Patience: Zero

“Step on the scale. We’ll take your weight.”

“Should I take my shoes off?”

“No.”
I stood on the black platform at the base of the scale, eye-level with two parallel metal rails lined with numbers indicating pounds: 0-50. 0-350. I remember playing on a similar scale as a child – one my father had acquired from work through questionable means. I couldn’t believe they still used these in medical facilities. Maybe this clinic couldn’t afford a modern scale.  The nurse adjusted the ancient contraption, a combination of an abacus and the scales of justice, until the rails stopped moving.

“125,” the nurse muttered as she scribbled on her clipboard.

Lady Justice may be blind, but she was not a feminist.

“Sit down. I need to take your blood pressure.”

I sat on a chair next to the counter instead of the examination table to delay this being a real doctor’s visit. The nurse and I, we were just two friends, chatting, getting to know each other. A couple of gals talking about lady parts and female things. Some friends hang out over coffee or cocktails, but we prefer blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. My friend ripped the Velcroed band off my arm with the tough love of a true friend.

“120 over 80.”

I couldn’t remember if that was good or not.

“Date of first menstrual cycle?” We were jumping straight into the up-close-and-personal portion of our hang out.

“Uh. 16. I think,”

“Date of the last day of your most recent menstrual cycle?”

“Uh, um, pass?”

This wasn’t the type of test where you could pass on certain questions.

“Are you on your period right now?”

“No.”

“Okay. We’ll say 3 weeks ago.” She glanced up at a calendar on the wall and selected a date.

I wondered if she should be lying on medical documents, but she wasn’t the kind of lady you would question. Anyone who can wear Peanuts scrubs with Snoopy sporting a stethoscope and still look intimidating should not be questioned. Besides, I was too busy trying to figure out when the last, first day of my most recent, previous menstrual cycle was. How do other girls remember all this information? To my knowledge my mother stopped keeping rack of my “firsts” years ago, sometime after my first step but before my first detention, understandably. Was I supposed to have this written down? In a locked diary? A planner? A crumbled up post-it at the bottom of my purse?

“Sexually active?”

“Yes?” I said with hesitation. I always assumed you had to have sex with at least three or four people to have your sexuality activated, but it takes only one.

“Any pregnancies?”

“No.”

“Date of last pap?”

“This is my first.”

“What? How old are you?”

While this wasn’t a job interview and, holding my patient file, she already had access to my birthdate, I was still pretty sure that wasn’t the next question on her form.

“24”

“When did you first become sexually active?”

Confident this question was in fact a listed, follow-up, I doubted her sheet had tonal notes suggesting: ask with confusion and a tinge of judgment.

“Last year.” If she asked me a date for this one I was going to have to utilize her method of studying the wall calendar and selecting a box at random. Luckily, she moved on to the next section of questions, ones less personal in nature and more fun and family-oriented.

“Do you smoke?”

“No.”

“Drink?”

“Yes.”

“How many drinks a week?”

“3-5.” I lied.

We covered family medical history, medications, and allergies, then she flipped back to the first page on her clipboard. Looking at me for the first time, she stood up.

“There’s a drape on the table. Undress from the waist down. Cover yourself with it. The doctor’ll be in in a minute.”

I stared at the folded piece of white cloth stacked on the beige, paper-lined mechanical chair-bed for a moment before picking it up. I inspected the material – a woven blend of gas-station grade paper towels and a plastic grocery bag. I got undressed and wrapped it around my waist too aggressively, tearing it in the back, or was in the front? I adjusted it to be the side. A skirt of dental bib material with a high slit. I was creating medical fashion as I waited. I sat on the runway of paper and made myself uncomfortable.

Wondering if it was awkward to be lying down when the doctor arrived I searched for a safe place to rest my eyes – something that wasn’t over-sized q-tips, a photo of a fresh baby, a diagram of a cervix or a biohazard receptacle. I settled on the yellow, speckled laminate flooring. It contrasted nicely with the mauve walls. I waited. Contrary to the names, you spend more time waiting in the exam room and more time examining your life choices in the waiting room. I waited.

True Love Waits. I learned that in church. I even attended a weekend conference where I was educated on preserving my sexual purity and waiting until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse. I promised to save myself, in front of my family, my church, and God, who must have had the whole thing telecast because I didn’t see him in the audience. He seems like the kind of guy you couldn’t miss. I wasn’t the only one waiting. Other teens were waiting with me. Sons paired with their mothers, daughters with their fathers approached the stage. Vows were recited. Rings exchanged. My father presented me with a promise ring with traditional Christian markings on it. It symbolized that he and Jesus were the protectors of my chastity until I found a husband to whom I would give the precious gift of my virginity. In hindsight, these two men were not qualified for the job. No transcripts exist but the ceremony certainly included some submissive wife rhetoric even anti-feminist Lady Justice couldn’t turn a deaf ear to.

I looked down at my hands, unadorned with any rings, no band with a dove or cross, no diamonds representing “I won’ts” or “I dos”. I lost my ring. I broke a vow. I didn’t wait. Instead I waited in a Planned Parenthood, planning neither a wedding nor parenthood. My father would have been disappointed, more so that I was the patient in this scenario and not the doctor and less about the broken vow. My heavenly father already knew how this would go.

“Christine?” a disembodied voice accompanied a knock at the door.

“Yes?”

I was done waiting.

 

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