- He’s cute. Not “I’m thinking of sex now” cute, but “Oh, what a sweet guy” cute. He is short and a little wide, balding. He has light, dexterous hands. He wears blue scrubs and moves like a small fire engine. He addresses me as a person, listening in the way that makes any man more attractive to me, tilting his head a little, leaning in.
- He calls me “my dear” and always asks how I’m doing. Every time. So even if I’ve waited for forty-five minutes in the waiting room while small children wander drunkenly, putting their hands in the fountain with the sign that says, “Don’t touch” that they won’t be able to read for at least four years while the TV talks about nutrition and other boring commonsense health matters, I’m never irritated with him. And I know he’s running late because he was actually talking to the woman before me. I know this because sometimes I get moved to the intermediate waiting area, and I overhear parts of his attentive, respectful conversations with them.
- He talks to me during the entire appointment as if I’m not naked on a table with my feet in stirrups, as if he’s not looking at parts of me that only my husband looks at and even then, usually in the dark. He looks up from his work and meets my eyes. Once, when I had a yeast infection, he said, “It’s as angry as a swarm of bees down here,” and I couldn’t keep from laughing. I mean, face it: gynecological appointments are uncomfortable. We’re trained to be embarrassed about it all, about our bodies and their needs and their imperfections. When the body parts in question are connected to sex, it’s even more embarrassing. I cannot count the times I’ve blushed at the gynecologist, my face getting hot and a bead of sweat trickling down my armpit, and then blushed even more as I wonder if other parts of my skin besides my face are turning red.
- He gives me a hug at the end of every appointment, whether it’s an exam or a consult, and it isn’t creepy. It’s comforting, and humanizing, and a quick reassurance. I don’t even care if he does it because he gets to hug a lot of women in his line of work and he likes the feel of breasts against his chest. For being the one doctor I never mind seeing, he deserves it. To think of a person as a person, and not just as a patient/body/client, introduces emotions, including desire. Hell, I’m thinking of him as a person, thinking about kissing him in my gratitude and admiration.
- This is the most important: twice now, he’s told me I’m not fat. Here’s how the latest conversation went:
Me: So if we were to do surgery, would the fact that I carry my body fat in my abdomen present any complications?
Him: No no no no. You’re normal. There are people who are, like, anorexic, people from magazines and stuff. And then there are people who are really overweight, and I’ve done surgery on them, too. No one’s gonna look at you and say, “You really need to eat something,” but no one’s gonna look at you and say, “You really need to stop eating,” either.
Every other doctor I’ve seen who has even the slightest reason to talk about weight has told me to lose weight. Once, an assistant at the chiropractor’s office, upon seeing my weight (because every fucking doctor requires you to step on the scale), said, “Damn, girl, where do you keep it all?” I think it was meant to be a compliment, suggesting that I didn’t look as fat as I was in reality.
I know doctors are concerned about health. I know we live in a society that struggles with obesity. And I am an extra-large in the department store. I’d like to be smaller, for a variety of reasons. But no easy, impersonal exhortation to lose weight ever made me immediately head for the gym. Those kinds of comments just make me feel like a defective part. When doctors say that, I want to respond that I’m just glad to still be alive, given the despair I’ve felt. That the size of my body is insignificant in the wonderful, terrible, kaleidoscopic maelstrom that is my life, my experience every single day.
My gynecologist makes me feel like the complex whole I am. He makes me feel both normal and unique, recognizes that my body and my emotions are inextricably connected. And he does this, usually, in less than ten minutes.
Does he deserve a kiss, this man I really don’t know, this man doing his job and getting paid well for it? I think so. Because a little compassion and lack of judgment goes a long way towards binding us together, both human-to-human and body-to-mind, when so much in this world is entropy, flinging us in pieces farther and farther apart from each other and our whole, miraculous selves.
Listen to Katherine read her essay:
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Rumpus original art by Annie Daly.