My cultural heritage is somewhat of a mixed blessing. While the Italian from my mother's side has given me thick brown lustrous hair, the Irish German from my father's side has given me pale and somewhat, well, delicate skin.
Having such a precarious epidermis, I must make regular trips to the Dermatologist. Unlike some other doctors, you can’t get away with keeping some of your clothes on during the examination. The Dermatologist needs to look at all of your skin. And I don’t know about you folks but I have skin everywhere.
This poses an interesting challenge for me, in that I am someone who likes to project a vibe of strength and confidence. Yet, I struggle to do so while standing around in my underwear in a room full of strangers.
I didn’t go to the dermatologist for the first time until I was in college. I had heard of the Dermatologist and was aware of their contributions to society, but on my first visit I had no idea what to expect.
The first thing I didn’t expect is what a rock star the dermatologist was! I can usually get a doctors appointment anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks out. But for the Dermatologist, we had to make an appointment a year in advance.
A year? I’ve planned international vacations in less time. Who were all these people going to the Derm? What group of humans was so intent on seeing the Derm that they were filling up every single appointment for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 50 weeks a year? When I arrived for my first appointment I got my answer: old people. They were everywhere.
I was in a small space packed with old people. Apparently the more wrinkles your skin has, the more that can wrong with it. What kind of life style am I leading that the only people I spend my free time with are the people collecting social security that is taken out of MY taxes. I felt like walking up to them and saying;
"Ya know you are only here because I’m paying for it."
I was called in for my appointment by one of the assistants who said to me;
“Strip down to your underwear, take off everything except for your socks.”
This wouldn’t have been so embarrassing had my dad not been in the room with me for our joint appointment.
The Dermatologist is so busy that I couldn’t get my own appointment. I had to be seen with a family member and we weren’t even getting a discount.
So now my father and I were standing there like a pair of potato famine thieves at the end of a strip search, waiting for a strange man we’d never met to come into our room and inspect our Irish German abnormalities.
As the assistant left the room she pointed to something on the chair and said;
“You may put on a gown if you like.”
A gown? Maybe hanging out with my dad in our underwear wouldn’t be so bad after all? My regular doctor had never given me a gown before. This place was classy!
I grabbed the "gown" from the chair, excited to put on my royal robe. But after unfolding it I realized this was no gown. This was a large sleeveless napkin complete with some kind of plastic twist tie cinching string that didn't even make it around my whole waist.
Gown?! Yea right. I put it on and was suddenly aware of the fact that I was wearing a big paper mumu. What other "clothing" did they have? Toilet paper scarves? Newspaper pashminas?
So there we we, my father and I both standing there, like we were at a Fruit of the Loom testing facility. And I realized nobody looks cool standing around in their underwear. And that is what I struggle with.
I just want to look cool, or at least normal, when the Dermatologist walks in. I want to appear confident like I know what is going on in my life, but that becomes increasingly more difficult once the examination starts.
You are just hanging out in that sterile little room with that Lay Z Boy from hell. It’s a lot like laying in the dentist’s chair… except you have no clothes on… and the dentist is using his tools to poke you... all over your body.
So I use this time to ask all the questions about the spots on my body that make me nervous.
That’s a mole.
What about this?
That’s a blister.
That’s your belly button.
It’s all too much to handle. So since I have become an adult I have started going to the Dermatologist by myself. And on my last visit I made a commitment to myself. I am going to appear confident if it kills me!
I will not just wait in that room with nothing to my do. I will bring my book I will sit in the chair, gownless, and project an aura of sophistication and nobility.
When I was called into the tiny experiment room. I stripped down and refused the emperors new gown. I sat there, in my underwear awaiting the Derm.
But just sitting there I didn’t look confident, I still felt uncomfortable. What do people do when they are wearing clothes and feeling comfortable? So after a brief moment of thought, I went British dandy.
That’s right. I crossed my legs in the effeminate knee over knee fashion, with my book held out in front of me as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Like I just happened to be doing a Shakespearean reading in my underwear, and what’s this, a Dermatologist has walked in? Well welcome to the reading!
Did it work you ask? I don't really think so. I think my new Dermatologist thought I was slightly confused and possibly damaged in the head. In fact the look on her face was pretty much, "Oh Jesus." But hey I tried!
And besides, it could have been worse. My dad could have been there.