What do I know about my doctor? I know she probably has three children, as that number is grouped together in a black and white photo in the hallway outside of Exam Room C. I know she really, really tries to let on that she cares. I know at least one of her nurses is cheerfully wrong 75% of the time. And I know that the medical attention she failed to bestow on me has made at least one other doctor, a specialist in her field, react with an altogether disturbing look of judging derision.
So while I scan my insurance directory for a local, in-group, alternative-friendly female GP, I imagine that this is what online dating must be like. Except it’s easier to find out if the man you’re sitting across from is remotely attractive or intelligent.
Perhaps if the first visit were treated like a first date, I would be able to size her up more quickly. There would be the snap visual judgment as the doctor came in, with an internal monologue, “She looks healthy, upbeat, smiling. But that coat she’s wearing fits her oddly, and the color scheme is busier than the men’s room at The Abbey. No matter, just physical stuff, not pertinent. I mean, I’m not going to sleep with her, although she is going to see me naked…”
Of course, she’d ask why I was there, and about my family history of disease and my history of disease, and what I’m allergic to. At this point, it would be relevant to explain that I’m heavily reactive to stupidity. Particularly in people who are dispensing medical advice. “I don’t want to seem pushy,” I would think, or maybe even say, “But I don’t mind an unmotivated half-wit serving me coffee. Maybe even messing it up. I don’t want that half-wit wielding a needle anywhere near my very small veins.”
I’d be more subtle with a man, but I can’t just use big words on a doctor, or present my limited medical knowledge as some sort of badge of honor – she’s a doctor, she’s bound to be at least intelligent, if not perceptive enough to see that I’m going to annoy her to wit’s end. I have to be more direct, blunt even, because everyone knows that to trap a cunning animal, it’s best to stun it first.
Usually, the doctor’s visit is all about me. Frankly, that’s a turn off. Let’s talk about you doctor. What do you consider yourself most knowledgeable about? What do you hope to achieve in treating me? What is your protocol when you don’t know an answer or when you feel like there are missing pieces in your expertise? Are you willing to hand me over to a specialist or is your ego too bound up in seeing me through the whole process, even to my detriment? How do you determine that your staff is competent, professional, and responsible? And what actions will you take if that is not the case?
At this point, the date with the new doctor is heading south. She knows I’m a handful, even in a paper gown with my goodies hanging out the back (or front…how do they decide?). She’s making mental notes to let the receptionist know to tell me she’s super booked up, until 3 months from now.
Because on a first date, you try to fuss out what the person is about. If they’re creepy, or needy, or just a loser. Always, in the back of your mind, is that thought, “If I go forward with this, will I regret it?” The doctor already regrets me, or will soon enough, when I explain to her that I research everything she says, and then some. Unfortunately for her, this is not a date, this is my body and my health, and if I’m going to pay her to lord over me with her M.D., she better be on the ball.
Or at least I hope she won’t regret me when we do meet, but instead be surprised that someone is that interested in their own health that they are interested in her. My last doctor was a mystery; a puzzle I put together too late. Her secrets – the sub-par staff, the lack of knowledge in the areas I needed most, the resistance to sending me to a specialist – ultimately ended our relationship like they would any other.
The next one will be different, and perhaps our first date will be our last, but mark my words: I will be dressed, in her office, having a conversation about her perspective and my needs. Maybe I’ll even bring her some coffee.