How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gynecologist
For years, I had a crippling fear of the gynecologist. My mother began booking appointments for us both when I was sixteen, and I resisted every step of the way. First, I flat-out refused to get in the car. Then I figured I would go, but only if I didn’t have to get the full examination. The nurse never made it past second base. She could feel the boobs a bit, but the pants stayed on. “My period,” I’d lie, and she’d nod knowingly. Eventually, I learned menstruation is a great Get Out of Anything Free card. “Can’t go home with you tonight, got my period,” or, “Can’t wade in the urine-saturated Lazy River at Water World. My period. You know the drill.”
At sixteen, I wasn’t comfortable with an older woman probing my nether regions with cold, sterile kitchen utensils. I was afraid of what she might find, what she might tell me. I was more afraid of what she might tell my mom. We had the same nurse practioner, so our appointments were always booked back to back. Her looming proximity discouraged me from being honest during exams, come hell or high blood clots.
Do I smoke? No, of course not (yes). Have I had sex before? No (it’s been a few months, haven’t those incidents expired?). And of course, my go-to white lie, “No, I have my period; maybe you can examine me on my next visit. But in the meantime, can you hook a sister up with some birth control?”
Then it’d be my mother’s turn. I imagined how they’d gossip about my sexual health behind that circular curtain, had I allowed the nurse to give me a full examination. “Let’s be real, Stephanie didn’t break her hymen riding horses, did she?” My mom, legs spread like she was a sanctuary for Thanksgiving stuffing, would snort and say, “That girl? Please. Give it to me straight, Dorothy.” (They’re on a first name basis, in my fantasy.) Dorothy would grin and say, “Oh, she’s definitely a little whore.”
My mother would smile—her tact no match for her desire to discuss her eldest daughter’s sex life—and she’d casually reply, “Dorothy. Tell me something I don’t know.” They’d have a giggle at my expense. Moments later, my mother would emerge from behind the curtain of secrets and take me to McDonald’s.