My mom still tells me to wear a little lipstick (I hate lipstick), but she no longer mentions wearing nice underwear. Maybe she trusts me now that I’m 46. For years I wondered why it mattered, until I grew up and caught on; however, I’m pretty sure she was referring to cases of extreme emergency rather than one-night-stands. Considering she regularly combed through my closet with the stamina of a professional organizer, I never had the chance to own a dingy pair. I kind-of want to have some yucky ones now (just to spite her) but who exactly would I be punishing? And recently I humbly learned that Mom was right.
While securely clad in a “nice” underwear beneath my party dress, I sipped wine and chitchatted at a gala, when out of nowhere I felt a twinge in my lower abdomen. I did my best to ignore it, but it grew into an irritating ache. By the time dinner was served, the stabbing pain was impossible to ignore.
As luck would have it, I was seated between my husband (a gynecologist) and my friend (my personal gynecologist). Fair warning: This shit is about to get real. While I was desperate to make it to dessert (I really needed the sugar and caffeine), it became apparent that our evening out was about to end. I was mortified to admit that we needed to excuse ourselves, lest I simulate labor (sans baby) in the middle of the award ceremony. My GYN and husband walked me to the elevators while discussing the pros and cons of a sonogram in the emergency room that night versus the next morning.
I have a strong aversion to all things medical (there’s a reason I went to law school), especially as they pertain to my own body, but a sonogram seemed harmless enough. The doctors asked my preference but made their position clear: an ER visit was the safest bet.
Luckily, the mounting pain and nausea didn’t cloud my judgement. I was able to focus on the pertinent issues in order to make the right choice and advocate on my own behalf as a patient:
Was I waxed? Check.
Did I shave? Check.
Freshly showered? Check.
And most importantly, what underwear was I wearing? Check, check, check!!! (Thank you Mom!)
“Okay, I’ll go to the ER,” I told my unsuspecting husband, who figured my cooperation was pain-induced.
I know I’m not the only one. Many women adhere to a personal hygiene checklist before seeing the doctor, so being caught with your pants down, is a whole other story. My sister (a gynecologist – yes, it runs in our family) was recently required to drive to the hospital in a snowstorm. Because there was no emergency, she took the time to shower and comply with her personal grooming checklist, in case she got into an accident and ended up in the ER. A conscious thought-process on her part and one that I can relate to!
“Are you putting on lip-gloss?” My husband asked incredulously on the way to the ER. “My lips are dry,” I fudged. I figured that since Mom was right about the underwear, she was probably right about the lipstick too…
If you’ve spent any time in an ER on a Saturday night, you know that the staff has seen it all. “You didn’t have to get all dolled up for us,” they joked at the sight of my black dress and ridiculously high heels. An attentive nurse, noticed that I had no coat and brought me a heated blanket. The blanket was tossed aside by the ultrasound tech, who was worried that the lint would ruin my dress. Such attention to detail! Thank God I had on good underwear!
“Please take your underwear off and put on a gown,” I was instructed.
But I’m wearing a cute pair – doesn’t anyone want to see it? For Mom’s sake?
The sonogram revealed that I was not in fact dying, which was a huge relief and that the ruptured cyst would most likely resolve on its own. I was also advised that I am not pregnant, another refreshing thought at my age, and one that never crossed my mind. No one saw my underwear that night and no one seemed to care. But I’ll give Mom the credit for my clear judgment and priorities.