Saturday, April 3, 2010

Belly Button Adventures


It all started Tuesday when I had my period. It came out of my belly button, like a misguided childhood nightmare after hearing about menstruation in health class. I'd had some pain there, but I thought it was because I had my belt tight because my pants were loose- lost some weight, might as well announce it and be smug- but it got worse. Like any American jealous of how much vacation time Europeans get, I decided to use it as an excuse to stay home from work. Unfortunately it turned into a valid reason, when I looked down and saw blood coming out of my navel.

I did what any man would do, I freaked. I called the doctor's office, who of course said they'd call back. If they'd let me speak to him and he said, "You big wuss. Man up!" I would have done the right thing and slapped a bandage on it and gone to work, but that's not how our health care system works. A few hours later, enough time for me to bleed to death, they called back and said they were setting up an appointment with a surgeon. When I think of a surgeon I think of a masked man hovering above me with harsh light reflecting off the bloody bone saw whizzing in his hand, so that sure helped. Later on, they called back and said they couldn't schedule me, and I should go to the emergency room. The ER?! That's like going to the Department of Motor Vehicles except everyone around you has an infectious disease. No thank you! I told the nurse that I didn't have a fever and the pain wasn't bad, and she scheduled me two days later. But thanks to the internet, where searching for "belly button pain" gives you gory photos of piercings gone wrong, I was concerned I might have a hernia, appendicitis, blood poisoning, or an alien egg growing inside me.

So I waited out the two days with that stoic nobility of American manhood, meaning I whined about it constantly to my fiancé, Firecracker. Years ago, I told her my theory that men evolved to take sharp pain because we were hunters and fighters, meant to deal with getting pierced by tusks and antlers and clubbed by jealous Geico pitchmen, while women, who get a monthly reminder that one day they will look like they swallowed a watermelon and have to pass a human head out their no-no, can take persistent achy pain like champs. Unfortunately for us Hunters, we're much less likely to be gored by aurochs and titanotheres these days. Instead, we get taken down by the ignoble enemies of sinus headaches, gas, and ass sprains from sitting in an office chair all day. For example, I recently heard a young friend of hers complain because her husband has had chronic sinus headaches that are so bad, he didn't want to have sex. Really? I should have told her that really good sex will clear your sinuses.

Apparently the headache excuse is now a male phenomenon. Now, I know how he feels. A few years ago I had a kidney stone, which male doctors will tell you, is worse than having a baby. (Female doctors will smack you in the head and tell you to man up). It actually turned out to be an infection, and the idiot tech at the lab I was supposed to get my MRI at told me not to drink any water for 12 hours prior. By the time I got there, it felt like Freddy Krueger was punching me in the kidneys after dunking his razor fingers in habañero sauce. A quick trip to the E.R. later, and I was in a hospital room with an old man with a bum foot, who got to hear me cry like Harvey Keitel in yet another performance overlooked by the Academy. Eventually I got Demerol, which made me a man again. My roommate turned out to be a soldier who stormed the beaches at Normandy. So yes, I wept like a little bitch for my mommy in front of a war hero.

That day I resolved to only be a whiny little minger about pain when I'm alone, or with my sympathetic fiancé, who tells me to sack up and stop being a whiny little bitch. So a day or two later I end up at the doc's office so he can probe my navel. Having once been a heaving human hog of 360 pounds, I'm smug about my current shape and also still sensitive about it. 35 years of fat jokes take a while to wear off. Thankfully, practically everyone in America is huge these days, so I look on the thin side. After filling out the forms proving I could pay, I was led to a little room, and shortly afterward Dr. Stylman came in, and didn't make any fat jokes. He made me lay down and plunged his fist elbow-deep into my navel, somewhere between reverse proctology and making an Alien hand puppet pop out of my chest. In reality, he just poked around with forceps and a Q-tip, but that's what it felt like. It's as close as I've come to the humiliation of an Ob-Gyn looking inside me with that periscope of a speculum, looking for Nazi warships to sink, and I hope that's as close as I ever get. At least colonoscopies are done with remote cameras on wires nowadays, so you can pretend they're defusing a bomb in your lower intestine.

So after all that, the doc told me it was an infected hair follicle, and I should continue putting antibiotic ointment on it. If it gets red or infected again, I might need an outpatient operation to remove it. In other words: sack up, you whiny little minger.

© 2010 Thomas Pluck.

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