I’ve written about personal and painful subjects in these posts: In Praise of Prozac and Mean Mothers and Happy Birthday, Brother. Yet, I have been hesitant to share my #Me Too moments with you. Even now, I’m not writing because I need to write, but instead, because I feel a responsibility to write. I must be part of this historical conversation.
I’m lucky to have never encountered a Weinstein in my life, but to this day, I’m affected by three experiences I had with doctors when I was much younger.
Doctor #1: I visited your office because my father knew you through his work as a pharmaceutical salesman and thought you were a great guy. I was seventeen years old and I had a horrible sore throat. While my father was in the next room, your hands travelled from my throat down my body and it seemed you thought I’d feel complimented with your assessment of my shape.
Doctor #2: My general practitioner recommended you highly. I was already uncomfortable as I waited for you on the exam table cloaked in paper; no woman looks forward to a gynecological exam. I can not say why you decided to recite adjectives to describe my body when you began the exam at my breasts, but I can remember the fear and disgust I felt as you finished my pelvic exam. No, dear reader, I did not have the presence of mind, at that time, to bolt from the table before enduring the final indignity.
Doctor #3: You came as a surprise to me. It had been five years since I encountered Doctor #2. I’d come to work that day sicker than I knew I was and my boss insisted I see a doctor. A co-worker recommended the clinic just up the street where she’d seen a couple good doctors. Unfortunately, none of the doctors that were recommended were available, so I saw you. You started with my throat and worked your way down just as Doctor #1 had done so many years before.
I’d had this experience already twice in my life and yet I still couldn’t quite believe what had happened. I returned to work in shock. Despite my inability to clearly articulate what had happened to me, my boss understood.
“Yes, it really happened,” she said to me.
I can still see her face and remember her kindness. She told me I could stay and work if I felt up to it. I spent the day at my desk with a never-ending cup of tea forcing myself to forget the doctor.
But, the next morning when I woke up, the first face I saw was Doctor #3 and I was ANGRY. A decade had passed since I’d encountered Doctor #1. I felt stronger. So, I filed a written complaint with the Medical Board of California. A couple of weeks later, a board representative visited me to discuss my claim. It was quite obvious that the gentleman did not believe me. I found myself declaring, with great certainty, that there must have been other complaints about this doctor.
“There are no other complaints,” he said. “And, this man has been in practice for many years. He’s close to retirement and this is unfortunate.”
By this, he clearly meant my complaint and not the doctor’s behavior.
“Well,” I said ,”don’t send your wife or daughter or mother to see him!”
None of my experiences rise to the level of what so many other unfortunate women have encountered, but it’s surprising to me how much anger I still feel as I write this post. To this day, my blood pressure literally rises whenever I encounter a new doctor. I feel great sympathy and admiration for the young women who have courageously told their stories and brought Dr. Larry Nassar down.
My husband’s reaction to the #Me Too movement must be common. He often looks at me as we watch the news of the day and expresses surprise at how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse are in our society. I’m not surprised, but then I’m a woman.