Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Imperfect flesh

I'm surprised that so many people - mainly women but also men - find it so hard to expose their body to doctors and nurses. People have so much inhibition, shame and self-loathing about what they look like and how they might be judged.

I've never had any problem showing my body to health professionals. I'm sure they couldn't care less what I look like - whether I'm fat or old or ugly or bald or whatever. They're just doing a job and what the patient looks like is neither here nor there. I'm sure they've seen every possible variety of human oddities and one more won't faze them. They don't expect anyone to be "normal" as they know we come in all shapes and sizes.

But there are many people who're completely thrown by the idea of exposing their imperfect flesh for examination. They would rather ignore worrying symptoms than face a doctor's scrutiny.

I read that many women avoid smear tests because they're embarrassed by the look and smell of their pubic areas. Or they worry that they're wearing the wrong sort of underwear or clothing. Or they feel awkward about their body shape. So they invent all sorts of excuses for not getting tested.

I guess some men are equally embarrassed about showing their bodies, though we don't hear much about them. The guys who're mortified by their beer bellies, general flabbiness, or rampant hairiness. I'm sure they're out there.

I'd like to confirm my human frailty and vulnerability by telling you how I squirm and cringe as the doctor examines me, but it wouldn't be true. I honestly don't give a toss what she thinks of my spreading bum or misshapen toenails or weedy chest. I just want to know if there's anything unhealthy going on and get it treated. That's my only concern.


Dave Martin said...

Agreed - the doctors have seen it all so why worry?
It's the same question I ask myself whenever I watch those medical programmes on TV like Embarrassing Bodies - why did they leave it so long before seeking help?

tammy j said...

anyone who has ever gone to the ER with a heart situation can't be embarrassed by anything!
you're immediately swarmed by doctors/nurses doing their thing... hooking you up to the EKG machine placing the patches here and there and everywhere.
I've grown used to it and you're right... if it saves your life so be it.

nick said...

Dave: Absolutely. Why risk a serious illness or death simply because you find your body embarrassing?

Tammy: When I was in hospital, there were nurses and doctors checking up on me all the time. Their only interest in my body was whether it was recovering from the operation okay.

Polly said...

I would add to Tammy’s comment – pregnancy and childbirth shed all inhibitions and embarrassment. I'm happy for any health professional to examine my wrinkled body to tell me all is well. It is sad though when people feel so embarrassed that they don’t even want a doctor to see their body. PS hope you're ok now Tammy.

Bijoux said...

Well, it's more uncomfortable than anything else. I've noticed that physicians' offices have stopped with the paper gowns except for ob/gyn exams here, or if you need an EKG. My 25 YO had a physical yesterday fully clothed.

Ursula said...

As so often I have no idea of what you speak. And I do suspect you, largely, don't either. You "read" about it, as you do. Well, don't believe all you read, and don't think you are the exception. Do you actually ever talk to any of your co-patients when sitting in the waiting room? I dare say they are more occupied to find out whether they are ok or not than to worry what a professional might think about them. Because that is what professionals do NOT do, care a flying fig about your appearance.

On one point you so delicately mention: Let me assure you that women are not embarrassed by the look and smell of their pubic areas. What look? And pubic areas, as you call them so quaintly, on the whole, don't smell when freshly washed. Follow you own logic, Nick: These are health professionals. You may be sitting on the toilet when a stroke catches you. Do you sincerely think that either you or the ambulance team do give a toss? Still, mitigating circumstances: You do come across as very self conscious. Which is, no doubt, why you deny you are.

To complete your day and make it: Dearest Nick, despite you telling us repeatedly how perfect you are, as opposed to all those "other" people (who are they?), I'd like to draw to your attention that it's "fazed" not "phased". Never mind, I am sure one of these days you'll come up with a post of how everyone else is crap at proof reading - apart from you.

Oh, Nick.


nick said...

Polly: Yes, it's hard to be coy about such very visible changes to the body. Not sure if there's any remotely similar male equivalent. Heart attacks maybe.

Bijoux: I'm a bit baffled as to how you can have a physical fully clothed! It always amuses me that the nurses here weigh me fully clothed. Not exactly accurate....

nick said...

Ursula: Well, there are so many misconceptions there I hardly know where to start. I've never said I'm perfect. I'm not speculating about what's in women's minds, I'm quoting from a survey of some 2000 women. And talking to the odd patient in the waiting room is no substitute for a mass survey.

Also, I'm not saying anything about pubic areas, that's something that came out in the survey. And I've already made the point that health professionals are more concerned with doing their job than judging people's bodies.

But there's one thing you've got right. Fazed it is.

Oh, and I'm very good at proof reading. I've proofed lots of things for Jenny, including about 75 per cent of her PhD.

kylie said...

I do think it is quite common for people to avoid seeing a doctor for various reasons.
many women are uncomfortable with their normal body parts and functions and i think (from my extensive research) that men avoid doctors more because they don't want to ask for help.
One man I know fell recently and tore his leg open quite severely but refused hospital treatment due to his fear of hospitals.
There are also many people who are embarrassed about how long they have ignored a specific issue and then feel unable to get it looked at for fear they will be chastised.

I work hard to preserve the dignity of my clients during the birth process. They are able to decline vaginal exams and stay clothed or covered with a sheet until the last moments before birth. The time after birth is vulnerable, I have seen women who would have laid in stirrups and uncovered for over an hour if I didn't cover them up, usually because they are waiting for stitching or for a doctors check

helen devries said...

French hospital gowns leave a lot to be desired....if going for tests I would take my long cashmere cardigan as a cover up. There were occasional sarky remarks about prudish Anglo Saxons to which the response was that if they thought I was going to freeze in the draughts in their clinic they had another think coming.

tammy j said...

you're right Polly.
I'd forgotten my mother saying when she was pregnant with me in a teaching military hospital on base. all the young interns learning about the soon to come proceedings. LOL.
and how kind of you. am doing well. thanks!

nick said...

Kylie: Well, you confirm what I said about many people being uncomfortable at the idea of a medical examination. And you've described other situations I hadn't even thought about. I've read many times that men are more reluctant than women to see a doctor. I used to be very wary of hospitals but after my recent operation and the excellent care I received, I now have a more positive attitude.

nick said...

Helen: I don't see anything prudish about wanting to put on some warm clothing instead of shivering.

Tammy: I was once checked out for the possibility of Marfan Syndrome, and there was a whole crowd of medical students gawping at me while the consultant did his stuff. Fortunately I was fully clothed and didn't have to strip off.

Ursula said...

You are right, Nick, you never SAID that you are "perfect". What you do do is imply it. Ok, let's tone down "perfect" but most certainly you make yourself out as better than most. You constantly choose subjects that make demarcations between you and "other people".

How do you do that? You usually refer to some article, some study, some anything, and then tell us that you, naturally, are not like that. This may come as a surprise to you but most people are not like other people.

You proceed to concur: "But there's one thing you've got right. Fazed it is." And you continue: "Oh, and I'm very good at proof reading. I've proofed lots of things for Jenny, including about 75 per cent of her PhD." Don't you see, Nick? I have often complimented you on your near perfect copy yet here you go again, telling me that you are good at proof reading. Yes, you are. And you made one teensy weensy mistake which I only pointed out because you are so hung up on detail. Always comparing yourself to others, others who fall short. If you can't see that then please do look over your posts, read them (not the comments) like you'd read a novel. You won't be able to come back to me not having noticed a recurring theme.

I am not getting at you; just pointing out, as I hope other people point out to me the holes in my fabric, where you don't seem to be able to see the mist for the fog.


nick said...

Ursula: There are plenty of things I'm totally crap at, but for some reason you're obsessed with the ones I'm good at. I can't be bothered to defend myself for the umpteenth time. Take me or leave me.

Rummuser said...

I have had my share of medical examinations and so far have not had any problems baring my body to the profession. I however do not recall doing so consciously to the fair sex in that. There were two occasions when my anaesthetist was a lady but I do not remember her presence in the theater!

nick said...

Ramana: Perhaps you don't remember the anaesthetist because you were unconscious at the time?

CheerfulMonk said...

Them seeing my body doesn't bother me. If I get nervous at all it's because I know sooner or later they might find something serious. I don't overly stress, but it's always a relief when tests come back fine.

CheerfulMonk said...

What happened to your January posts?

nick said...

Jean: I agree, that's the only thing I get nervous about. And better to nip something nasty in the bud than not go to the doctor because I don't want to take my pants off.

Wisewebwoman said...

LOL. I think any woman who has given birth loses any and all inhibitions, Nick. Aging is excellent too, wrinkles, foldy bits, liver spots. I'm at the age where I'm so grateful I've lived this long when so many I loved didn't.

I honour my body, it has served me well, tho failing a bit lately, to be expected.


nick said...

www: Yes, if you're in a labour ward for 12 hours with nurses and doctors hovering around watching your every vital sign, any initial embarrassment must fade pretty quickly.

I'm also glad my body is holding up so well after 70 years.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm with WWW - any woman who has given birth has gotten used to medical providers seeing her naked. Hell, when you are in the hospital to deliver, everyone but the janitor has a look inside you to see how far you've dilated!

nick said...

Agent: I'm sure you're right. Giving birth is a great leveller!