Wednesday, March 7, 2007

An Old Dude Touched My Privates

It was a beautiful day yesterday in Seattle. With the sun shining and the cool breeze blowing across my face, I decided to take a stroll around the block and let it all sink in. It's been awhile since I've been outside to enjoy the sunshine. As I left behind the routine tasks of my office job on that bright and cheery afternoon, I was pondering many things. I hope I don't have cancer...Is my digestive tract working correctly?...I think my eyesight is getting worse...What if my desk job at work is giving me hemorrhoids? You might wonder why I thought about such things on such a beautiful day... Well, it's because I was on my way to my first doctor's appointment in about six years.

I met my new doctor yesterday (yes, a medical doctor), and he touched my privates. And I am very thankful. Because now I know that I do not have a hernia. Because that's what he does. Checks for a hernia. Up until yesterday, I didn't know that when he says, "turn your head and cough," he is actually checking to see whether or not your lower abdomen is protruding through an orifice it's not supposed to.

And to my surprise, when I told my fiancee that night that I passed my physical with flying colors, she asked me with a giggle, "did he check you for a hernia?"

"How did you know that's what he was checking for?!" I asked her shockingly. She then proceeded to tell me all about the details of the examination as I am beginning to remember that she has always wanted to be a sex-ed teacher. I smiled, realizing that she might know more about my body than I do. And that's one of the many things I love about her. That's not weird, is it?

After much reflection, this whole touchin' privates thing got me thinking about social norms. Why is it okay that an old guy with an 'MD' does something like this, but it's not okay when an old guy (or any guy, for that matter) without an 'MD' does it? Why can't I call it molestation? Is it just because I was okay with him doing it? What if I wasn't okay with it? Would it then be considered an invasion of privacy? What if somebody off the street who wasn't a medical doctor did something like that to me, simply to check whether or not I had a hernia? If I was okay with it, then it wouldn't necessarily be considered inappropriate. So is the concluding label of the action purely based on my reaction to it?

How about something a little less graphic. While I was in the waiting room (the big waiting room, not the little one where I have to strip down), everyone was sitting quietly. Why is everyone quiet? There aren't any signs there to tell us to be quiet... we just are. The only loud sound was when a little girl and her mother walked into the lobby. The little girl started to scream and talk loudly because she was bored and wanted something fun to do. Well I totally identified with her because I was also bored and wanted something fun to do, however, I was still quiet. How do we know that we are supposed to be quiet? Social Learning Theory shows us that this little girl will likely grow up and learn to be quiet in waiting rooms. It may be her mother who tells her to "shh" when she's loud, or maybe when she gets dirty looks from complete strangers. These strangers have no right to tell people what to do unless there's a sign that tells people they should be quiet. Maybe I'll start talking loud the next time I am in a waiting room.

Another fun way to ignore social norms: Be the last one into an elevator, but don't turn around to face the door. Just face forward.