Rectal Exams – Revisiting an Old Phobia


Someone please invent an alternative to rectal exams!

This is a dip into the old memory bag.  I had a short-lived column for a weekly alternative ten years ago.  It was short-lived because they didn’t pay me.  They promised, but never came through.  My style was irreverent and ridiculous Here’s one of the old pieces I wrote for them.  I basically blathered on about nothing.  This one is about rectal exams.  For some reason, they were on my mind.

Okay, boys and girls, break out the scissors because you’re going to want to cut out today’s column, put it in a nice frame and hang it above your fireplace with care for jolly old Saint Nick to read as he’s stuffing your stockings with toys and good cheer.

I want to talk about rectal exams.   Truthfully I don’t actually want to talk about rectal exams.  If you will excuse the gratuitously abominable image, I have a strong burning desire to talk about rectal exams.  You see, I’m turning 33 in a few days and my mind has suddenly turned to thoughts of the pending annual rectal examinations I’ll have to undergo the day I turn 40.  Ho-ho-ho, what a barrel of fun!

Medicine has been around for … well, a long time and they’ve made wonderful advances in the area of surgical tools and pharmaceuticals.  Gone are the days of leeches and the rack.  Just a distant memory are the days of surgery without anesthesia.  Yet, the preferred method for the rectal examination remains as primitive as the early days of  the medical profession when cavemen doctors made you sit in waiting rooms for hours reading outdated cave wall paintings.  The finger remains the tool of choice.  Granted, the finger has evolved into a nice sleek extremity compared to the thick mangled finger of the Neanderthal, but it is still far too intrusive for my taste.  My God, are we not a civilized society?  Must we subject ourselves to such grotesque methods of medical exploration?  We are nearing the new millennium for Christ’s sake.  Chuckle with me over the insanity of this incongruous state of affairs:   we can send a really old guy to space, but we can’t find an alternative to the rectal exam.  Even weightless, the mind boggles.

In my panicked state I cannot help but think that there would be no proctology exams if there were no proctologists.  They are a species I cannot even begin to understand.  Logic dictates that you can’t be a fully rational human being if proctology is your medical career of choice.  Why have psychologists not posed this question?  What kind of person feels an inspirational calling to study the rectum and anus?  Granted they pose no threat to society but shouldn’t we at least attempt to find out if it is a preventable condition?  I ask you, what would drive a man or a woman to enter the only area of medicine where your patients have to bend over the table for an exam?  Given the possible mindset of such a person, why should I give him or her access to my rectal orifice?  It is a very sacred place.

Perhaps I would feel better if the doctor courted me first, at least pretend that he has some kind of interest in me as a person.  I don’t need just another cold sterile doctor/patient relationship.  I have plenty of those.   Call me on the phone.  Ask me out on a date.  Whisper sweet nothings in my ear and then delicately and lovingly insert your finger into that very sensitive area.  Is it too much to ask to treat me like a person instead of an object with no feelings?  I am more than my rectum, damn it!  I am a human being made of flesh and blood.  I have hopes just like you.  I have dreams just like you.  I hate a cold draft on my rectum just like you.  There’s more than just the side you see of me.   And, might I just state for the record that I hate that you are seeing the side of me that you are seeing.

I know the women reading this column are playing “My Heart Bleeds for You” on very tiny fiddles right about now.  They have endured examinations by gynecologists ever since they hit puberty, and I understand that a visit to the gynecologist can be a very painful and humiliating experience.  When I was a kid, I actually thought becoming a gynecologist would be a great way to meet women.  Thank God I was a terrible student.

The point is it’s the Christmas season.  Men, women, proctologists and gynecologists all over the world need to set aside their differences and come together as members of this planet to devise a new non-invasive way to examine the various orifices of the body.   Santa, if you’re not too overwhelmed by the demands of this joyous season, please lend us a hand (no pun intended).  And, if you are too busy, I expect you to put your top elves on it right after January 1.  After all, your slow season lasts a good long time.  What I am saying is:  all I want for Christmas is the assurance that in seven years I will not have to retrain my mind on the issue of my metaphorical in and out boxes.

Please, Santa, I’ve been a very good boy.

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