Let’s step back in time.
About two years after my periods started, I began experiencing bad cramps. My mom never had trouble with her periods, so she was unsure of what this meant. Was it normal?
One day after school, we were driving to Stewart’s, a Baltimore department store, in search of spring clothes for me.
“I asked Dr. Hawes about your cramps today,” Mom said. “He told me they aren’t real. Girls get them from talking to other girls.”
I was fifteen. I didn’t know a lot about the inner workings of the female body. But I knew Dr. Hawes was wrong. And I hated his implications.
I don’t remember what I said, but I blasted my mother.
“Barbs,” Mom replied, her hands gripping the steering wheel. “Do you want to go to Stewart’s or not?”
I’ve always loved clothes. I must have mumbled something, and we were back on track for the shopping trip.
But the gall of that man. He was a creep or very poorly trained or maybe this was simply the thinking of the day. Still makes me angry forty-plus years later.
Ten years after the Stewart’s incident, I had two more negative experiences with condescending and cold gynecologists, one a man and the other a woman. This time the encounters were in person. I’ll save their stories for another post.
Luckily the medical world has changed. I now have a male gynecologist whom I thank for diagnosing my cancer and treating me with compassion. And the surgeon who did the intricate work of saving my life is a woman. Neither was condescending or presumed to know what I was feeling. They let my body and spirit be mine. And I was delighted to meet smart, energetic young women and one fine young man who were training in gynecology at UNC Hospital. Hope abounds that the tides have turned for the dignity of women in medical situations.
What about you? Any doctor stories from your youth to share?
Oh, and I have one more. This one involves breasts and no robe and our family doctor. But that one, too, can wait for another day.
Photos: When I registered for wedding presents at Stewart’s in 1977, the bridal department gave me this booklet. I found the second photo online. Stewart’s, like so many old department stores, is now gone.