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My Medical Me-Too Story

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

A long time ago, in a city far, far away, I am having my first consult with an allergist–thinning hair, glasses, white coat. Fiftyish, like me. The treatment room is small, and my chair is next to his desk. He is taking my medical history and with each question his chair rolls a little closer to me. \”Are your symptoms worse in the spring or in the fall?\” he asks. I am about to answer when I feel something pushing against my knee. I look down: it is his knee.

I look up and his eyes hold mine for just a second. I move my knee away. \”In the fall,\” I say.

\”And have you had much exposure to molds?\”

When the history is complete, it is time for the physical. I am sitting on the edge of the examination table and he approaches, tongue depressor in hand. \”Say aah!\” he says, and as he peers into my throat I feel the pressure of his pelvis against my knees.

Why am I still in this room with this creep, you ask? Because the part of my brain that is capable of observing reality, drawing conclusions, and taking action has shut down completely. It has been replaced by an oddly reassuring voice that says, \”He is a doctor. You are a patient. Therefore, this cannot be happening.\” Zombie-like, I get through the rest of the visit, suppressing the desire to run screaming out of the office, or to kick him in the…shins.

He prescribes a series of allergy shots that, fortunately, are administered by his nurses, so in the following months I don\’t see much more of him.

One day, long after my treatment is over, I am sitting in the metro next to a woman I know from work. She has curly red hair,  and she giggles a lot. She\’s always struck me as a little flighty and flaky, and I suspect that, as the French say, she did not invent the mouse trap.

As we chat, she sneezes a couple of times, blows her nose. \”Sorry,\” she says, \”it\’s my allergies. I can\’t find a good doctor. I went to Dr.__ [and she names my knee-pressing guy], but I couldn\’t stand him.\”

\”Really? How so?\”

\”Well,\” she says, putting away her tissue and flushing with anger, \”you won\’t believe this, but the first time I went to see him, he kept pushing his knee against mine!\”

\”Wow! That\’s terrible. What did you do?\”

\”What do you think?\” she says, clenching her little fist. \”I did what any intelligent person would do: grabbed my purse and slammed the door in his face. And on the way out I told the receptionist that if she charged me for the visit I would report him to the AMA!\”

9 Responses

  1. Too common. I think the only thing that protected me all those years was a very strong sense of revulsion – somehow instilled by my mother. I could not tolerate the few things that came my way – and it was very obvious in my behavior. I have my own small set of stories – sad that we women all do. I was also 5'10\” and pretending outwardly to be very sure of myself as I moved through the world of the PhD in science.I have often wondered whether part of my excess weight during some of those years was a preemptive move. Things certainly changed each time I lost weight. But then, I needed them to, so it's all convoluted.

  2. Good one – at least you know it happened at twice! I had too many incidents in my youth to keep count of them which i promptly forgot! And I certainly didn’t put out the “vibes”!

  3. I suspect that instances of harassment have less to do with the particular woman than with extraneous factors. For several years I walked a couple of miles every day from home to the college where I taught. I concluded that the frequency of wolf whistles, etc. correlated strongly with weather conditions, bright sun, temperature in the 70s, and especially low humidity being the most favorable.

  4. But they chose the nearest convenient woman to be a target – to be abused if they felt up to it. Because they got away with it. Bullies as well as sexists.I haven't forgotten any of the incidents – I bet the 'men' forgot immediately.

  5. Is it politically incorrect to find humour in this post? Not, of course, in terms of the doctor's actions, but because of your perceptions versus the actions and words of the woman who, as the French would say, did not invent the mouse trap?

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