I’ve come to an age where every medical exam is more than just an exposition of my flailing health and unstoppable descent towards death. There’s an increasing degree of humiliation involved in the nature of routine afflictions a person suffers with age. Hemorrhoids, piles, incontinence, flatulence, cancer. Erectile dysfunction? My thirteen year old self, who was more often with erection than without, would never have imagined it possible. My teen self really believed that, as long as there were vaginas in the world, there would be unpredictable, erratic hard-ons to complicate and embarrass my life until I was in the grave.
To diagnose most of the conditions common to aging requires regularly submitting to having organs and orifices squashed, poked, prodded, scoped, smeared, drained, and probed. Equipment is shoved, tugged, or stuffed into places throughout the body; places man and machine were never meant to co-exist.
The diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is even more traumatizing; occurring in one of those rare moments, once a week at most, when you and your partner have discovered you have fifteen minutes. Somehow both of you are in bed AND awake. You decide it’s now or never before sleep invades, skip the foreplay, and do Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine the loser who has to be on top, which requires more energy. After I lose, again, Zarathustra decides he is going to skip the festivities. Diagnosis: ED. Nobody had to shove their hand up my ass and, though the ball grabbing was a welcome procedure, it did not help. It’s like finding a hundred dollar bill in your jacket pocket when you thought you were broke: just as you are jubilant with dreams of where you’ll spend it, a gust of wind swipes it from your hand and carries it to oblivion.
I brings me back to when I was young, the worst thing about a doctor’s visit was when he would grab my balls and say ‘cough’. Apparently, that was a hernia exam, which always struck me as really dubious. As a teenager I had spent plenty of time fantasizing about having my balls cradled – by my nubile classmates Joanne, Tracy, Stacy, Sheila, Sherry, and Kate. I never once considered my first ball-grab by a hand that was not mine would be that of an aging, hairy-eared, halitosis-mouthed white man named Dr. Peters, who also had a ridiculously cold office, which made the experience more humiliating than it already was.
The yearly check up was totally ruining the dream. I hated how long it took until someone, anyone other than my doctor or I touched my balls; a fact making those check ups all the more demoralizing. The further into my teens I got, the more resentful I became as the more female-savvy among my friends could easily shake off the humiliation of the hernia exam by paying a visit to their sexually-earnest girlfriend’s house for a more thoroughly enjoyable check up.
‘Okay Mr Saunders I am just going to stick my fingers up your ass and wiggle ‘em around a little bit and we’ll see if that little critter at the base of your scrotum is getting a little big for his britches.’ Can’t we do a bloody x-ray or MRI on it? We send people to the moon, we clone sheep, invent nanotechnology, and split the atom – and yet, here we are in the 21st century and doctors are still sticking their hands up the arse to check a prostate? Bunch of cretins.
I wonder about people who want to be proctologists. What life circumstance is at the root of such aspirations?
When I was a kid, and the teacher would have students talk about their ambitions I’d always say something like, ‘when I grow up I’m going to be Superman’ which was not apparently specific enough. I’d say that I was going to discover a gadget to stop time so I could plant myself at the place where they draw the lottery numbers and have mine come up so I’d never have to worry about money like my poor mother. It was sweet, my teacher would insist, but still too delusional to set down a list of specific tasks to get me there. ‘Wanna bet?’ I’d say, just to be cheeky. I’d start jotting in my scribbler. Step one: research time machines. Step two: buy body-length blue tights and red cape, just in case.
I imagine proctologists and podiatrists are like the gym teachers of the doctor world. Foot doctors are like the creepy janitor at your high school who just happens to be there when you’re trying to get to second base while making out with Susie in what you thought was a safe nook in the school basement. In my mind only a total creep wants to deal, on a day to day basis, with feet like my grandmother’s with toes that point sideways from the foot and bunions that need a chainsaw to be removed.
So now, I hate to say it but I’m thinking more about ass doctors and of anus-oriented medical issues in general. I really can’t get into the free and easy banter when it prefaces the act of a finger being stuck up my ass by an overly-chipper doctor, or worse, before a camera is thrust up my intestines to shoot reel for a film nobody wants to see. ‘Is that the remnants of a 7-11 burrito you ate on that bender seventeen years ago? Noooh, it’s a polyp! RUN!!’ Now they show people’s butts on billboards to convince us that it’s silly to be embarrassed about having some doctor look up your anus. Propaganda to the core. If I can’t get a birds’ eye view of my anus, nobody should. It should forever remain a creature of myth; like a unicorn, a Sasquatch, or the Loch Ness Monster; something we all know full well exists but has never been seen.