TITLE: Smokey the Bandit
DATE: 2/28/2005 10:36:00 PM
I knew it was coming, of course. I'd been to this doctor more than once, so of course he was going to have a nag, like just about every other doctor (especially the male ones) that I've been to see.
My old psychiatrist, for example, was pretty obsessed with my weight. Every single visit (simple med-checks; I'd stabilized, no thanks to him, but still had to go back every so often to endure his idiocy for about ten minutes in order to get my prescription renewed), so regularly you could just about time him (five minutes in...yep, any second now...), he'd leer at me over his bifocals and sneer, in his heavy accent, "Hev you lozt enny vayt?"
Which was hilarious considering I was pleasantly plus-size, rather than a complete heifer, before I was put on one of the medications he was then prescribing.
This one, meanwhile, is obsessed with my smoking habit. They all have their issues, I guess. I'd already been pretty bratty at this visit, anyway, refusing (as is my right) to step onto the scale when I walked in, because hey, I could have lost the equivalent of a small child since my last visit, couldn't I, and he and I would both know I still weigh too much, right? So why do it? Why step up onto the scale and have it broadcast that shameful number into the pitying eyes of the petite, skinny nurse?
Because I was deep into one of my patented heavy-duty worry sessions the other day when I came to a revelation. Wanna hear it? Here it go. For a fat sedentary smoker, I actually do a good deal of worrying about my health. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I hypochondriacally hypothesize on a nearly constant basis on what terminal illness I'm currently developing. Until I thought to myself: in every medical text I have ever pondered (in the hopes of backing up whatever self-diagnosis has caught my fancy), "stress" is listed as just as large a risk factor as any of the others I am more consistently reminded about. Heart patients have been shown to be not just at risk through certain lifestyle behaviors but also through personality--they are predominantly Type A. Even conditions such as adult-onset diabetes have been linked to high stress levels. And stress levels are probably the risk factor in my life I have the best chance of mitigating at the present time. So, bitch, I ain't gettin' on that scale. Because my internal hell at reading the number is at least as threatening to me as that number itself. So fuck y'all.
For good measure, I sat in the dignified actual chair in the examining room, rather than on the crinkly paper table, something else I have always dutifully gone along with, but not today. I was feeling sassy, I tell you.
So when the inevitable, "Are you still smoking?" came around, let's say I was loaded for bear.
"Yep," I said, because there's no use lying now, although I am still kicking myself for answering that question truthfully on my initial intake questionnaire, a mistake I don't intend to repeat in future.
"Why." The question was more rebuke than interrogative statement. More condemnation than actual curiosity. Its tone was intended to intimidate, I knew. It was intended to say, I am the almighty doctor, and you, the lowly patient, shall bend to my will.
I pondered for a moment. "Is there any reason you'll accept?" I finally asked bluntly. This earned a chuckle, but soon he was back on the attack.
"Well, seriously," he said. "You seem like a smart person. And I just think of you, with all the money you're throwing away...you're just burning up dollar bills, you know."
Yeah, because a kajillion anti-smoking pamphlets haven't tried that one on me before...
"They're not your dollar bills, are they?" I asked mildly. Another chuckle, this time with a slight tincture of frustration.
"Well, no, but really, I want to know why you're spending the money," he said. "I mean, a lot of people, when they spend money, it's because they have a reason for doing it, you know, like people who like art spend money on art, people who like books spend money to have books around. So why do you spend money on--"
I cut him off. "Funny thing is," I said, deadpan, "The people you just described are rarely called upon to defend their spending habits to a third party."
"Right," he said, as if he had me right where he wanted me. "But what they're doing isn't hazardous to their health."
I raised my eyebrows.
"I mean, like, I always ask people if they wear their seatbelt, maybe that's a better analogy. People usually have a reason for doing this."
This guy would never make it as a shrink. I mean, ever.
"Or maybe it's just habit," I said. Checkmate.
His interrogation, meanwhile, had failed him in two ways: 1) If I was ever going to sit there and explain myself to him, I sure as hell won't now after that conversation and 2) I really, really needed a smoke right about then.