On a sunny, crisp, New England morning, as I’m crossing the Main Green, I exchange a few “hello’s” and quick smiles with the undergrads and teachers passing by. Proud of my new pumps and matching purse, I’m on my way to Health Services.
The sweetness of the Indian summer must have infused the nurse practitioner’s mood, as she greets me with a friendly:
“Look at you: I love your outfit! It’s very becoming.”
While I thank her enthusiastically, she recomposes:
“So, what can I do for you, young lady?”
She must have known why I’m there, since I made the appointment weeks ago.
“I’m here for my annual ob/gyn exam.”
Then, I add rather quickly:
“Technically, it’s not quite annual…I didn’t have one in 3 years, since I started grad school. But now, with the qualifiers behind me, thanks God, I finally have the time for this kind of stuff…you know, time for myself.”
“Good for you! OK, let’s start then. Step on the scale, please.”
“Should I take my shoes off?” I volunteer.
“You can, if you want to. But, it doesn’t matter, really!”
Hmm, maybe I should, as I’m pretty sure I’ll get depressed with my weight, anyway.
“155 pounds” announces the nurse, joyfully. “Now, your height: do you know how tall you are, dear?”
“Gosh!” I frown. “I don’t really know it in US units. I only remember it in centimeters, it should be about…”
“No worries, let’s measure you, then!” She notes on my chart: 5’7. Then, she shows me in a patient room and invites me to sit on the exam table.
“Now I’m gonna take your temp and blood pressure, OK?!”
After a few minutes later, we move on to my medical history.
“How old are you?”
She smiles. “How long have you been married?”
“Well, let’s see… 16 years, I guess, since 1995.”
“Good for you!” she exclaims. “Any children?”
I blush: “No, not yet… although we both want to! School, you know…”
“Yes, of course. Now, how many sexual partners?”
“One. I’m married...”
Hmm, she must have thought I didn’t understand the meaning of the question, so she rephrases:
“Yes, but how many sexual partners did you have in total, including before getting married?”
A little surprised, because I understood what she meant in the first place, I ponder the question, search my pre-marital memories and… repeat:
“Just one, my husband.”
As the woman looks unconvinced, maybe I need to clarify:
“If you refer to intercourse, I only had it with my husband.”
Curiously, it felt awkward to repeat the same answer allover again, like a broken record.
“Yes, I meant intercourse. You know, this information remains confidential, so you can be honest here! Are you sure you had intercourse with just one man in your entire life?”
I don’t need to think this one over but… maybe I need to spice it up a little:
“Sorry, just one guy … before and after marriage!” (My God, why did I say “sorry”???)
Still, she seems surprised. Almost as surprised as she, I’m staring at the floor, while dangling my feet on the side of the table. Then, with a forced smile, I look up to inspect her. Taking abundant notes, she looks rather irritated, like I didn’t trust her enough to tell the truth. Suddenly, I feel compelled to add:
“You know, in my country, we have traditions about these things. I’m from Romania, in Eastern Europe…”
Not true anymore but, as she moves on to the next question, looks like my little explanation worked.
For the rest of the exam, I can’t help wondering what is wrong with me?!Or, maybe it isn’t me?!