“So, when is your birthday?” My ob/gyn asked as she flipped through my chart.
She looked at me for just a moment, and then looked back at my chart. She flipped a page and then announced, “This year you need to have a mammogram.”
“Now, why did you have to bring my age into this?” I asked with feigned exasperation.
My doctor grinned, “I didn’t say a word about your age.”
“But it’s implied that since I’m turning 40 I am going to need mammograms.”
“Where has the respect gone? I used to be your doctor, but after your hysterectomy I’m just another person to you. You are finished with me, huh?” We both laughed.
When I was young, these appointments made me nervous. I didn’t like the idea of being so . . . exposed. I didn’t like having a piece of metal that was freezing cold used to pry me open. I was overly concerned with the pre-appointment preparations—legs shaved, hairs trimmed, all areas cleaned, empty bladder, light-weight clothes for the weigh-in process, and the age old debate of “socks on or off?” I undressed and dressed as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t be walked in on without sufficient coverage. I didn’t want to look like I never took the time to trim up my pubic area, but I didn’t want to look like a porn star wannabe with either no hair or an odd shaped shave. Besides, paps always hurt me. The “little pinch” was always more of a stab, due to my odd cervix. Ah, the build-up to a 10 minute appointment, and the anxiety I used to harbor over the experience was ridiculous.
But eventually, I had so many of these exams, sometimes 4 a year, and at times they involved biopsies, that these appointments no longer make me nervous. They are more of a nuisance. I didn’t even think about my legs being shaved, or my trimming practices. I’m obviously an old pro at it now, and I don’t sweat the small stuff in the gyno’s office.
I’m about to be 40. I’m on hormones. I have to color my hair. I pluck silver eyebrow hairs in disgust. I use wrinkle cream that I’m sure isn’t working. My skin texture is less smooth, and my eyes feel more tired. I have had to see a chiropractor about a pinched nerve, I take meds to help me poop, and my joints make cracking noises when I stand up. Being 40 means all of this crappy stuff. But it also means I’m experienced. I choose my battles more often. I work not just because I have to, but because it gives me purpose. I don’t sweat things like gyno appointments. I don’t panic at the slightest bad news. My boundaries are stronger and my filter is intact. I feel like I’m actually at a good age. I have always had a bit of an older soul, and I think my body has grown into it.
But in my spirit and sense of self, I’m still 21. I’m just a smarter, wiser 21 year old.