Sunday, June 5, 2011

The failures of doctors and mechanics

Everything that happens to my toilet or my car is a metaphor for something in my life.

Over the past two or three years, in addition to my car's biannual budget blowout, I've twice taken it to the shop only to be told that there was nothing wrong with it.

The first time, I took the car in and said the clutch is bad. They gave it back and said the clutch is fine. A month later, the clutch started to stink. I took it back and they said, oops, here's a 10% discount.

I took my car in this April. Two check-engine codes, my entire tax return. They fixed it. I took it back last month because since they'd fixed it, it'd been running funny. They gave it back and said it was running fine.

Tonight it shuddered and sputtered and flashed its check-engine light at me. I said, "I know, honey. I know."

Getting your car back from a mechanic who says there's nothing wrong with it is like having a doctor (or 35) tell you there's nothing wrong with your vulva. When they called to say there was nothing wrong with my car, I almost told them to keep it. Instead I forced myself to interrogate the guy about what they'd done to check it out.

I planned to question them further when I picked up the car, but I crapped out. I was a demure young female thankful that they hadn't charged me, devoid of analytical skill.

Similar to how I am whenever I face a doctor. Except doctors always charge.

Owner of a '98 Chevy and a lemon vulva, I am of rare qualification to make the statement that every mechanic in the world has better customer-service skills than every doctor in the world. But we have to be on our toes with both; otherwise, we are at their mercy. Here are two things we can do:

1. Stop being pansies. Ask all of our questions multiple times. Take notes with intimidating, conspiratorial fury. Pester them until they are clearly annoyed. When the doctor moves to leave the room, shout, "Who's paying who here?!!"

2. Know our stuff. If my car's current problem were a bad clutch, I'd know it. If it were a vibrating vestigial air conditioner, I'd know it. But this is the first time my car has broken in this particular way, so I don't know what's wrong.

I once asked my dad how he knows so much about cars, and he said it's because he's had to repair his own cars so many times. So every time my car breaks, the automotive area of my brain grows.

I will never be a mechanic, but I can still study up on my car, broken or not. And I'll never be a doctor, but I can still study up on my vulva.

There's plenty of vulva stuff out there to read even though as far as most doctors are concerned, vulvodynia might as well be a dinosaur. But the most important way we study our vulvas is by observing them every day. It's like my car: I'm the driver, so I know when my car isn't running right, no matter what the mechanics say. And I'm the body, so I know when my vulva doesn't feel right, no matter if my condition is listed alongside vaginismus or Triceratops.

I love my car. I wish I loved my vulva the same way. Is it possible that I feel more protective of my car than my vulva? In this metaphor of mine, does my car represent my vulva? My relationship with myself? My metaphor makes me nervous. I am way overdue for a car wash. And detailing. And a paint job. And hub caps. And door trim. And ceiling glue.

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