Dear gynecologist, I’m happy to know you think my feet are funny. My feet- in your stirrups, still cold and hard and terrifying no matter what fun fabric you put over them. My feet- curling, wigging, clinching, shaking involuntarily as I lie there willing my legs to not shoot out and kick your face to get it away from me. Oh, the things you don’t know and apparently can’t see. I had no choice in coming to see you. I have been plagued with illness and a plethora of unexplained symptoms for almost two years now. No one would listen to me and when they finally did, they sent me to you. It wasn’t what I asked for but it was all I could get. When I saw a man’s name on my referral, my heart sank so deep, it felt like it has disappeared. “It’s ok,” I told myself. “I don’t have to talk about anything too horrifying. I don’t need an exam- I just had one that was normal. Don’t worry. It’s just blood pressure, weight, height, and lots of talking and maybe blood work and I can handle any needle you come at me with. I’ve got this.”
But then I saw you for a moment behind the desk as I waited and I tried to calm my heart a bit. Maybe it was your age- you looked to be around my dad’s age. Maybe it was the worship music you had playing in the lobby. They were all songs I love but somehow the thought of hearing them inside a male gynecologist’s office made my stomach wrench.
As the nurse let me in the exam room, I heard her say the words “pelvic exam” as she motioned to the folded paper on the table next to those awful stirrups and I could feel the panic begin to set in. My heart was racing as I undressed and did as I had been asked. I sat on the edge of the table blinking back burning tears and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I stood up and rewrapped myself 4 times until that cursed “sheet” tore. Waiting for that for to open was like waiting for the end of time. Finally he came in and sat on the chair opposite me. I have no doubt he was trying to put me at ease since this was after all our first time meeting and he was going to be poking and prodding me with metal and plastic and fingers but this is what he does on a daily basis (and this I kept repeating to myself.)
The nurse came back in and he stood up. Somehow the topic of college came up as he was approaching me. “Oh, you went to a Christian college. Are you a Christian?” I managed a feeble yes and received a inquisitive expression as though there was doubt. He turned to the nurse and gave her a look while he exclaimed, “Well, praise the Lord.” The feeling that someone so spiritual was about to give me a pap smear did nothing for my confidence. If anything it made me panic even more because in my experience male figures so ready to “PTL” were usually the most dangerous. “Go ahead and lay back and scoot down.” Again I did as I was told but the moment I assumed the position, the fight began. My knees quivered and my toes began to clinch. I held my hands so tightly that they started to hurt as I tried to not check out mentally. Then came the laugh from both of them. “We are laughing at your feet.” At that moment it felt like my body was left on the table and my spirit was curled in a ball in the corner as though listening in on a conversation that I was not part of. I wanted me to scream that I’ve been hurt and I don’t want him anywhere near my vagina. I heard myself say something and the tears began to fall but no one noticed, not even the nurse standing at my side. No, they finished their laugh and talked to me about things and I remember nothing except feeling like someone else’s voice was speaking from my body that I no longer inhabited. When he finished, I must have looked like I was rising from the dead because I couldn’t sit up and cover myself fast enough.
Symptoms were discussed as well as other medical history. He asked me if I was sexually active. There was a pause and I said yes because I guess even though it’s been months and months that it was still a yes from a medical perspective. Birth control was his next question. “My method is called ‘your side of the bed-my side of the bed-don’t touch me-don’t look at me.’ ” He stared at me for a moment. “I’ve been married 43 years and I can tell you that is necessary to maintain a healthy marriage……” I broke, blubbering and sobbing, saying things I didn’t want to tell him just to give some sort of reason why he should stop judging me. He patted my leg and told me something about moving on.
The rest of the appointment was a blur. He thinks I’m not fat enough even though my body fat percentage disagrees with him and I know the weight and percentage at which I feel my best and it’s NOT where I am now. It wasn’t until I left that I really began to come undone. I had gone there because it was my last option. I didn’t go to be slammed because my body wasn’t his ideal. I didn’t go to be laughed at in my moment of utmost discomfort and panic. And I didn’t go to be told that sexually satisfying a man was the way to make a marriage last. Of course he is going to tell me that, though, because he is one and heaven forbid my wounds interfere with a man’s sex life. I cycled through anger and despair for the rest of the night knowing this is the person who I had to go to if I want to feel better. Was it even worth it?? I would rather die in a fiery explosion than be reduced to tears again. I thought I had made such good progress the last year but bring out the speculum and place it in a man’s hand as I’m told I need to put out and I am once again fighting to hold myself together. So here I sit… To cancel or not to cancel.
To cancel or not to cancel.