Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Orifice: Part II - Tales of Terror from the Gynecologist's Office

In part one of "The Orifice", I regaled you with horror stories about men I've worked for in years past, and in one case was smart enough NOT to work for. Today's post is a bit different. It's about men, and it's thankfully about the past, but it involves doctors. Gynecologists. Men who should have been nowhere near women, let alone in a professional and highly personal setting.

Actually my very first experience with an ob/gyn was a very good one. I was about fifteen and had developed a horrible urinary tract infection. Since there was no way I could go to my parents with this (I knew it was probably related to sexual activity), I let it go until I was doubled over in pain and literally peeing blood. (Interesting that my parents didn't even NOTICE that I was sick.) A friend of mine told me she had a wonderful doctor who would see me without my parents' knowledge. I will never forget him. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and let my friend stay in the room while he examined me. He gave me a prescription for a sulphur drug and told me that I had to go to Planned Parenthood, and that he would not treat me again. I did go, and they were great. (Talk to me about "parental consent" laws. I can tell you right now what would have happened to me if I needed my parents' permission to get birth control.)

A few years later, when I was nineteen and living on my own (sort of), I needed to find a new gynecologist. A woman at work recommended her doctor, and during the course of the conversation told me that she was scheduled to get mammogram. This was 1974...mammograms were not routine, and certainly not for very young women. She was 20. I didn't think too much of it until after I saw the doctor.

I arrived at his office and was pretty shocked at the number of women who were sitting in the waiting room. I thought for sure I'd be there for hours. Instead, woman after woman went in and out of the office in about ten minute intervals. The receptionist called my name and I went into the examining room and put on the standard-issue paper gown. The doctor came in, examined my breasts, put on a pair of rubber gloves and did a 2-second "digital" exam. He told me to get dressed and meet him in his office. When I got there, he solemnly told me that I had "cystic" breasts and needed to go for a mammogram. He gave me the name of the place to go, and that was the end of it. As I walked out of the office, I flashed back to my 20 year old friend who was going to the same radiology center for her mammogram and knew the whole thing was a scam.

The following year, I consulted another friend for a recommendation. She sent me to a 60-something year old doctor in Manhattan who she described as "so sweet and funny". Well, she was right about "funny", but it was funny-strange, not funny ha-ha. He directed me to undress in a cramped corner of the examination room. There was no screen, and no nurse present. I thought this was a little weird but was reluctant to question it. He did what seemed like an appropriate exam, even using instruments instead of a rubber-gloved finger. That is, until he was finished and kissed my inner thigh. I guess that was the "so sweet" part.

Fed up, I skipped the annual gyno appointment for awhile until my sister gave me the name of her doctor whom she thought very highly of. (This is the sister who is married to a cross-dressing maniac, but I didn't think about that at the time.) I liked this guy immediately. He was a man I would describe as genteel, with a slow Southern drawl. We'd sit in his office before the exam, just to talk about my concerns. That was the first time. I saw him a few months later for an in-office procedure, and when I went for the follow-up I saw him in his office as I had before. This time, in addition to talking about my concerns, he asked me several questions about my sex many partners did I have, did I have orgasms, were any sexual positions painful for me, stuff like that. Then he said, "I saw you on the street last week." When he said where, I thought for a moment and said, "No, I don't think that was me." He looked me in the eye and said, "I would know you anywhere."

I said I wasn't feeling too good and left. When I called my sister, I told her that he made me really uncomfortable with the comment about seeing me on the street. She blew it off, saying that I was being paranoid. So I said, "Well, I don't know why he needs to know about my orgasms." She screamed "WHAT???" into the phone so loud that I knew he had never asked her those questions. That was 1979.

When I became pregnant with my daughter in 1984, I found a wonderful group of nurse-midwives who saw me throughout my pregnancy and for years afterwards. I went to them for my annual well-woman exam and back to them for the birth of my son ten years later (even though I lived 35 miles away at that point). I realize that bad doctors come in all shapes, sizes and genders, but I don't think I'll ever go back to a male doctor for my woman-stuff.