Skin, gowns and resolutions | Mark’s Remarks

Warning: the mental pictures created in this column may be disturbing to some. Viewer discretion is advised.

If you are like me, you start to dread certain annual things. I’m not talking about holidays or birthdays.

I’m talking doctor visits.  Namely, the dermatologist.

Because I am somewhat fair skinned and somewhat negligent about skin care, Michelle convinced me several years ago I should start going to the dermatologist on a yearly basis.

When I first started going, I was in my early 30s and still reasonably youthful. The first dermatologist was such a personable, down-to-earth person. You know, one of those people who made you feel at ease about where you are and what you were doing.

During one visit, I was finished with the examination and the doctor asked me to look at a print-out she had with her. So I stood up beside her at the examining room counter and had a brief conversation about the results of my exam and skin care.  

Here I was, standing there in my underwear, having an important conversation with my lady dermatologist. It only occurred to me later that people standing around in their underwear is probably standard operational procedure for my down-to-earth dermatologist.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I’m still going.  Since then, I have moved to a different couple of dermatologists. My first and longest serving skin guy was an older gentleman who was no-nonsense and just as down-to-earth as my first kind-hearted doctor who had talks with me in my skivvies.  

I was comfortable going to my older guy doc, even after it was clear that things like middle-aged spread set in. He didn’t care. He was aging like the rest of us.  My old doc was matter-of-fact and made quick work of checking me out head to toe.  He sees aging bodies every day.

So, off I went each year.  His report was the same: No bumps. No sweltering red boils. No dangerous spots of skin-eating bacteria.

See you next year.

All good things must come to an end, and so after a number of years, I graduated to a younger doctor.  But I liked him, too. He was one who would listen to my whining about those mysterious little swelled up areas that appear on noses  and foreheads as we grow older.

Once, he painfully shot me with numbing medicine and sliced a small little bump off the edge of my nose.  

I didn’t whine as much the next time I saw him.

On my last visit, the receptionist told me she had an apology to offer me.  She had not contacted me to tell me my doctor had taken a job at a local university and given all his patients to a new doctor. Would I mind a lady doctor?

Sure.  That’s OK. I’ve had lady skin docs before.  I’m OK with that.

I went into the examining room. The nurse looked at me quizzically.  I couldn’t read her. She said, “Are you going to need a gown?” I couldn’t tell if she thought I was fit enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to sit there in the “all together” or if she was sizing me up as if to say “You are gonna need a big gown.”

In any case, I asked for the gown.

They don’t make gowns like they used to. Remember when gowns were cloth? The nurse would have you put one on. Then, the doctor could untie the back and look at your back and patootie. 

Then the doctor would raise and lower your gown when they needed to and where they needed to.  

And it seemed fairly discreet and non-invasive.

The kind nurse who either thought I was either fit or needed covering brought in the gown. It resembled an origami project of sorts.

Gowns these days also  resemble those paper toilet rings you get in your more upscale restrooms. I unfolded it and figured out where the arm holes were.  I put it on.

This was no gown.

I’m not sure what it is.  The collar area exposed all of my shoulder area and a good portion of my chest, which is a good portion all on its own. The “gown” looked as though there may have been budget cuts, as it barely reached my belly button.

Maybe it WAS one of those toilet rings with defective holes.

I put it on anyway, yet was perplexed as to how I should present myself. I perched on the end of the examining table, but felt (and probably looked) like an old, bumpy toad ready to spring into the pond. 

I stood with the best posture I had next to the window sill, but decided that too much sunlight on my fleshy frame may be alarming.

So, I gave up and went back to toad stance. Surely this scene was nothing new to my new dermatologist, whom I had yet to meet.

She came in, cheery and very young. I’m thinking she was probably a little past 14 or 15 years old and I’m sure her parents had driven her to work that morning. She put me at ease and quickly examined me. 

She reassured me that everything looked fine.  Old squishy man No. 12 examined for the day. Check.  She never batted an eye, God bless her.

I did what I usually do.  I dressed as fast as possible.  I vowed to be in top physical form when I returned in a year. The nurses and my new doctor would be impressed with how young and fit this older patient was.  

In a year.

You know, it’s like my dermatologist-visit-New Year’s-resolution.

It’s made every summer – usually after I put on my pants.    

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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