The Paper Towel Incident

With the pace I’m holding, I’ll hopefully be done with this challenge by the end of the year. But really, I promise to be better. I truly want to write, but like a lot of writers (maybe all?), I am completely self-conscious about “just writing”. I’m still somewhat optimistic about this being resolved once I write more often, so here we go.

I’ve always wondered if there are different sized gowns at the doctor’s office, and if everyone knows which ones to hand to whom. For example, if your upper body needs to be examined, are you supposed to completely undress? And is it supposed to open in the front or in the back? Is it different for men and women? I have so many questions because I think I have an idea about how to put on the gown, but always seem to get it wrong.

My recent visit to my OBGYN’s office reminded me why. As I sat there in the cold plastic chair, waiting for the nurse to enter my latest information in the system and confessing that this is her second week on the job, she prompted me to undress and cover myself with the fashionable paper gown (open in the front). I did. It didn’t cover nearly enough though. I have to add that this is not a true OBGYN’s office, but a general physician’s building, so an examining chair may point in the direction of a connecting door here. I made sure to stand behind the door and not move into the compromising examining position just yet.

My general physician, a Cuban-American lady in her 50’s perhaps, opens the door and as usual, didn’t remember me. “So, you’re Lena, right?” – ­”Mm hmm”, I nodded while she breezed right past me in her high heels to look at the computer information – my paper gown swaying lightly in the wind as she passed me.

As I proceeded to lay down, I held my bathroom towelette dress shut and shimmied over to the examining table. For those of you who have not had the experience of a full paper gown, the purpose of it is that the doctor first examines your lower body while then proceeding to the upper body, and that one half is always covered and you don’t feel like a complete imbecile. That’s not how it happened though. By the way, a nurse is always in the room with an OBGYN so that you cannot claim that the doctor did something that they weren’t supposed to do, if you catch my drift (literally). Normally, they stand by your head or upper body and don’t stare at things that are none of their business. But who am I to define what is their business?!

After the doctor examined me and took all the samples that she needed, gravity won against my paper gown and I lay there sort of like a chicken without its feathers, feeling exposed as I was. The doctor didn’t hesitate for too long (just long enough for me to be cold and a tad more embarrassed) and reached down in a compartment to pull out a very large body­-sized paper towel and sort of lay it over me as if I was a dead bug. “You must be cold”­ – “Mm­hmm”.

After the exam, you usually do not get a lot of privacy to get dressed again (if any at all). Kind of like after going to bed with someone. While you’re getting dressed, you’re not really worried about them seeing you naked because they just did. So you just walk around, use the bathroom and put on the clothes that you find. I didn’t walk around the doctor’s office naked while looking for a bathroom, but as I shuffled back to the plastic chair that held my clothes (you always shove your underwear under your other clothes when putting them on the chair, right?), I felt like I had nothing to hide anymore. My doctor informed me that if I didn’t hear from her, I should just come see her in a few months for a follow-­up. I’m fairly certain that I won’t remember how to put on the paper gown for my next pap. That’s ok though… she probably won’t remember my name either.


Day 11: “I’ve always wondered…”


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