on kathy & judy this morning they are talking about gynecological exams. one of them thinks that the whole thing is overblown and women should suck it up and deal with the 5 minutes total of discomfort involved in a mammogram and the dreaded speculum. i completely agree. i haven’t had a mammogram, but i found the pelvic exam to be completely anticlimactic. it had been built up as this awful experience but it took all of 60 seconds and i was left thinking, “that was it?” i remember afterwards my mom was really concerned with how i was dealing with the whole traumatic experience and i was more concerned with getting across the loop to sign my new lease. actually, i found the whole experience to be too warm and fuzzy and i thought the doctor seemed overly sympathetic. i felt like i was being treated like i was 5 years old and now i can’t help wondering if women freak out so much because every societal cue tells us we’re expected to. i don’t want to marginalize anyone’s feelings here; i’m sure a lot of women are genuinely terrified of the whole experience, the same way a lot of people are paralyzed at the thought of visiting the dentist…something else i’ve never understood. i guess my first reaction to these sorts of situations is one of curiosity.

i’ve always thought that my neutral, or even warm, feelings about going to the dentist had a lot to do with dealing with braces for 4 years. once you’ve had someone rummaging around in your mouth, using that little hammer to see if everything’s cemented properly and causing eye-watering pain for extended periods of time, a little cleaning and flossing seems pretty tame. however, when i really think about it, i’ve never been afraid of the dentist. i think it’s because my pediatric dentist was really great – he was funny and did voices and was friends with my mom. also my parents never made me feel anxious about it.

which brings us back to the pelvic exam – i think a lot of times if you’re told over and over that something is going to be awful, no matter how not-unpleasant the experience is, your mind will find a way to make it seem as bad as you were conditioned to believe it would be. like that passage from junior year hs english – probably one of the most “holy shit, it’s true” things i’ve ever read – the mind can make a hell out of heaven or a heaven out of hell. on the other hand, some people are just more squeamish about certain things than others. i’m okay with the dentist and the gynecologist, but show me a lobster or a herring and i am reduced to a puddle of horrified goo.