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As I completed my right turn on red, my god given right as a Californian, I pondered what makes a successful annual exam. And boys, don’t think you can weasel on to some other post–it’s important for you to read about this stuff too, whether you have a girlfriend or not. (Gay men, you are exempt from reading, proceed directly to go, collect $200.)

Starting with:

My appointment was at 2:40. For once, intake actually took about twenty minutes. So, once I finished filling out the silly family history form and telling the nurse what I ate yesterday, I was whisked into the back to be weighed (hah) and have my blood pressure and temperature taken (double hah) and then I was dumped in the nearest bathroom to produce urine for the nice nursie.

As anyone can tell you, I drink a lot of water. Yet, for some reason, whenever I got to the clinic, my normally exploding bladder clams up, negating the “clean catch” scenario. I’m lucky to get a dribble of first stream urine in there, let alone a “mid stream” sample. This time, however, I came prepared–I drank two glasses of water at 2:30, thus guaranteeing that something would have to come out on command.

So I sat on the toilet for a moment. I read the ingredients on the gynaecological wipes. I studied a container of dixie cups. I read the Spanish version of the clean catch poster. I thought about how clean the bathroom was. I tried to ignore the doctor making fun of a patient on the other side of the door. And then…suddenly…I urinated. It was a miracle. My cup ranneth over. I pranced out into the hallway with glee and was ushered into…the room.

A moment of aside here. Boys, I know that getting your prostate checked isn’t the most awesome thing in the world, especially if you are a smidge homophobic. But here’s the thing–a fair number of healthy and well adjusted males in the world have a “stick your finger in my butt and stimulate my prostate” fetish. So I don’t have a whole lot of pity for you and your whining, especially since every woman I know can tell you in excruciating detail exactly how not fun an annual exam is—gyn fetishes are rare in the female community, let me tell you. And I’ll tell you why: because gyn exams suck.

At any rate, the room. The table. The tray with the implements of torture laid out causes my teeth to clench even thinking about it. And then, of course, the two sizes too small “exam gown” neatly laid out. So I change. And fold my clothing neatly and put my Danskos under the chair, because I am anal that way. I also hide my underwear under my pants, so that Dr. Bush* won’t know I am wearing Wonderwoman underoos. And then I sit tensely on the edge of the exam table to wait.

Now, this is the part when an annual usually starts to really suck. You are all dressed up and there’s no one to party. You stare aimlessly at the posters on the walls, trying not to let your eyes drift to the exam tray. Your throat dries. You search for a clock. So, this time, I came prepared with a book (it should be noted that I have actually finished several books waiting for doctors at the clinics, so I brought a nice fat book—The Deptford Trilogy, .

Imagine my surprise when I had barely cracked the spine and Dr. Bush* charged in. And let me tell you, she got right down to business. We went over the family history form (if I answered yes to anything, I was obligated to explain). Then we talked about my level of satisfaction with my current method of birth control (high) and my general health (er, decent, considering). She listened to my lungs and heart and made little murmering noises, which is common in my case. And then the real excitement began.

As any lady worth her salt knows, the gyn, much like a high school boyfriend, warms up with the breast exam. While smalltalk is made, you lie back and think of England as she…palpates. And then, without warning, the bottom half of your gown is whisked up and she…palpates some more. This is when I am glad my gyn is a sweet little old lady. All of this, of course, is merely the prelude to the major action which is, of course, the pelvic exam.

Now, I am a pro at avoiding pelvics. I think most women are. But eventually the pelvic police catch up with you and you pay your dues, oh, do you. For my first pelvic, the gyn neglected to warm up the (metal) speculum. Then she forgot to close it before retracting it. Once bitten, twice shy. To my astonishment, however, Dr. Bush* not only set out an array of sizes (long story) but also warmed them all. She’s done my last three annuals, so she kind of knows the score with me at this point. Most speculums these days are plastic (i.e. disposable), people. I appreciate the children of oil that died for my pelvic comfort. So anyway. There we are. Everything is warm and lubed. And…you know the rest.

I was somewhat surprised when she asked halfway through if I wanted to be checked for STDs. Well, uh, yeah. Isn’t that the point of an annual? I’m mean, I’m not exactly little miss risk taker here, but I do take advantage of my annual to be tested for…everything. Because it can’t hurt. And might be enlightening. I’m also glad that she’s a rapid player. None of this earth mother crap for you. In fact, it went a lot like this:

“S, how does this feel?”
“Well, to be honest, Dr. Bush*, it feels a lot like you are sticking a large piece of plastic in a naughty place.”
“Fair enough. I’m going to remove this now.”

I don’t know if she has tentacles or what, but she got in, got what she wanted, and got out. And then palpated my ovaries. A lot of palpating goes on. And then you can get dressed and leave, but not before a nurse lectures you about your diet. This is the first year, in fact, that a nurse hasn’t lectured me about my diet. A morbidly obese woman came in, studied my “what I ate yesterday” list, and said “well you obviously eat better than we do, so we can skip this.”

Thank. You. Jesus.

A number of friends of mine have been to Dr. Bush*, and most of them have mentioned some problem they had with her. This confuses me, because I think she’s totally awesome:

1. She actually listens to me as a patient. When I tell her something hurts, she stops. When I tell her about my needs, she meets them. And I appreciate this.

2. I often have…unusual presentations during a physical exam, because of personal lifestyle choices. She does not comment on these choices. She asked me once in one of our early exams what the deal with (X) was, and I told her, and she more or less said “ok, cool, I assume you know how to play safe.” Which is a nice change from being lectured about my personal life. I would certainly recommend her as a poly/BDSM friendly practicioner, because she’s a sharp cookie. She doesn’t need to tell me what to do, comment on my choices, or make me feel like a terrible person for being who I am.

3. She is sensitive to basic patient needs. She alerts me to what she’s going to do, and when. She warms speculums. She gets the lay of the territory before sending troops in. I appreciate that. For that alone, I would recommend her to young women getting their first annuals.

4. She answers my questions honestly and frankly when I do ask them.

5. She moves things along. She understands that you don’t want to be in there forever, and she facilitates the process. Yay!

So that’s my annual exam story. The best one yet, I must say, the sort of thing that makes me say “now, that wasn’t that bad, was it.” Although I am a little sad.

*Yes, that is her real name. Seriously. Sometimes the stories write themselves, people.

[annual exam]
[grand rounds]