothingly as she ripped through my gown, literally ripped through it, to feel my abdomen and my breasts. Christ, if I had known it was going to be rough, I never would’ve worn this pretty, pink, paper dress.
Doc and I tried to make small talk as we talked about my colon and as she inspected my undercarriage. I never find this easy, but I engage in it every time. My thinking is that if I can find an interesting enough of a subject, I can forget what she’s doing to me. I think psychiatrists call it physical disassociation and I think it’s used mostly by victims of sexual assault.
Inevitably, the stream of questions led to birth control and “what am I on” and “would I like a prescription” to which I said, “I’m gay” followed by, “It’s the best form of birth control, actually.” I think the doctor smirked and maybe let a perfunctory chuckle slip. I tried to reconcile this with the picture of surgeons operating side by side with Jesus that I had seen in the waiting room. You see, when one is gay, one is often leery of Christians because gays are typically compassionate, but Christians fall into two groups – the hating gays and the non-hating gays kind. It’s something we live with like I presume most Jews do when interacting with Germans. Most Jews and Gays don’t hate, but history makes us suspicious. Sorry, but it’s a natural defense like the needles on a porcupine.
After the poking and prodding concluded, the doc gave me some scripts and a series of papers for follow-up pokings and proddings. I took them all and thanked her profusely, so happy to be done and getting into my car.
Here’s the moral of this horror, sweet, Gayby. All of this cost me about $40 with my co-pay. In the past, without insurance, I’ve paid $200 for the pleasure of a nurse’s company and a doctor’s cold hands passed over my tender bits.
I do not know what your experience will be like, in the future, when you become a revolving member of our health scare, oops care, system. If I can offer you any advice on the subject it might be harsh. I would give the same advice that an immigrant, tiger mother would give to her must-excel offspring. I would tell you to become a doctor yourself. That way you can look at your own nurse and doctor through squinty eyes that say, “F*ck this up, and I’ll flip you over and examine you next. But, I won’t be so gentle.”
There is power in knowledge. There is equality in intelligent revenge. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about having healthcare yourself. It’s a win-win, my child, and much like any mother that’s what I want for you, my sweet.
LTMG stands for “Letters to My Gayby” – a series of advice pieces written for my future child. You can read more of them here.