I recently entered the dressing room of the clinic where I was having my annual “breast health” visit (a phrase that makes me think my boobs should be eating Paleo and doing cardio). Guess what was waiting on the bench inside?
A pink johnny, of course. But that’s not all. On top of the johnny was a white foil package the size of a condom wrapper, only instead of anything fun, it contained a sanitary wipe. The package label read “MammoWipe,” with a helpful blue bar over the “o” so that I’d know to say “MammOHWipe.” (Oh! Oh! Oh!)
My first thought: Was I supposed to wipe down the entire mammogram machine with this shitty little square? That didn’t seem very sanitary.
My second thought, once I realized the wipe was actually meant to rid the top half of my body of pesky deodorants and powders, was, “Wow, the marketing genius who came up with this brand name is definitely overpaid.”
Except, wait, it’s 2023. Probably ChatGPT did the honors.
Anyway, I tore open the package with my teeth (these are as impossible to open as those restaurant butter packets) and swabbed down before sticking my arms into the pink johnny and walking into the imaging room. The technician tried to be funny with phrases like, “Where’s my next victim? Let’s get this party started!” A+ for effort, but not helpful.
If you’ve never had a mammogram, picture a giant pannini maker in a freezing cold room. Only instead of putting bread and cheese inside flat plates to squeeze into a delicious sandwich, your boob’s going in there. The technician eases you into the machine by tugging at your breast like a stubborn horse before smashing it flat between two metal plates.
And I do mean smashing. It’s nearly impossible to get your breast out again without using a spatula to break the suction.
As I stood there being squeezed and imaged, the technician kept warning “Don’t move!” as if I could budge without turning my breast into string cheese.
If men needed their balls examined, you can bet they’d figure out a less painful machine. Or if men had annual pap smears, the tool in use would be a lot more evolved than that wooden Popsicle stick thingie, which I always imagine will leave splinters up my Lady Bits. (My husband argues that doctors check his prostate by sticking a finger up his wazoo, so maybe that’s more primitive, but it wouldn’t leave splinters and the finger isn’t cold.)
You’d think giving birth would be an exception to the medical system’s dehumanization campaign, since it’s a miracle of life and all that jazz, but not necessarily. I had a woman obstetrician overseeing my last pregnancy. When my labor wasn’t progressing after 24 hours, she crossed her arms and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have this baby before lunch?”
“Well, yes,” I said, because my mother raised me to be agreeable.
Now, did this doctor give me ANY information about what speeding up a birth might entail? Did she even MENTION that Pitocin—the drug they gave me—would turn my labor into a high-speed car chase, the sort that includes a wrecking ball and a gas tanker bursting into flames, like those Fast and Furious movies? Nope.
More recently, I had imaging done on my leg to see if the pain was from a blood clot. Into a dark room I went, wearing only underpants and a johnny (blue, this time, because hey, guys come here, too), and lay down on a table. A very cold table. The technician silently ran his alien probe up and down my leg, occasionally squeezing my calf or thigh so hard I yelped in pain.
If I’d been alone with this twerp in a dark room at age twenty, I might have been terrified. Instead I was furious. I finally sat up and said, “Don’t they train you to talk patients through procedures? Also, shouldn’t you have a female assistant if you’re going to shut yourself up in a dark room with a female patient?”
As I got dressed again after the mammogram, I thought fondly of my veterinarian, and how much time she devotes to comforting my nervous Pekinese during a checkup. She pats him, tells him how brave he is, and gives him a treat. What’s up with human healthcare, that people are treated like livestock, while our pets receive the red carpet and actual conversation?
In my next life, I’m definitely coming back as a Pekingese.
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