Doctor on the Boil

This isn’t the post I’ve been planning to write, the one about the amazing Pride march in Delhi. It’s not even the alternative post about queer community that’s been percolating in my mind the last couple of weeks. I will write those too, but first I have to get this one off my chest.

I went to get a general health check-up, which turned, rather unexpectedly, into a session with a gynaecologist. This is one area where I hate not to be in charge, hate not knowing what is being said, hate feeling like I have no control over my own body and that someone else has the right to poke around in it and pronounce judgement. Generally I approach these things with fear, and so I deal with it by doing a lot of research beforehand — how to find a doctor who will be queer-friendly, what sort of experience does (s)he have, does (s)he specialise in something specific, what are my questions for this visit, why am I going here at all, where are the copies of my previous visits’ reports, do I still remember the difference between amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea from the last time I mugged it up?  Usually after all that, the visit isn’t bad — maybe because I’ve done all this homework beforehand and have everything prepared, almost all the gynaecologists listen to my explanations, and, if asked, explain what they are doing and why (they look surprised at being asked, but then so do optometrists, and dentists, and car mechanics…); and if they prescribe anything,  tell me exactly what it is, what it does, what the side effects may be, and that it’s my choice to take it at all. Not too much to expect from a doctor, right? Apparently not.

This time I found myself face to face with a woman I knew nothing about, who decided sometime in the first 5 minutes, while I was still sitting in front of her with all my clothes on, that she knew what was wrong with me, and that was it, she wasn’t going to listen to anything that might contradict her ideas. As it happens, her idea was something I’ve been misdiagnosed with before, and it was proved wrong, and I said so, but I didn’t have any of the paperwork with me, and she clearly didn’t care about a word I said. She was so sure that she was right that she began dictating a prescription without doing a proper exam — she didn’t even bother to weigh me! Then she asked me to take off my shirt and after looking at me like I was some sort of loathsome slug, became fixated on medicines for hair and weight loss.

Now, I know that I have more hair than the average woman on most of my body. I’ve had it ever since I hit puberty, and I used to be terribly ashamed about it, and secretly wonder what I’d done to be cursed with it, and try to make bargains with the universe about it — I’ll find a cure for cancer/become a nun/never eat ice cream again if I can only be normal now…. But over time, and after seeing other real women’s bodies, instead of only whatever fantasies you get on TV, I’ve realised that 1) it’s not that much — most men are still a lot hairier than I am, 2) it’s not that unusual — about 50% of my female friends, gay, straight, Indian, Caucasian, whatever, have some amount of body hair somewhere that the ideal woman doesn’t, 3) it doesn’t hurt me — I’m still very much a healthy, sometimes attractive woman, in spite of it, and 4) I don’t really care. Seriously. It stopped being an unexploded bomb after the first time I let someone else see me naked and realised that she still thought I was beautiful, and after that, it’s steadily lost any power it had over me to become a harmless shadow of the fear I used to live with. For the last year particularly, I’ve treated it in the same way that most women treat their arm hair — most of the time I don’t bother to do anything about it, since it’s perfectly acceptable anyway, and if sometimes there’s a special reason to care about my appearance, I’ll put in the extra time to get rid of it temporarily, for my own sense of occasion. I guess I’ve been lucky to live with people who also don’t care about it.

So, at first I was honestly puzzled, lying there in that clinic, wondering why the doctor was looking so disgustedly at me. When she began speaking, she started with a weight loss medicine, and I still had no clue what was going on — I’m not skinny, but it’s a far cry from needing diet pills! When she’d listed three more medicines, I finally asked her what they were for, and realised that she was prescribing hormones aimed at hair loss. Even then, I thought she’d just misunderstood, and I kept trying to tell her that no, really, I don’t care about the hair, can you just deal with the real gynaecological problem here, please? I kept saying It doesn’t bother me, mujhe usse koi dikkat nahi parti and she kept writing down more and more blood tests and possible combinations of hormones, and starting unfinished sentences about you’ll want to get married soon and it doesn’t look nice and abhi tumne socha nahi hai and I finally shut up, took the paper from her, and walked out, vowing never to return.

I can’t stop fuming about this. I know that even a year ago, if this had happened to me, I’d want to just curl up in a ball of shame and self-loathing and die, and all my anger would have been turned into whininess about life being unfair. Now, I’m just furious at the doctor for being so bloody-minded that she ignored a legitimate medical complaint to concentrate on this purely cosmetic, unimportant thing. Is the beauty myth really that overt now, that the idea of my attractiveness to society is more important than my health?

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~ by mortarandpestle on July 8, 2008.

7 Responses to “Doctor on the Boil”

  1. Argh. I’m glad you were better equipped to deal with this shit this time around, MP. Yes, as I see it, the idea of your attractiveness is far more important than anything else when you come right down to it. Your actual health doesn’t matter much – you need to LOOK healthy is all. Back when I was struggling with all sorts of allergies that made me feel like I was having a heart attack whenever they struck, what was I required to make a trip to an extra-special specialist for? The scarring I have on my back thanks to acne I’d had (whose cause went undiagnosed, mind you, till I got the hell away from my family). Because wheezing and being doubled over in pain and not being able to feel my tongue and itching all over are all fine so long as they don’t interfere with being ‘pretty’. Scars, on the other hand, must be fiddled with endlessly because, goodness, well, you wouldn’t want anyone to see them and get turned off now would you?!

  2. I find it infuriating to not have someone listen to me and hear what I am saying – sorry for your hideous experience.

    janet

  3. good for you, for directing your anger at that awful doctor. my gf has hair in some of the “wrong” places. i know it’s caused her lots of the same trouble/worry you describe her. but to me? it’s just part of her body, a body i find very, very sexy and beautiful. so, this whole “you’ll want to get married soon”? a lot of garbage. (not that this doctor would probably consider me an eligible suitor for the ladies, but whatever.)

  4. Hey, I’m the gf referred to in the previous comment, and I definitely feel your pain. I would say I’m as hairy as the average man, and doctors have been trying for years (with the complicity of my mom) to help me ‘get rid of it’. [I find tweezers work just fine.]

    Now, if it were to just up and disappear, I don’t think I’d miss it. But I’m not going to mess with my body’s chemistry for the rest of my life (because none of those remedies are one-time deals, except electrolysis, which I have considered, and I’m blonde, so laser therapy won’t work on me) because of something that’s how my body naturally is. I don’t have PCOS, or any other hormone-related disorder. My mom is extremely hairy, and so is my dad. All of my 3 sisters are too. Damn that gene pool!

    So, yeah. This sucks. It’s the worst when someone won’t pay attention to what you’re saying about your own body and your own experience. And ultimately, I think it’s hard for people who don’t look ‘normal’, no matter what their gender/sex/sexuality/orientation/etc. I feel horrified by it if I let myself; I think ‘no one but my gf would ever want to sleep with me’. But I’m happy in my relationship so I guess I’ll cross that bridge when/if I come to it. It affects my life in one way: I don’t wear a bikini at the beach. Sometimes I wish I weren’t such a classic femme; if I were more butchly, perhaps having hair on my belly would be a selling point. Oh well!

    I wish you joy and strength and health in your body and your life!

  5. I’m sorry for your experience. I’ve been in Lebanon and can totally relate to your maneuvering through a culture with rigid acceptable images for women. Not that it doesn’t happen in the States too. I have just found that I have my place to be a little less mainstream here. I am glad that you can stand up for yourself. I wish everyone could. I also wish there were a way to give that doctor some education. Not that I think you should be doing it. It so tiring.

  6. I’m so sorry honey. You’re in my thoughts…

    I can’t wait to hear about the Delhi pride. I spent A LOT of time up near there in Hobart/Stamford. It’s been hard not seeing a community. Glad to knwo there is one!

  7. bloody doctors think we are all stupid. Anyway – whens your next entry??? you must have something else to say by now!!!

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