Sunday, February 18, 2007


My soul's the present shadow of a presence gone. -Fernando Pessoa
I got to see my cervix Friday. It was part of an annual gynecological exam, which (for me at least) is as much fun as a root canal, and doesn't come with good painkillers afterwards. It made the experience almost worth it.
I told the nurse at the beginning of the appointment that I wanted to see my cervix, because it seemed like a cool thing to do and I've been reading Our Bodies Ourselves since ninth grade (my how the pictures of women giving birth freaked me out--like squeezing a cantaloupe through a garden hose) and it would just feel...empowering. During the seventies I'm sure every room had a hand mirror in it, but nowadays no one really wants to see inside themselves, so we had a bit of a predicament. Ultimately she got one of the receptionists to give up her compact, complete with powder puff. "You're going to have to hold it," the nurse said. "It's so small there's no way I'll be able to angle it right." And so off we went--breast exam (not much ground to cover there), palpating the abdomen...the external exam...and then the speculum, which was at least room temperature (I'm convinced that some gynecologists keep theirs in a deep freeze; having a woman do the exam helps with this, as they realize just what it's like to have a metal instrument approximately the temperature of Barrow, Alaska say a howdy-do to one's lady parts). Still quite painful. But once the thing was cranked open, I sat up, put the mirror between those splayed legs, and behold--a little pink donut, shiny and smooth. Mother Mary, it was cool. After that, the pap smear itself and the bimanual exam, both of which I would rather have done without ("Does it hurt when I move your cervix?" How does one answer that, exactly? I'm not used to having my internal organs pushed around). So, everybody--next time you go to see your gynecologist, ask to see your cervix. Bring a mirror with you. It'll be fun.


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