Eric Bergeson: Let’s talk about my colonoscopy
Last week, I passed the final test for adulthood.
The exam? Not only did I make an appointment for my first colonoscopy, which we’re supposed to do at about age 50, but I showed up for it and sailed through without making a single juvenile, smart-aleck remark.
My restraint lasted until the next social occasion when I delivered a detailed monologue about the whole procedure. But by then, I had passed. I was officially an adult.
I have dreaded reaching this age for years, not because I am getting older, but because it means that I have to get probed and prodded for no good reason other than to stave off death.
Filling a tooth is painful, but after 30 minutes, you are better off than you were before.
Having some brute dig out your ingrown toenail is unpleasant, yet after the procedure, you are better off than you were before.
But all these after-50 probings and tests improve nothing. Either you are normal, in which case the test was a waste of time, or they find something very wrong you didn’t know about hours before.
The natural human response is to not want to know. Psychologists call it denial. Putting off important but annoying health procedures is denial.
We procrastinate until something is really wrong, which is like not checking the oil until the heat light comes on. By that time, it is too late.
Adulthood means tackling unpleasant tasks and putting them behind you, knowing that you put up with a little short-term misery for long-term peace of mind.
What I didn’t realize is that adulthood also means you become eager to discuss intimate medical procedures at the dinner table.
My parents, certified adults both, have done this for decades. A little surgical discussion over mashed potatoes doesn’t bother them a bit.
At age 43, I was promoted from the kids folding tables in the rec room up to the big table for Thanksgiving dinner. I longed to find out what they had been talking about all these years up at the adult oak dining set.
I should have stayed at the wiggly kids’ tables. Even if I don’t understand the kids’ video game talk, at least it doesn’t make me gag.
Talk at the solid adult table always turns to medical matters, at least if there are no pending divorces. Medical matters provide the only drama in their otherwise stable existence.
We have a pharmacist in the family. When he shows for Thanksgiving, you barely get past the table prayer before somebody starts quizzing him about their innards and outards.
In fact, Mr. Pharmacist got promoted to the adult table long before he turned forty-three. I realize now it was due to his medical expertise. He is more a consultant than a cousin.
In New Zealand they have a phrase which signals that medical talk during meals should stop: “We’re having tea!” somebody yells.
“Tea” has nothing to do with tea. It is their word for supper. They don’t even serve tea at tea.
The answer to the question, “What are we having for tea?” is usually meat, potatoes and beer in the countryside, or tofu, lentils, spinach and chard if you are within a mile of a university.
But “We’re having tea!” always means shut your mouth about blood, guts and other grit and grime.
I always wished we had such a phrase in this country, one which would immediately silence the “organ recitals,” as my musical aunt labels the listing of one’s most recent visits to the clinic.
For my first decades, I was a prude about medical matters, mainly because I start to feel my stomach weaken when they come up. I holler, “we’re eating!” but it was a cry in the wilderness, at least at the adult table.
With that history, I was thrilled last week to awaken alive and well from anesthesia and realize I now had a story for the Thanksgiving dinner table to compete with the adults’ tales of gore.
I think this means I am finally an adult myself.
Not only did I sail through a procedure which many people put off, but once it was out of the way, I became eager to talk about it!
Thanksgiving can’t come soon enough.
Ever wonder what happens when you take 16 doses of laxative in one hour?
Come over for turkey and I’ll tell you.