Unless you’re pregnant on a regular basis (lucky you!), you’ll probably find yourself getting an annual gynecological exam – which is about as much fun as trying to get your toddler to eat a platter of oysters. Now, I’m not a professional of the medical variety (or really any other, unless you consider “wine consumption” something you can go pro at), so hopefully I won’t scare you away from this brief yet sadistic encounter by sharing with you the most awkward parts. To be fair, there aren’t really best parts either. Just lady parts!
1. Breast Exam. You put your arm above your head and your practitioner starts gently rubbing your breast in tiny, methodical circles all while trying to avoid eye contact. If you’re not pregnant and it isn’t that time of the month, this could actually be kind of nice. You will then feel guilty for reacting this way to the important medical work taking place. Feel free to break the ice during this partially erotic, wholly uneasy moment by suggesting the examiner could have at least bought you dinner first. She will swear she’s never heard that one before, and you will chuckle together awkwardly.
2. Weight Check. You’re escorted to a giant industrial scale that looks like it has inhabited the doctor’s office since the days when secondhand cigarette smoke wafted around the room while you were checked for cervical dilation and effacement. Before you can even take off your shoes or explain that your wet hair and bulky sweatshirt must account for at least two extra pounds, you’re subjected to a public weigh-in. Your obvious displeasure with this number that is at least five pounds higher than on your scale at home seems to please the nurses to no end, lending credence to your theory that they privately gossip about patients over lunch.
3. The Strip ‘N Wait. For some reason it is imperative that you remove every article of clothing in favor of a comically threadbare sheet of dusky pink cloth that the nurse refers to as a “robe.” Though you are about to be more intimate with the doctor than with your lover, you are compelled to hide your panties from view and then settle yourself on a table on which your every movement is betrayed by the noisy crinkling of paper sticking to your sweaty butt. Despite having been instructed to go the Full Monty in a glaringly bright, sterile, chilly room that highlights various contraceptive devices through the art of diorama, it’ll feel like another cycle of the moon has passed before you’re graced with your doctor’s presence even though you’ve been listening to her casually chatting just outside the door for the past ten minutes. Worst of all is your bare behind is often the first thing the doctor sees when walking in the door… the door that opens from a busy hallway.
4. Pelvic Exam. Ah, the comfort of getting your reproductive organs thoroughly checked on the outside and from the inside – simultaneously! Put your feet in those stirrups (and you thought they were just for horses) and prepare to get uncomfortable. If you thought the eye contact during the breast exam was fleeting, brace yourself for the complete and thorough awkwardness of zero eye contact while your medical professional has a gloved finger up your now buttered muffin as she’s pressing through your belly blubber to distinguish your uterus and discern each ovary. You will be so tense and jittery you will want to break the ice by unleashing any hackneyed gynecology joke you may have heard long ago, though it’s virtually guaranteed your doctor’s heard them all.
5. Pap Smear. For something that sounds like it might be spread on a bagel, the Pap smear is pretty much hell on earth. Consider: you’re lying on your back on a flimsy sheet of crinkly paper, sweat creeping up your back. Your practitioner insists you scoot farther down the table, heightening your awareness that you are shuffling your privates toward a stranger’s face, inch by inch. A muffled voice rises from below the immodestly spread mint green sheet, sharing that they’re about to “touch you down there.” The speculum, a device uniquely designed to stay ice cold even in the most temperate rooms, gets pushed up your utterly not-nearly-lubed-enough-for-this vagina. Though you’re already clenching your teeth – and maybe something else – the speculum is then opened up to really give your practitioner a thorough look into the most private of private parts with a flexible light designed to grant access to where the sun don’t shine. Then comes an absurdly long Q-tip that essentially swabs away the rest of your dignity as a solitary tear rolls slowly down your cheek. The speculum is then pulled out as quickly as your husband might when your child unexpectedly bounds into your bedroom, and the doctor nonchalantly hands you a checkout slip while telling you to grab a sanitary product in case you bleed from the exam.
Your annual exam could be described as “fun,” if by fun you mean soul-crushingly dehumanizing. Now that you’ve been reminded of the fun associated with this regrettably medically necessary exam… have you made your appointment yet this year?
Related post: Dear Gynecologist