Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dermatology 101

Now that I’m the ripe old age of (cough cough), I decided I needed to finally see a dermatologist. Since I’m basically a walking skin-cancer applicant, what with the light skin, dark hair, and freckles and moles that seem to pop up daily, I figured getting a full body check was the responsible thing to do. That, and apparently there was a dark spot on my back that looked a little suspect. I was concerned that the wait to see a dermatologist would be so long I might be consumed by a mole before I got an appointment, but as luck would have it, the office in town was able to schedule me with only a four month wait. Lucky me.

At the dermatologist’s office the wait was short and before I had even finished filling out my history forms, they called me back. A lithe, perky nurse assistant bounced me down the hall, welcoming me and asking how my day was going. I half expected the room to be set for tea when we arrived. She pointed me toward the ultra-comfy paper covered barcalounger knock-off, and proceeded to sit and ask me the same questions I was filling out on the sheets on the clip board they gave me. Apparently she needs a job.

“Wow!” she exclaims. “You look great for 72.”

Now I admit that perhaps I haven’t been using my under-makeup moisturizer with spf 15 daily necessarily, but I manage to apply it at least five out of seven days. Maybe those crows feet and worry lines on my face are more glaring than I originally thought. I’m taken aback until I realize that she is talking about the year I was born.

“Oh, thanks,” I reply.

“No, really,” she continues, “When I glanced at your chart I saw the 2 and thought it was like 82, I thought you were like, my age. But then I looked again, and no! it’s 72. You look really young for your age.”

I’m so flattered and offended at the same time I’m not sure how to respond to her backhanded compliment. I’m either a total anomaly or she sees a lot of 36 year-olds who look like Mick Jaggar.

After answering the customary questions, she hands me a johnny and tells me to remove all my clothes except for underwear. She leaves and I begin undressing and realize with horror there are a couple things I overlooked.

I must digress for a moment. If you are a normal human, you understand that various doctor visits require a certain amount of prep time, depending upon the specialty you happen to be visiting. When you go to the dentist, for example, you typically brush and floss your teeth until your gums bleed, just to avoid the embarrassing situation of having the hygienist remove a slab of last night’s filet mingon from between your second and third molars. When you visit the Ob/Gyn, you typically take a shower, perhaps perform some type of landscaping maintenance just to keep things tidy. Those doctors get awfully close to things down there. Likewise, when you go to the dermatologist, you should engage in some minimal skin care, since they are in fact, going to be inspecting your skin.

Shaving would be a good thing to do. Say, your legs and armpits. Shaving however, was one thing that I completely forgot would be important. This being winter, shaving is something I practically forget how to do, simply because my legs never see the light of day for months on end. Hairy armpits are another matter, and while I do typically take care of them frequently, on this particular day it happened to be an oversight. Putting lotion on would have been another great idea.

Because as I’m undressing, I’m now horrifically aware that not only do I appear Aboriginal, I also just left and entire empty sheath of body skin inside my clothing. My skin is so dry I should have marinated in olive oil for two days before coming to this appointment. At this point I’m down to my skivvies trying to tie a plain white jonnie around my waist, and I realize that I’m a dead ringer for an old dried out bottle of paste. You remember that paste from kindergarten don’t you?

I try to change my thinking. Perhaps I’m a dermatologist’s dream, obviously shunning all sunlight, allowing my skin to go au natural, not lathering it with harsh chemical moisturizers that strip the delicate epidermis of natural oils. Perhaps she will walk in and say to me, “My gawd! Your skin is so natural! I can tell by the dry, pale, hairy nature of your legs and arms that you really care about your skin! I wish all my patients looked as dry, and hairy, and pale as you do!

Well, I can dream my way out of embarrassment anyway.

But that’s not what she said. She came in, gave me a once over, asked if any moles or freckles were larger and bullying the other freckles on my body, or if they made any cool pictures when you connected the dots, like the outline of the Virgin Mary or a slice of pizza.

Okay. She didn’t say that either. But it would have been funny.

She did say that I had a couple moles that she’d like to biopsy, including the one on my back that was the catalyst for the visit in the first place. She actually seemed to not even notice the dry, hairy, pale nature of my skin, even when I made a joke about how I forgot to shave.
“Oh this?” she said. “Honey, I’ve seen much worse.”

Apparently there are patients who come in even more natural than me.

Bless them.


Amy Smith said...

aren't those of us born in "72" 37 or 38 depending on when your birthday is??? At least I celebrated 37 this year...

Amy Smith said...

Okay, I was trying to be funny, but when rereading this I realize my intent did not convey and seeing as how this isn't Facebook I can't delete my post. So read my comment with humor...:)

Rachel said...

Humor well taken! I originally was going to post my *actual* age, but figured if anyone really wanted to know they would have to do the math. Might as well make them work for their knowlege!
But you're right..I'll be 38 this October. And may I add Amy, that you too, look FABULOUS for being ancient like me! :)