I went to see the doctor last week. I thought I had a urinary tract infection, so I made an appointment, boiled a glass jar and peed in it first thing in the morning.
The doctor asked all the appropriate questions about my pee and my body. He asked if he could also ask some questions about me as a person and my life, to get a better picture of his patient. Some of the questions made sense, some seemed a bit odd (For example, he basically asked me if I’m religious, and then said “we’re not supposed to ask about religion, but…”). Then he asked me to lay down so he could feel my stomach. He asked me if it hurt when he pushed different spots. And then… he asked me if my parents are fat.
While pressing and feeling my stomach.
I said my mum is. The doctor said “Don’t get fat.”
After the pressing and feeling of stomach was finished, he lectured me some on why it’s important not to get fat, because once you’ve got that belly, it’s hard to get rid of. He also had his own theory about how it’s more difficult to give birth if you’re big and your belly is floppy.
After we’d talked some more, and I’d given my jar of piss to some guy for testing (which was way less awkward and scary than any other part of my doctor’s visit) the doctor recorded some information in one of those talk-to-yourself-so-you-can-write-it-down-later thingies. That situation felt very weird to me and probably would have regardless of what he was saying. But when he described my “rounded abdomen”, that just put the extra sprinkles on top, or however you say it… In another round of advice giving the doctor told me I should exercise to get rid of that roundness, and I should start while I’m “still young and pretty”. I thought to myself something like “This guy has got to be f-ing kidding me” and said something like “Uhuh. Okay.”. Anything that would get me out of there quickly and painfully, but without explicitly agreeing I needed to lose weight.
And that was my first doctor’s appointment since becoming a “real adult”. My first taste of health care for the grown up.
I had three main problems with the doctor’s comments about my weight/exercise/looks:
1. I didn’t ask for them. I was there on strictly urine related business, and not for dietary or exercise advice. And I certainly didn’t ask for his opinion on the way I look.
2. I’m not fat. I’m not skinny either, and I have got some belly fat. But then most women do. I really fear for the patients of a doctor who thinks you can exercise away your belly. That the normal state for a healthy person is flat. And I hope he doesn’t get to meet a lot of young girls (because I don’t think he’d be as likely to say these things to a guy) in his remaining working years, because if he’s going to tell everyone with any ounce of body fat that they need to lose weight… He’s going to do a lot of damage.
3. Even if I were fat, the doctor’s job is to talk about my health. Unless I’m having health problems because of my weight, there’s still no need for him to comment on it, and there’s certainly NO need for him to push his ideas of what a beautiful body is on me. So don’t use any words like “pretty” or “beautiful” and stop freaking bringing weight up when we’re talking about my vagina and my piss!
Another things that scares me about this doctor, and many others I’ve heard people tell of encounters with, is that they’ve got so many ideas of what’s healthy that aren’t based on scientific fact. It’s like they’re playing amateur nutritionists, except they’re doctors so people think everything they say about the body is the absolute truth. They’ve got this immense power over people, both because they’re considered experts and because you come to them for help with something so very important – your health and well-being. And in the situation of being a patient with a doctor in his office it isn’t easy to speak up if you feel you’re being mistreated or the doctor’s talking crazy.
Which is why I didn’t say anything, and why the next person he does this to probably won’t say anything either. But because I at least have the advantage of being fairly articulate I’ve decided to file a formal complaint. I don’t think doctors should get away with treating their patients badly and being unprofessional. I’m not sure my complaint will change anything at all, but I’d rather do something than nothing any way.
ps. Even if I’ve been annoyed and thinking about this since the appointment, what inspired me to write this post was this other great post by Fat Heffalump about how the bodies of fat people are considered public property. I think similar ideas lie behind comments on thin bodies as well, when the person who takes the liberty of commenting on your body does it to prevent you from becoming fat – or else, to compliment you on filling the norm and not being fat. In either case, there’s a sense that everyone’s entitled to comment on your body, weight and appearance, because “health”. Which is utter bullshit, of course.
And don’t I love hatin’ on bullshit… Almost as much as I hate the bullshit itself.