I’ve always been one who longs to have that small town doctor who knows me and my family so well that he can guess my ailment before I even feel any symptoms. However, I’ve always been relegated to drift aimlessly amidst a sea of doctors who either barely make eye contact or are ridiculously pompous, neither of which makes me feel very comfortable. I’m straightforward but reserved when I’m alone around new people, and since I’m also a relatively healthy person, I’m not the type to achieve familiarity with my doctor through multiple visits weekly visits.
When we first moved to the suburbs, my husband and I found a really nice doctor through a local friend. He was personable and kind, and whatever he notes he took in my file allowed him to make some pointed comments of familiarity the few times a year I came in to see him. The only problem was the wait. If I had a 2:30 appointment, I’d sit in the waiting room until 3:15, move to an exam room where I’d wait another hour before finally get to see the doctor for about five minutes. As the kids got older, we simply couldn’t spare the extra time, so I made the decision to switch doctors one night when my husband was two hours late for dinner and I was left alone with two unruly children. I even sent a letter explaining the reason for our change was only due to the excessive wait times we had experienced over the years. (The local friend who still sees this doctor says the wait times have dramatically improved, so perhaps we effected some significant change.)
Finding ourselves without a primary care physician, we asked our neighbors across the street if they liked their doctor. Our neighbors are two gay men with two adopted children of their own, so we figured if they felt comfortable with their doctor, perhaps we would too. We signed on with their new doctor, and we liked him a lot. Then a few weeks later our neighbor was flying to Europe and saw our doctor seated on the flight. “Where are you headed?” he asked with surprise. “I’m moving to Europe,” our doctor responded demurely. With no notice to his many patients, he had up and moved out of the country; word on the suburban street was that he was chasing a much younger European man who had stolen his heart. Oh, and he also was trying to become a pop singer, as evidenced by some pretty disturbing YouTube videos.
This was about a year and a half ago, and I last saw Dr. Pop Singer about two weeks before he left. I hadn’t any need to see a new doctor until my annual physical, and I couldn’t get an appointment with the doctor who was taking on Dr. Pop Singer’s patients until today.
I began my appointment by informing the front desk of my new name. My gaydar was sending me friendly signals about the male receptionist in front of me, and when I told him I had recently taken my husband’s last name, he smiled and said, “I did the same thing when I got married.” He was almost giddy with data processing, entering in my new information and asking me questions about how people had responded, like what my students had said. He was so happy to hear that with the exception of Comcast, the transition has been relatively smooth. I took a seat and waited for my name to be called.
A short time later I found myself in an exam room with a kind and petite nurse who took my blood and–due to my heavy shoes–graciously subtracted five pounds from the number flashing on the electric scale. Before she left me alone, I was instructed to disrobe and put on a hospital gown.
A few minutes later, the new doctor entered. I noticed immediately he was a large man who carried his extra weight with a pompous air, as though an enormous belly is the healthy norm.
“We’ve never met, correct?” he huffed at me.
“Well let’s take a look at your chart here.” He pulled up my information on the computer. “Well, you used to see Dr. M, but you got smart and came here.”
I wasn’t sure how to read this. Why exactly was I smart? Did he know about the notoriously long wait times of the past? Or was there something else going on here? Dr. M is middle eastern and speaks with a heavy accent. Was I smart for going to someone a little more “American”?
After mentioning his former pop-singing colleague with a roll of his eyes, he started to fill in some blanks on the chart. “Ha! It says here in the notes you are married to a and that you have two kids. That’s what it says: You’re married to a. To a what?!” I made about as comfortable a laugh as I could sitting there in my semi-nude state. “You’re gay I assume,” he said as clicked a little drop down menu for “homosexual” before waiting for a response. I told him yes, but I wasn’t sure why he assumed I was gay.
Then to my chagrin, he continued to have a one-sided conversation as he began the exam. With a shiny light poking the many holes in my head, he said, “Funny story. My daughter is in middle school, and we went to Back to School night the other day. We met with one of her teachers and later she said, ‘Dad, did you know he’s…’ and then she wouldn’t say it! Now our daughter is only twelve and pretty innocent. We have gay neighbors, but she doesn’t think of anyone as anything other than just who they are. Finally we got it out of her: ‘He’s gay.’ I said, ‘How do you know?’ and she said, ‘He tells us all the time. He talks about how he sings with the Gay Men’s Chorus!” He laughed heartily. “Can you believe it?!”
I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be questioning the credibility of his story. Was it that his daughter is innocent? That he has gay neighbors? That his daughter has a gay teacher? No, clearly he was implying that the portion of the story that was supposed to bring out my incredulity was the part where the teacher nonchalantly mentioned he was singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus.
I wonder what stories this man would find so incredible if his daughter was in my class. “Daddy, my English teacher said he took his husband’s name, just like that. No, by the way I’m gay or anything! As though it were the most normal thing in the world!” After the doctor finished coughing up his dinner roll, he would smile at his own good fortune; his daughter would have again supplied him with another fabulous story with which to regale his unsuspecting patients. Not only was he doctor, he had some pretty fabulous tales to tell.