Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You & Your Pamphlet

Going to the gynecologist is awkward.  If you've never been to one, think about how awkward it is when someone just talks about gynecologists (like now).  Then multiply that by infinity.  Now, maintain that level of mental awkwardness as I tell you a story.

If you're on the verge of running away, I promise you, I'm not even going to use the word vagina.  Except for just then. 

When you go in for a pap smear, as with any other visit to a doctor's office, you're led through a labyrinthine network of hallways to an exam room.  Then, you're told to get naked and put on an obligatory robe that is made of tissue paper.  I guess you could leave your shoes on, but that would just look silly.

The robe is left on the exam table for you and is folded as tightly as a road atlas.  Once unfurled, it is basically a huge rectangle with slits for your arms.  By the time you've wrestled this delicate garment open and punched your way into it, you're basically wearing shredded toilet paper, waiting for the doctor to walk in and discover your inability to dress yourself.

Pap smears require you to lie down in the most awkward position possible, with your ass teetering precariously over the edge of the exam table and your feet thrown up in metal stirrups like you really just came here to do your daily yoga routine.  But generally, the pap smear itself only lasts a few seconds.  Then you gather your dignity and clothing and pretend you're never going to have to do this again.

Unless your pap smear is irregular.

If your pap smear is irregular, you are stuck in your toilet paper toga much, much longer than anticipated.  You don't even care about what may or may not be wrong with you.  The whole time your doctor is telling you what the problem was, how common or uncommon it is, and what you need to do next, all you can think about is how badly you want to put your clothes back on.  You're so relieved to finally escape that you might not even remember you had an irregular pap smear until you're back in your car.

Recently, my best friend discovered that you may also be given a pamphlet entitled "You & Your Irregular Pap Smear."

This has opened a whole new closet of gynecological terrors.  Getting handed a pamphlet at the end of your pap smear might actually be more awkward than the pap smear itself.  If your irregular pap smear turns out to be cervical cancer, do they give you another pamphlet?

Eventually, they'll have to give you a pamphlet to ease you through the process of reading all these pamphlets.

I can only hope that when men finally reach the age of 40 and must undergo the dreaded routine prostate exam, they, too, are handed a pamphlet at the end.

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