One thing about getting older is you go to the doctors more often. Another thing about getting older is doctors want to examine places that you’ve tried to keep hidden all your life. So far, I’ve been lucky, and all my surgeries have been out-patient procedures, but I’ve seen the generation ahead of me spend more and more of their dwindling time in hospitals, and I know a lot of painful and embarrassing adventures are in store for me. I never worry about dying, but the thought of peeing, but especially dumping, in a bedpan gives me the willies.
Recent excursions with the medical profession are preparing me for what’s to come, and I’ve decided that getting used to things little by little is the way to go. A few years back I had a hernia surgery. Beforehand, I was all worried about getting naked in front of so many people, but when the time came, being a turkey on the dinner table surrounded by six masked men and women didn’t turn out to be as embarrassing as I thought.
I was also worried about being put under for the first time, but all I got was twilight sleep and it was a truly fun experience. One moment I was the naked guy trying to joke with six strangers and BOOM, the surgeon was rolling a giant plastic band-aid over my belly-button area. Literally, no time had passed. The recovery room turned out to be a bummer with frightened people coming out of general anesthesia, crying, screaming, puking – leaving me afraid of getting more than twilight sleep in the future. So that’s another big fear I have. I’m afraid of intubation and heavy knock-out drugs.
Another anxiety is having my below the belt hair shaved. I went in for a heart procedure last year where the plan was to snake some kind of roto-rooter up my leg vein and into my heart and zap it. I thought for sure they wouldn’t need to shave me, but I was wrong.
I was lying on a gurney in a staging area when a cute young nurse came in carrying a toolkit that looked like her job was blood collecting. I said, “You here to collect blood?” And she said, “No,” and pulled out a little washcloth size towel, looked aside while throwing back my covers, slapped the towel over my genitals, grabbed on good, and then whipped out a plastic disposable razor with her other hand and quickly began shaving me.
“Wow! You have quite a method for protecting my modesty,” I said.
“I don’t want to see anything, and I know you don’t want to show anything,” she said while dry scrapping the hair off my thigh and across the top of my crotch.
“I am a little modest,” I admitted, “but I mostly don’t want to gross young people out with naked oldness.”
“Thank you,” she said with an appreciative smile. “And oh my god,” she suddenly remembered, “I know what you’re talking! The first woman I had to work with was old and wrinkly, and before I had a chance to glance away she just let it all hang out for me to see. I sure wished she hadn’t shown me that future.”
“I don’t even want to imagine that,” I said think about all the old women I still wanted to see naked. This cutey and I went on to have a very pleasant conversation about not seeing old naked body parts. It was an entirely fun experience talking with this girl who was clutching my package with a little rag and chatting with me. I realized then hospital adventures wouldn’t all be horrors. I’m still scared of going in a bedpan, but who knows maybe it won’t be as bad as I imaged.
Like I said, I’m working my way up to the big stuff, like a heart bypass, or brain surgery, and the dreaded bedpans. Each little adventure with doctors and nurses chip away at my modesty and fears. Like a few weeks ago when I went to see my doctor about cholesterol drugs. I timidly wanted to ask her about an annoying mole on my inner thigh but was going to chicken out and wait to see my lady skin doctor. Then my doctor asked, “While you’re here, can I do a regular physical?”
A little while later, when my doctor had her finger up my exit hole, I started thinking maybe I should ask her about that mole. Then she had me turn around and she began playing ball with mine trying to determine if I had a hernia, so I figured this was as good a time as any to ask her to look just a little closer at something I didn’t want her to see in the first place.
“Where?” she replied when I meekly brought up the topic.
I pointed behind the right sack she was holding to a place on my leg.
“Hey, I can slice that off in a jiffy. Wait here,” and she pulls out a green paper robe and handed it to me.
Great I thought, now I won’t have to expose myself to my lady dermatologist. I’ll get everything done today. She leaves and I take off the rest of my clothes and put on the paper robe on backward so it feels like a dress, a mini-dress. I figured my doctor went to get her scalpel. Then a nurse comes in with a kit of stuff.
“Where are we cutting?” she asks with a nice friendly smile.
I’m trying to imagine what the etiquette of legally exposing oneself to a strange young woman is and all I can say is, “down there.”
So I hike up a leg, hold my dress up like a little girl showing off her underwear and push aside my testicles. She gets a needle out and sticks it into a little vial while giving me a casual look. Then another woman comes in, the physician’s assistant, and I flop my dress down. Just how many young women get to see me naked today? When the door is opened I worry that some mother walking her kid to another exam room will see the big fat nude bearded man and traumatize their poor kid’s psyche and ruin any fantasies the mom might have about fun with older men.
“Let’s get you on the table,” the assistant says pushing me over as the doctor bustles in. The room is about half the size of a tiny bedroom, and now there’s four of us in there. Three women and a naked fat man with a paper dress that’s so short that it’s not much protection for my modesty at all.
So I climb on the table, and the nurse flips up my dress and grabs me around one leg, the physician’s assistant moves between my legs, and the doctor grabs my right leg. I feel like my legs are in stirrups made of women. The doctor tells her buds, “Move him around so I can see better.”
I’m thinking, dear god, and I don’t believe in god, by the way, don’t let me have an erection in front of these women. The nurse and assistant both grab by genitals and try to shove them out of the way. It’s not unpleasant The doctor whips out the needle and looks at me in the eyes. “Please, do not, and I mean, do not, kick me in the face when I stick you,” she says very seriously.
Needles don’t bother me, and so far in my life have never caused any real pain. “Is this going to hurt enough that I will kick a woman in the face?”
“Some patients have,” she replies warily, still staring me down.
She stabs me quickly with the needle and I barely feel anything, but wonder where that inch of steel went. Then I notice that the nurse isn’t wearing much of a bra. In fact, I notice I’m getting an excellent sense of the shape of her breasts. She rests them on my side and then pushes them against my back. Then rests them on my side again. My mind is creating wire-frame models of their shape on my inner computer screen. I mentally plead with myself, “No wood, no wood. no wood.”
Luckily, seeing a tall blonde with a razor in her hand struggling to get a good aim keeps me tiny. Hey, not too tiny, I now worry. The nurse and assistant keep losing their grip and struggle to keep my sensitive parts away from the blade. I ask them if they want help.
“This sure is a lesson in modesty,” I say weakly and try to laugh and they all laugh good.
The doctor jokes about her brother-in-law getting ‘snipped’ with six women in the room.
“Do you know what I mean,” she asks grinning at me.
I said I did and felt my genitals wanting to retract like a turtle’s head.
“Open the bottle,” the doctor finally says and the assistant did, and my doctor dropped a small bloody clump of flesh inside. It was all over. Except, that night I had trouble with my wound bleeding and I had to come back the next day and expose myself to a fourth woman.
I was getting used to it by then. She led me back to a little room and when the door was shut said, “What’s the problem?” Again I was troubled by wondering what were the rules for politely exposing myself. She seemed like she was in a hurry so I just dropped my pants and pulled out a bloody rag I had sandwiched between my right testicle and right thigh. “It won’t stop bleeding.”
She pulled out what looked like a paper tablecloth and handed it to me. “What’s this for?” I asked. I wondered if I was supposed to cover the table with it before I sat down on it and got it bloody.
“It’s for your modesty,” she said like I was being silly. I couldn’t see how it would help since I was standing clearly showing her what I normally hide from all other women but my wife, and I was even holding a bloody rag I had just removed from between my legs. Tell me, what was I going to shelter from her eyes?
She quickly bandaged me up. I felt no qualms of modesty. I was just a car in for some work, is how I imagined she saw me. Or maybe I was a dog on the vet’s table to her. Either way, my modesty didn’t matter. These four women probably saw hundreds if not thousands of naked people every year. I doubt if I was the grossest or ugliest, or even the fattest. I know I wasn’t the manliest – I just hoped they hadn’t seen very many potential porn star guys.
Getting old means losing control. I don’t like that. I know if I live long enough I’ll have to spend some real time in hospitals, and each time I’ll become more and more a hunk of body and less like a person. My sister once made a clever observation about life. She said we start out life spending most of our time in bed and we end up spending most of our time in bed. I could elaborate on that. We start out having people change our diapers and we end up having people change our diapers. As we get older we get more freedom and we travel further and further, but then we get old and travel less and less, until we’re confined to a room again, sleeping in something very much like a crib.
Maybe I never was really all that modest. Maybe what really bothers me is losing control and having to let other people treat me like a child. We dress and undress kids like they have no modesty and never worry if they care about being naked. Going to the doctors is like being a kid. We have to do what the big people tell us. We don’t get any say in the matter. And crying doesn’t affect the outcome.
Can it be that modesty isn’t about being naked? And rather it’s about losing control? It’s like those dreams of being naked in a high school class. Do we wake up afraid of being laughed at? Or do we wake up afraid of getting into a situation beyond our control?