Nancy Rechtman
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Inanities

For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.

Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at nancy@nancyrechtman.com.


TAKE A DEEP BREATH

by Nancy Rechtman

From the time we are young, it is obvious that boys and girls are not always on the same page. While we may play with many of the same toys and games, it is apparent that we tackle life from very different vantage points. I realize this is a broad generalization, but there is more than a grain of truth behind it. Hence comes the proposition that each gender originated from a different planet.

Having recently gone for my annual mammogram, I began to wonder if this planetary theory might be true. Before I continue, let me make the disclaimer that mammograms are truly a lifesaver for women and I urge all women of the prescribed age group to be diligent about getting their annual mammograms. But those of you who have been through the mammogram process will understand exactly what I'm talking about.

My question - why isn't there an easier way? My answer - because mammograms were obviously invented by men who didnít think past the practical application of their invention. What did they care about the fact that women are asked to voluntarily submit to what can only be described as sheer torture? We are expected to have our most sensitive body parts slapped on an icy cold slab, be coaxed into contortionist positions by the chummy technician who then takes these most sensitive parts of our bodies, shoves them onto these slabs, pushes and pulls them until the slab is jabbing into our rib cage so hard that we can barely breathe, then turns a dial so that a giant machine slowly descends upon the slab, squashing our prized body parts flatter than pancakes. As one of my friends recently suggested, imagine lying under your garage door and having it slowly close onto a particularly sensitive part of your body and you've got the picture. When the pain gets to be absolutely unbearable, we are cheerily told to hold our breath as the tears stream down our face in buckets. Then, when we are at the point of fainting from the pain, we hear the blessed buzz that means the machine will now slowly lift up and we can take a deep breath. Like Pavlovís dogs, upon hearing the buzz, we are trained to relax for a moment. But just for a moment because this needs to be done again. And again and again. And, once the cheery technicians are done, they command us to sit and wait with our dressing gowns still on because they have to check and make sure all of the pictures have come out OK. We meekly obey, praying that they won't come back and smilingly announce that something didnĎt come out clear enough and we need to follow them back into that room. But all too often they do and the entire process begins all over. And our husbands wonder why we're cranky?

As a way for the male readers of this column to visualize (and hopefully empathize) with what the women in their lives go through on an annual basis, let me propose an alternate universe where men's most sensitive body parts need to be X-rayed in the same manner. Please picture the following scenario:

TECH: Mr. Jones. Please remove all clothing from the waist down and come with me.

MR. JONES: You're kidding, right?

TECH: No, sir, Iím not. OK, here we are. Just close the door behind you and walk up to this machine.

MR. JONES: You're kidding, right?

TECH: No, sir, I'm not. Now just walk right over here, put your arms over your head like a monkey against this frozen metallic bar here and slap your, well, you know, right up here onto this nice icy shelf for me.

MR. JONES: You're kidding, right?

TECH: No, sir, I'm not. OK, now, I want you to just hold your breath while I adjust the machine. I'm going to lower the top of it onto the shelf until your, well, you know, is as flat as a nice piece of rolled-out dough and your eyes are bulging dangerously out of your head, OK?

MR. JONES (racing out of the room and grabbing his clothes): What kind of lunatic are you?

You see my point. If men had to go through what we have to, they never would have invented this process as a way of checking for hidden diseases. They would have immediately searched for a kinder and gentler way to do so.

Women are used to pain. First comes the pain of getting our periods each month for what feels like most of our lives and having cramps so bad that we feel like we have become pea soup-spitting, 360į head-turning versions of our usually much nicer selves. Then the pain of childbirth which supposedly dates back to the whole situation with Eve, the snake and the apple. Thanks a lot, Eve - a little more self-control would have helped. And let's not forget our annual medical exams when we are commanded to scoot down to the very end of the exam table with feet up in stirrups, as we try to have a casual conversation with our OB/GYN about how the kids are doing in school and what sports they're playing this year. Talk about multi-tasking!

Most of us suffer in silence, or as silently as possible, even when we are wracked with pain. Yes we have PMS and mood swings and hot flashes. This is not by choice, believe me. So, when we go for this annual medical exam, we are merely asking for less tortuous treatment - one less thing that causes pain in our lives. Is that too much to ask? People of science, please get to work and see what else you can come up with in the interest of fairness, OK? Although I guess I shouldn't hold my breath.

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Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail nancy@nancyrechtman.com.