I was sitting on the edge of an exam table when Dr. Meyer floated in the room. She was dressed in a navy blue St John Knit matching twill pants suit. She placed my chart down on the counter, opened it, and read the vitals her assistant had taken a few minutes before, weight, blood pressure, temperature.
I admired her rigid posture. There was a slight tilt at her neck the perfect angle to read my chart. Her right thumb flipped the pages up, lingering a couple of seconds before speaking. Her flat tone gave me the impression that she was renting a car, and not conducting a well woman exam. “What was the date of your last menstrual cycle?” Do you have a 4WD Lincoln Navigator? “Do you have an active sex life?” How does the Lincoln drive? “Are you in a monogamous relationship?” Does it come in red? Since she fired off questions in one breath, I did not answer. Having been a patient of hers for five years, I was familiar with her style—she asked the questions all at once only to revisit each question later during the exam.
She turned, and traveled across the five feet between the counter and exam table. I inhaled and lengthened my spine in time make eye contact for the first time, since she had breezed into the room. Dr. Meyer lifted the stethoscope away from her St. John jacket, placed it on my white paper robe, and said, “Ok, let’s have a listen, three deep breaths please.
"You’re forty-five, how is your sex life?" She asked.
I didn’t have one, and at that instant, I decided to lie. She wasn’t the sort of person I wanted to unwrap myself in front of, or explain why I was starving for emotional connection. I wanted someone to talk to, but it wasn’t Dr. Meyer. She was following a script. A few months earlier, my husband had caught a virus, which the Doctors eventually diagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis. He had been in and out of the hospital, and my father’s minute memory losses had revealed themselves as a rare and malignant brain tumor. My dress size hardly seemed worthy to stand on the same field with such formidable diseases, but it was.
"Good to hear. Now let’s talk about your weight. My dear, you are excessively overweight. Do you have an eating disorder?”
We severed eye contact as she moved the stethoscope in place, and then focused her attention on my breathing. I exhaled all my stale air until I was empty, and then inhaled deeply. The air filled the lower part of my lungs then pushed the front walls of my abdomen forward, and then the air traveled upward to the middle part of the lungs, pushing out my lower ribs, breastbone and chest, as if I were a puppet being unfolded. My breathing tempered my panic. Eating disorder? I’m fat, not deranged.
I stammered. “Hmm, I have let things go a bit.”
“More than a bit I’m afraid. Have you had counseling?" She moved the stethoscope to her left, and my right.
“I’ve lost weight recently,” I managed between inhaling on cue.
“Thank-you, now lay back and place your feet in the stir ups."
Oh goodie I was a sexless fat cow stuck in a marriage that I had guilted myself into staying in because of an illness, and my father was fighting that black widow, cancer. I’d like to say I was broken, but a woman never really gets that far. I came damn close to giving up. I didn’t see what there was for me at that moment; Dr. Meyer took away the last of my dignity.
“Have you tried Weight Watchers? Have you heard about the South Beach Diet? I lost 15 pounds. It’s practical, and easy to follow.”
I knew I had gained weight, too much I agreed, but I didn’t think I had an eating disorder. I had never dieted before, or counted calories. In the past when I gained weight, I ate less and exercised more. It was my way to size small.