The young female doctor looks at me expectantly: “So, how are you?” She asks, politely. Obviously this is her signature opener. At least it’s better than “well?”
I’ve seen her before. She’s probably only been qualified a couple of years and hasn’t yet acquired the world – weary cynicism of some of her colleagues. She is cheery, good-natured, patient and always takes time to investigate your problem, rather than rushing you through the allotted 10 minute appointment slot.
“Hmm, well, I’ve been having thrush- like symptoms on and off for a while now…” I try to find a change in expression or tone, but her clear blue eyes show no reaction, her eyebrows don’t twitch with an “oh shit – looks like I’ll have to do an internal examination for this one.”
Last time I saw her it was for dizzy spells. Bet she was hoping it was the same again.
The conversation advances in a direction I hadn’t prepared for.
“When was the last time you had sexual intercourse?” Sexual intercourse? It always sounds so odd to me – like some kind of board meeting or negotiations with a potential buyer.
“Over a month ago,” I reply. Yes, as long ago as that. Things aren’t really happening down there for me.
Anyway, it moves on to whether it was unprotected etc, etc and before I know it I am up on the leather bed/couch thing, legs akimbo with that awful speculum thing inserted. Doctor is looking down the tunnel, but cannot locate my cervix and is prodding around. And, as with any other internal examination, I’ve ever had there is the inevitable “sorry, I can’t find it. I’m going to have to use a bigger speculum.”
I try to stare at the fluorescent light above my head, but feel like a car being jacked up. More prodding and poking as she takes some swabs – I think I am being tested for all manner of things.
Finally, my airlock closes as I can finally bring my legs together.
“Would you like to have some blood tests for HIV and other STIs?” I suddenly feel like a promiscuous woman in her 20s. She also says something about talking to “other partners” if any results are positive.
I open my mouth to say “look, I’ve actually only had sex with one person since 2010. I don’t really see that much action.” But I close it again. What is the point? I feel like I have already disappointed her, the sweet, kind doctor, with the smart blouse and ponytail. Before now I was the stressed and tired single mum with dizzy spells. Now I’m a middle – aged strumpet with a ropey vagina and questionable morals.
I agree to the tests, anyway. Just in case my one sexual partner in the last four years has been secretly seeing more action than I have.