No jokes

As a child I was wary of April Fools Day. The nun’s taught us this day commemorates Jesus on his struggle from Mount Gethsemane on his way to crucifixion and the guards who mocked him and afterwards drew lots for his clothes.

We should not therefore in all conscience make jokes on this day, the nuns said, nor should we laugh at the way others might trick someone into believing the toilet was clear for use, after the joker had spread a line of cling film over the top of the porcelain rim and then replaced the seat, leaving the cling rap to gape in the middle unseen so the poor helpless person pees into a little pool just below their bottom line.

Or worse still, some other joker might line a black toilet lid with vegemite so that some poor innocent cops a black rim around their legs when they sit to shit.

Such tricks held no appeal to me but obviously to some they were hilarious, though not for the recipients.

This jokiness has a masculine edge, or so Samuel Andrews argued, in a talk I heard recently, in which he explored what draws men into the helping profession, which traditionally has been so much a woman’s realm, except at the top.

At the top, of course, the folks who run the show are typically men, but the counsellors, the psychologists, social workers and the like are more often than not of the female persuasion and varying degrees thereof.

I went once for an internal pelvic examination and while up in the stirrups, legs spread, I wondered out loud with the female nurse /radiologist who was working the ultrasound, about my preference for a woman to undertake this task, simply because a woman felt less invasive to me.

If you give a man a choice about the gender of the person who might approach him for treatment of his genitals, most men will also ask for a woman every time. Not just out of some sort of homophobia, she said, but the view is a woman might approach the task more gently.

And yet in my time I’ve also encountered the gentlest of male nurses, men who came as kind and as thoughtful to me, as any woman could ever be.

So maybe again this construction of gender into male and female, like a black and white view of people, has knobs on it.

More and more I’m beginning to think in terms of degrees of masculinity and femininity, and all sorts of variations in between. That way we needn’t get stuck as one or the other.

We can be fluid in our sense of our bodies and ourselves in so far as our bodies and minds will allow us. We needn’t get stuck in one position or another.

My fears from last week were as I expected and hoped, unfounded. But it took not only a visit to my favourite and regular GP, but also to a second dermatologist, who as luck would have it had a cancellation and could therefore see me last Tuesday rather than at the end of May, which was his next free space.

What is it with some medical specialists? By the time you get to see them your ailment has passed or you’ve died.

This new dermatologist diagnosed three things, peri oral dermatitis, another type of dermatitis, which he called irritans or some such word, and finally some sort of fungal infection, all of which could be treated with medications that don’t even need a script, low dose cortisone and Canestan.

He also recommended I continue on the antibiotics my doctor had prescribed earlier and told me to be patient.

So I followed his advice, and after a few days saw signs of improvement to the point I’m confident now it’s healing.

The words that stay with me most clearly are those of ‘be patient’.

I fear it was my impatience that got me into trouble in the first place.

That impatience to make the fat lip from my fall heal fast which led me to use cream that had been prescribed elsewhere and to which I might have had an allergic reaction, and which then resulted in a rash that kept on spreading.

It’s a salutary lesson.

When it comes to healing there are no miracle cures.

Wounds need time to heal.

And I won’t try to explore whether this impatience comes from the masculine or the feminine side of me, nor will I try to turn it into a joke.



9 thoughts on “No jokes”

  1. And the older you become, the longer it takes for anything to heal. I don’t have particular preference for a male or female doctor and I suppose it is no surprise that as a gay male, I have a gay male doctor. It’s a bit of case of walk in my shoes, I suppose. I would not expect a female doctor or a straight male doctor to have much understanding of gay men and their sexuality. While both instances were a long time ago, I have experienced subtle doctor homophobia. It strikes me that while many male doctors are experts in gynecological areas, not too many female doctors are experts in the equivalent male area. Sorry, but I simply don’t believe that men would prefer a female doctor because she is gentler. I can imagine why some men might prefer a female but I doubt it is that she is gentler and why would a woman be gentler? I am thinking of my Hungarian born female doctor in the early 90s. Good to hear you are healing. It looked quite bad in last weeks photo.

    1. I owe you a longer response here, Andrew. And reading through other responses here it seems my nurse was anecdotally incorrect about this preference for female doctors. There must be research somewhere. And yes, I can understand the doctor homophobia to which you allude. Although the world is changing, it’s still there this wish to have things in neat and clear cut categories and neat and clear cut attractions and all the rest. Thanks for the good wishes, Andrew.

  2. When Ah were a lad there were men and there were women and there were nowt in between, TV was in black and white and so was the rest of the world. I kinda miss that. You knew where you were. Men were men—my dad most certainly was—and women knew their place. On forms there were only two boxes, male or female, and that was that. Now I see things changing: What gender do you identify with? What gender do I identify with? Gender. When did it stop being ‘sex’? I get the difference and I also get why some forms don’t even bother with the question. I have a feminine side. I think it’s the inside. Outside I couldn’t look more male albeit a male orangutan. Inside it’s, as they like to say, complicated. But it’s good it’s on the inside because people judge by appearances and that avoids any awkward questions too early on in a relationship because pretty soon people start to realise that who’s on the inside doesn’t match who’s on the outside. My latest book, the one I e-mailed you about, has a female protagonist and also a female… I prefer ‘foil’ rather than antagonist. I suppose some men would struggle to write a female character but I never did and from what feedback I’ve had I’m told I do well representing women on the page. Every time I get to the chapter in ‘The More Things Change’ where Jim meets Abby I feel a little smugness when I read her dialogue: nailed it. I’m not sure I’d want to be a woman but I most definitely enjoy being with women. As the song goes “you will always find me in the kitchen at parties.” Facebook apparently accepts severity-one different genders including ‘Androgynous’, ‘Cisgender’, ‘Neutrois’, ‘Transmasculine’, ‘Other’ and ‘Neither’. It’s like genres, subgenres and sub-subgenres. At what point does it just get plain silly? New Yorker can now choose from thirty-one sobriquets, a few of which aren’t even mentioned on Facebook’s list including ‘Gender Gifted’. I think that’s what I’ll start calling myself on forms.

    As far as April Fools’ Day goes it’s not something I’ve taken much interest in for many a year and it’s not something I’ve even noticed people taking an interest in. It used to be there’d be some ludicrous news item but it’s like sales nowadays, there’s always a sale somewhere and there’s always some preposterous news story that’s probably untrue or mostly untrue but how can you tell nowadays? I detest opening up Facebook because there’re always a good dozen “news” stories about Trump latest excesses or faux pas and mostly they revolve around something or nothing. We’re tired of being tricked. Once a year was fun and we could laugh at ourselves for even considering that pasta grew on trees or that Burger King was bringing out a Left-Handed Whopper with its ingredients rotated 180°. At school you could play jokes on people up until noon. I’ve no idea who decided the cut-off point but that was it and it was deemed in bad taste to try to trick anyone in the afternoon. I got involved but never in anything too elaborate or cruel. Humour’s an odd thing. I’ve never really appreciated practical jokes or shows like ‘Game for a Laugh’. I’ve certainly never once played a prank on Carrie nor has she ever tried to get one over on me. We tease each other but it’s all out in the open; you know immediately not to take what’s happening seriously and that’s important because Scottish humour can feel aggressive at times. But somehow we can tell from—I suppose visual cues and tone of voice—that the other person’s not serious.

    1. I reckon if you were woman, Jim, you might not quite wish for the same black and white world with everyone in their proper place. It doesn’t do for any of us to get too stuck in particular roles. Better if we can move around, at least a little bit, I reckon. It’s good that you can sense your feminine side. I suspect there are some people who can’t. I reckon there are times when I can feel more masculine – if such is possible – than the feminine side of me but as I said earlier I prefer to think about these feelings as existing on a spectrum rather than simply one or the other. Thanks, Jim.

  3. We do try to meddle and not let nature take its course, which is a far ‘gentler’ healer than ourselves more often than not.
    When I was a GP, most men preferred a male doctor for their prostate exams or anything to do with male genitalia. In fact, I was caught out three times by males masturbating as I did them, and so became very suspicious of anyone who specifically requested a female doctor. Times might have changed, though …
    Anyway, I’m glad your lips are improving! 🙂

    1. That’d be a tough job, Louise: the masturbating patient mid examination. As I’ve said elsewhere I don’t know of any research into gender preferences among doctors. I know most people in my experience prefer to see a female therapist though there are exceptions of course. And as for letting nature take its course, that sounds so wise, but unfortunately I can be very impatient. Thanks, Louise.

  4. I had a male nurse try to teach me to express my milk after the birth of my first child. I’m sure he meant well but the moment he touched my breast, it was clear he had certainly NEVER made contact with a woman’s body with any intimacy before and most likely never would. Give me a woman every time.
    As for the wait to see a specialist – if a matter is particularly urgent, the GP will always make the first call to make sure an appropriate appointment is made, as they are responsible for the patients care. Surprisingly, most complaints are self-resolving or at least non-life threatening, which is how triaging is done, and yes, it is the ‘worried well’ that complain the most. Sorry, Elisabeth.

    1. No need for apology, Karen. I recognise the worried well label and wear it with some degree of shame, especially when things are okay. I think back to my paranoia about developing some dreadful disease on the lip now that it’s healing and wonder why did I go to such panicked extremes? Now, with my lips settled down these fantastical fears seem so over the top but at the time, they felt so real. Thanks, Karen.

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