Warning: This story isn't particularly graphic, but it does contain some mental images that could make you feel VERY AWKWARD if you are of the male persuasion and happen to know me in person. So you can either NOT READ IT, or read it and laugh (dude, it IS funny) and pretend you totally didn't when you next see me. WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU.
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When I was 17 or 18, my mom decided it was time for me to have my very first Annual Gynecological Checkup.
Frankly, this was no big surprise. I knew it was time, too. And not because I was sexually active or having any kind of Problematic Lady Part Issues. Mostly because those brochures they gave us in Health class said that girls should have that kind of checkup by the time they're 18 and if I knew anything when I was 18, it was how to follow rules; even rules that were really just suggestions printed inside glossy Family Planning brochures that nobody else but me ever read anyway, and especially not on the bus ride home. Well, nobody except me, that is. Well, and my mom. (OBVIOUSLY.) (Except she did not read them on the bus.)
“I made you a gynecologist appointment,” my mom told me one afternoon. “But I just made it at the family practice, so you can have your hearing and cholesterol checked, too.”
That should have been my first clue, an appointment for three of the most unrelated medical issues ever in the history of the world. My hearing? My vagina? MY CHOLESTEROL? In my mom's defense, I understand that she was just trying to make it as easy as possible: one appointment to get it all out of the way. Also: only one $10 co-pay (CHEAPSKATE). However, should you happen to have one of these “daughters” who need their reproductive system checked out for the very first time, might I suggest you make sure they're seeing someone who SPECIALIZES IN THIS TYPE OF PLUMBING?
I showed up to the appointment and was sent to the lab for bloodwork and the hearing test. Here I would like you to know that I passed the hearing test and was not suffering from high cholesterol, despite family history and my mother's paranoia. Then I was led back to an exam room where I was told to undress completely, put on the paper shirt and drape the paper sheet over my legs. The doctor would be with me shortly, so I was left alone to panic about the fact that very, very soon, I was going to have to hoist my naked legs in the air and place my naked feet into stirrups and expose something VERY PRIVATE and also VERY NAKED to someone I had NEVER MET BEFORE. And because Google did not exist back in 1995, I had no idea what else to expect. I certainly wasn't going to ask a REAL LIVE PERSON what was going to happen to me during that appointment. OH HECK NO.
The doctor eventually came in, after I'd shivered in my paper outfit for 15 minutes or so. I was willing to be compliant with everything she asked me to do in the hopes that she would let me put my clothes back on ASAP and thaw out. I remember that she was relatively young; probably in her early 30s, and I could tell, despite being only 17 or 18 years old myself, that she was kind of nervous about doing a gyn exam. Probably because she was a general practitioner, and hadn't seen a vagina on purpose since her residency rotations and she probably only did it then WITH SOMEONE LOOKING DIRECTLY OVER HER SHOULDER and giving her instructions on how to do whatever she was doing CORRECTLY. (You: Hey! I sense foreshadowing!)
I don't remember a lot of small talk or instruction. I have probably blocked it out. What I do remember is that I got into the right position with a lot of coaching, and blushing, and then the doctor showed me the speculum and told me what she was going to do with it. I do remember thinking that she had to be kidding me; this procedure required a METAL SHOEHORN? And then she said something about it being metal, and therefore cold to the touch, and that it would probably be a lot more comfortable for me if she warmed it up with some warm water first.
I know what you're thinking, and what you're thinking is, “Now, that's a nice touch!” And I know she MEANT well, but that does not excuse the fact that what ended up happening was that she didn't pay attention to the water temperature and therefore put a SCALDING HOT SPECULUM up my hoo-ha. It was... rather uncomfortable. I sucked in my breath because OMG THE PAIN but I think the doctor just thought it was General First-Time Speculum Fright and continued on with her doctoring business. Except that her business wasn't going so well either.
She adjusted that little poky metal shoehorn about 15 times, twisting it this way and that; pulling it out and apologizing and asking me to try to hold still (IMPOSSIBLE) while she inserted it again. It sucked. ROYALLY. And finally she decided it just wasn't happening and told me that she needed to find a different speculum; that the one she had wasn't giving her the right angle, and she needed to get a new one.
And I swear, as God as my witness, I did not make up what happened next. Remember, I am lying on a table, with my feet in the stirrups, covered by what generally amounts to an oversized KLEENEX, while my doctor opens the exam room door, stands in the doorway, and shouts into the hallway, “Does anybody know if they make a bigger speculum?”
SHOUTING. INTO THE HALLWAY. Not “where IS the bigger speculum,” or “could someone bring me the bigger speculum.” DO THEY MAKE A BIGGER SPECULUM. Does it even EXIST. There is a MEDICAL ANOMALY LYING ON MY TABLE, EVERYBODY, and I CANNOT FIND HER CERVIX.
Bedside manner EPIC FAIL.
Eventually, she ended up going and searching for one herself, leaving me there on the table, all shivery and still very naked. (I didn't even leave my socks on because the nurse specified “naked from the waist down” and I don't know if you were paying attention at the beginning of this entry but HELLO, AM MAJOR RULE FOLLOWER, “naked” means NO SOCKS.) And when she returned, she finished the exam (no warming of the new, possibly-larger-although-she-never-actually-told-me speculum this time, it was as cold as ice), and after telling me everything looked just fine, also told me that the next time I had one of these appointments to tell the doctor that, AND I QUOTE, “Your cervix is waaaaaayyy up in there.” Guess what? I mentioned that the next time, YEARS AND YEARS LATER, when I had an appointment with an actual board-certified vagina doctor and she told me my cervix was exactly where she expected it to be. In other words? The person who told you that was completely incompetent and should be doing something like checking your hearing or your cholesterol and NOTHING ELSE.