Like A Patient Etherized Upon A Table

Oh god, I've become the sort of person who gives her blog posts titles from TS Eliot poems, have I? Apparently I have. I do apologize, but every time I've had to lie on one of those crinkly paper-covered chairs in a doctor's office, that line from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock has popped, unbidden, into my head. Blame the in-depth critical analysis of it I had to write for a foppish professor in 1999, if you must, but don't blame me. Well, you can blame me a little bit, but if you too are an English major, I hope you can at least have a little sympathy for this peculiar habit of spontaneously quoting poetry out of context. (Incidentally, it's also why I cannot eat a peach without reflexively questioning whether I can eat a peach. Amirite, English majors? Represent!) 

I spent some time lying on a crinkly paper-covered chair in a doctor's office yesterday, in fact, having my earlobe sewn up. (I wasn't etherized, fortunately. Or maybe unfortunately? Is ether one of the fun drugs?) If you have been reading this website since the dark ages, you may be having some deja vu right now because one of the very first posts I ever wrote was about having my earlobe sewn up, which I'm pretty sure goes against all the advice they give in those blogging workshops about how to build an online readership. (Include gory pictures of your dismembered body parts! Watch your traffic go through the roof!)

Unfortunately, the hole I had re-punched through my ear in 2009—after having it sewn up in 2006; I took the six weeks they told me to wait before re-piercing it and turned it into three years, which wasn't so much restraint as it was laziness and procrastination—was starting to get a little stretched out. And when I say "a little stretched out" I actually mean that I almost had a nervous breakdown a few months ago when one of the diamond studs Sean had bought me for Christmas SLIPPED THROUGH THE HOLE, earring back still attached, and fell out of my ear. (To save you the full-on panic attack that may be starting in your chest right now—because it's certainly starting in mine—I'll tell you that I found the earring eventually, and all was fine. Well, all was fine apart from the fact that I had a big stretched-out hole in my ear that was threatening to rip again if I even looked at another earring.)

So I made an appointment with a dermatologist—FYI, if you're thinking of having this done yourself, the estimates I got from dermatologists were all about 40% cheaper than the estimates I got from plastic surgeons—and headed over to get it done. Here's the thing about being an adult that never ceases to amaze me: you just have to get shit done. I mean, do you even remember the point at which your mother stopped making—and accompanying you to—your doctor's appointments? Because that's the real hallmark of adulthood, I think, suddenly realizing that you're sitting in a doctor's waiting room by yourself. 

Now, a very strange thing happened during my appointment, and it was this: the doctor seemed to think that I wasn't in the room. He talked constantly about me in the third person, even while he was two inches from my face, sewing up my ear with a little headlamp on his head. "She may have a nickel allergy," he said contemplatively at one point, and—a little later—"She'll need to make an appointment in six weeks to have it re-pierced." 

Is that weird? It's kind of weird, right? I mean, I didn't want a hug from him or anything, and I get that everybody's bedside manner is a little different, but it would have been nice to have felt like more than just a body being sewn up on a table. Come on, at least give me some ether, dude!

(Still, it was better than last time, I guess. At least this doctor was actually conscious.) 

Anyway, now I have a bandage on my ear, a purse full of tiny moisturizer samples—there was a bowl of them in the waiting room, so sue me—and a few hours before work tomorrow to come up with a cool story about why I have these awesome stitches in my ear. Dog bite? Baby bite? Van Gogh admiration gone horribly awry? I don't have stitches to show off very often, so I need to make these count. 

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1
Nichole
May 04, 2012

Baby dog bite? Oh, but that's just a puppy. I guess that wouldn't be very cool. Maybe you could say someone tore out your earring in a brawl on the subway? Or you were shot in the ear while rescuing a baby cheetah from poachers?

You are 100 percent correct about the peaches and the crinkly tables. I have exactly the same problem. Lately it's been a lot of WH Auden and Theodore Rottke popping into my head. English majors!

2
Chris
May 04, 2012

My standard response is simply, "you should see the other guy." Not that I have stitches often, but I'm a pretty active trail runner/ climber, so I have more than my share of bruises and such.

3
S
May 04, 2012

Every time I take my kids swimming, I have to say 'water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink' at least once.

4
Alison Presley
May 04, 2012

Wait....how did I not notice this? Also, how did you not mention it. If I got my ear SEWN UP, I'd feel so tough and cool I'd be telling EVERYONE about it.

Hurry up please, it's time...

5
SarahMeg
May 04, 2012

Yes!! I am not an English major, but still ask myself every time I eat a peach if I dare!

6
Ris
May 04, 2012

Every time I lose something, I think to myself "The art of losing isn't hard to master"

7
Chelle
May 04, 2012

I think you should tell people that the wound was the result of a thwarted vampire attack. Because you are just that bad-ass.

8
cojo
May 04, 2012

Is it possible that the doctor may have been dictating his notes on you as the reason for speaking about you as if you weren't there? I used to transcribe these recordings and it sounds like the kind of stuff they would say. I personally think it's sort of rude but a lot of doctors do it to save time but you shouldn't take it personally (obviously).

Hope you heal up quickly and better than last time.

9
Marcheline
May 04, 2012

Holly, as a former ophthalmologist tech, my opinion is that the conversation you heard was most likely being spoken to an assistant/tech who slipped into the room, and could have been sitting where you couldn't see them.

Most dentists/doctors/opthalmologists and etc. have a standing rule that no procedure may be performed on a patient without an assistant in the room. This does double duty as a) someone to write down the doctor's findings / prescriptions and b) someone to provide the doc with "CYA insurance" in case a patient decides to accuse them of improper behavior.

Many times, as an opth tech, I'd slip into the room as the doctor was starting to examine the patient, and sit there taking the required notes. The patient would have their head in an exam machine, with the doctor peering into their eyes, and they couldn't see anything, much less me. The doctor would dictate findings to me, not to the patient. I'm betting that's what happened with you.

10
Lynn
May 04, 2012

This was a feast of recognition: in fact, halfway through the first paragraph I thought "Sheesh. That happens to me with peaches", and lo.
Also, my English teacher, who would have taught only Eliot and Faulkner if given the chance, was of the foppish persuasion too. I loved him dearly.
Also, I had some stitches out today. Not ear-stitches, though...
I hope all heals well!

11
Nothing But Bonfires
May 04, 2012

Cojo and Marcheline: Oh yes, there was definitely an assistant in there, as well as a second doctor who'd come to watch the procedure (my ears are just THAT interesting, apparently). But it wasn't like he was transcribing notes, more just that he was so detached from me that he was just talking about me as if I wasn't even there. I don't think he ever said "you" to me ("how did you do this?" / "you might feel a sharp sensation when I stick this in your ear" / "you'll need to change the dressing tonight" etc), it was all she, she, she. I questioned for a few seconds whether I had actually turned invisible.

12
Em - hip hip gin gin
May 04, 2012

Oh you poor thing! I remember when it fell apart and you had it sewn up the first time and it gave me the heebie jeebies. Now it's heebie jeebies redux. I'm so proud you had it pierced again in the first place, I am such a wimp it would have been no earrings for me ever again. Hopefully this won't become a trilogy, no one should have to do this three times.

Oh and please tell people it was a baby bite! The look on their face might just make up for the lack of ether. =)

13
Courtney
May 04, 2012

Just had to chime in to say that I, too, steal all the little moisturizer samples from my dermatologist's office. They're the perfect purse size!

14
Belinda
May 04, 2012

Maybe you could tell everyone you had a run in with Mike Tyson. In my case I learned that hoop earrings + a baby was a baaaad idea.

15
jen
May 04, 2012

definitely a baby bite. that makes me laugh just thinking about it. wasn't there a movie made for children where the baby had incredibly sharp teeth? Lemony Snickett maybe? Anyway, that's what i'm picturing.

i had a doctor once refer to himself in the third person "next, dr. white will take an x-ray" and i spent the entire time wondering if he meant another doctor.

speedy recovery wishes!

16
Krissa
May 04, 2012

I think once you've studied Eliot (what ho, fellow English majors!) his lines get trapped in various bits of useless neural tissue. Sometimes for no reason I say "those are the pearls that were his eyes" and also like Alison, "hurry up please it's time".

AND Donne, oh DONNE. "For God's sake, hold thy tongue and let me love".

17
KyCat
May 04, 2012

My second year in college I made my gyno appt. at the health department in my college's city since I was oh so grown up and taking care of these things myself. The doctor DID NOT speak TO me the entire exam only the nurse about things other than me during my exam. When I left I thought that I was going to throw up. I felt so violated. When you are dealing with a human being it's important to acknowledge that fact. Particularly when dealting with that person's privates! (Not to diminish ear stitches!) I hope that all heals quickly. I would go with a Dynasty style catfight while you were wearing hoops. Maybe in a bar over Sean?

18
newgyptian
May 05, 2012

I was never an English major AND YET whenever I eat a peach or wear my trousers rolled or feel I'm growing old or am standing in a room where women come and go...I find myself muttering this poem under my breath.

I think it speaks to the pervasiveness of TS Eliot. He's like the Rihanna of the early 20th century. And I'm sure now he's turning in his grave.

19
Sara
May 05, 2012

Wow, you are a trooper for your willingness to re-pierce! I'm not sure I would. It seems like the skin gets sewn back but it's weak in the center. I wonder if lasering that part of the lobe could increase collagen? It might be worth checking into (once it heals) There are several lasers out there, that would be a small treatment area.

I use retin- a (add it to your list, holly! best thing ever if you stick with it and start mildly) It also thickens skin, it increases the dermal layer and they've done so many clinical studies, its the only real cream out that that has been proven to do something
...I'm wondering if (once your lobe has healed) it might help thicken that area?...before repiercing...

very strange about the third person doctor...I'm guessing it has to do with the notes the nurse has to write about your case after you leave, but clearly, he needs work on beside manner. I think all doctors should take a bedside manner course.

My husband went to med school and I remember being shocked that there were no courses on how to deal with people. I have met so many rude/socially inept doctors...but some great ones, too. It's a roll of the dice.

20
carrie
May 05, 2012

i have really, really stretchy skin. i got my ears pierced when i as 4 and wore all sorts of like, christmas tree earrings and stuff throughout my childhood. as a result, my earholes are VERYYYYYYYYY stretched out. on one side there's like a centimeter of skin before it's just going to rip altogether. i've been wanting to go and get it fixed somehow, but i NEVER thought of trying a dermatologist. i feel pretty weird about the whole thing (pun intended!) but people do notice sometimes, and get freaked out, so that's fairly mortifying for me. i use these, and they help: http://www.amazon.com/EarLift-Invisible-Lobe-Support-Solution/dp/B000P65UI6

anyway, all a roundabout way of saying thanks for the info, holly!

21

I bet the dermatologist didn't ask for your bra size, either. ;)

22
April
May 05, 2012

I named one of my cats Prufrock, so...

That is so weird and uncomfortable about the doctor! Ugh.

23
Danielle
May 05, 2012

I really hope the doctor was talking to someone other than you or else that's really weird.

I know what you mean about getting things done as an adult. When my mom stopped making my dentist appointments (and making sure I went), it took me 10 years to book a check-up for myself.

I hope you have a speedy recovery.

24
glanfosha
May 06, 2012

As a doctor, I can say unequivocally, that was really wierd. Most docs are OCD, and we have these little rituals we go over in our minds (usually) while doing a procedure. Your dermatologist is doing it aloud. Maybe a patient should tell him or her to stop acting like you aren't there. That should put a stop to it.

Ether was not fun for most recipients, although it was a favorite Victorian party drug. I have heard from many who received it, never forgot it, and hope that "you don't use that anymore."

25
Katie
May 06, 2012

It must be an English major thing --- I too ALWAYS think of that line when I go to the doctor! Also, (if you don't mind my saying,) you've got the best readers - that line about Eliot being "the Rihanna of the early 20th century" was a real gem.

26
Anna Louisa
May 07, 2012

English majors represent! I also think of Prufrock every time I roll up the bottom of my jeans ;)

www.anna-bird.com

27
Kellie
May 07, 2012

My dentist won't look at me when he is talking to me. It used to make me uncomfortable...now I just go with it. Heck, I'm only there twice a year!

28
Sheila
May 07, 2012

I'm thinking those must have been some ginormous diamonds to have weighted down your earlobes so. Well done, Sean!

I'm also thinking that perhaps, maybe, pierced earrings are just not for you, delicate Holly.

29
Lindsey
May 10, 2012

I actually titled a blog post last week "Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully Blue," after a Lord Byron poem, and my latest Facebook album "in time of daffodils," because, well, I think in e.e. Cummings poetry, so it's a given I name Facebook albums littered with Instagrammed beach pictures after him. I'm just glad I'm not the only one.

30
Lindsey
May 10, 2012

Oh, and like ANY of us can measure our lives in any other way than in coffee spoons! (So many mornings spent doing that. So many.)

31
Laurie
May 10, 2012

Was the doctor talking to a nurse or medical assistant who was perhaps taking notes for him? If it was just the two of you, then I agree, that IS very odd! Some doctors are really good at what they do, but thinking about what you have to go through to become a doctor..sometimes they spend lots and lots of hours studying and away from people. So the social skills just aren't always there. That goes double if they're a specialist!

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