Scary vs. coherent

It seems like my current primary care physician has it in for me.  Last year she told me flat out to lose ten pounds – a delicate statement to make around any woman.  And it’s true I was about 7 pounds over my standard weight.  But still, not an entirely reasonable thing to say to a reasonably healthy young woman.  She’s always been a bit brusque, so I take her words with a grain of salt (and hopefully prompted me to do the same with all doctors).

Still, when I noticed that a mole on my back seemed to be larger and then turned skin-color in the middle, I brought it to her attention.  Changing moles are freaky – your mind does all kinds of cancer-flips and worries at what other changes might be happening on your unobserved flesh.  I was not worried really, but still wanted a professional opinion.  Hers was that it was a cyst, not a mole, and nothing to worry about, but I was welcome to see a dermatologist.  Um, okay, I think I will.

It’s hard to say whether her nonchalance or her absolute denial of my opinions and knowledge of my own body that was more frightful.  True, she’s the doctor.  Maybe something is called a cyst that I think should be called a mole.  Maybe there’s some sort of oozy something under the skin (I’ve always thought of cysts as juicy) where there used to be a mole.  It’s hard to really evaluate the status of your skin in places you can’t see – maybe she can see or understand something I can’t.  Of course, if she’s right, then are there other things I should be checking up on that I am missing out of misconception?

So I went to see the dermatologist today worried.  I am a wimp when it comes to pain, and high in my mind was also the possiblity of having something dug out of my flesh to be examined and tested.  Not fun.  And what if I had cancer and was going to die?  The imaginative mind is prone to melodrama.  Fortunately, teh dermatologist I saw understood this.

His first comment:  ‘It’s not a cyst.”  Lovely.  Validation.  He went on to say that it was perfectly benign (of course, no one can be completely sure, but he seemed pretty sure.)  More importantly, he was perfectly willing to do whatever I wanted.  I could live a happy full life with my mole, or he could take it off if it was going to psychologically dist rub me to have it there.  So not only were my questions seen as reasonable, but he was willing to take into account my emotional well-being as well as my physical condition.  It was wonderful.

Of course, I was still pretty nervous to just rely on this guy’s word for my saftey.  After all, doctors are falliable, and I want to take steps to preserve my health.  I also don’t want a chuck of flesh carved out of me.  So I asked questions – how woudl this happen?  Should I be avoiding certain activities in the future?  And he was more than happy to explain.  Moles can change if they become inflamed.  Usually the first thing to vary with inflammation is pigment.  Probably your bra strap rubbed and inflamed the mole and that’s what caused the change.  Simple.  Direct.  Reasonable.

That’s all we want, really.  That’s what we pay our doctors for.  Not science or study, or even miracle cures.  We want communication.  We want the right words to tell us that we are safe, or we are unsafe, or that we need to change to preserve our health.  Of course, the right words are the hardest to find.  But we need delicacy and appreciation more than the simple maintenance of our bodies.

I don’t know how to attribute this, but I was reading a book that mentioned a speaker who was discussing the words we use to describe cancer.  How we say someone is ‘battling’ or ‘fighting’ cancer.  How we’ve changed what is often a manageable disease into a war.  How it can convince some patients to give up, in the face of some warlike onslaught, when in reality they should have survived.  How if we had the right words, the right way to talk about disease and health, more of us would be healthy and happy.  perhaps this can be most clearly seen in the doctor-patient relationship, but it should be present for all of us:  the need to talk clearly and without negative connotation about health.

Breakup a la Facebook

Some of you must be aware that I recently changed my status on Facebook from “In a Relationship” to “Single”.  It may be a trite way to inform my friends of the change, but it beats the alternatives.  It’s hard enough to go through a breakup without having to tell every single person who know you as a ‘good couple’ just why this happened and how.  Especially when you are the breakee rather than the breaker, It’s hard enough to accept the loss of your relationship, even without friends you trust discussing and questioning the decision that wasn’t even your decision.  And who wants to stand around lamenting the past?

Of course, some people would take the usefulness of this feature to the extreme.  Just like middle school, it eliminates the need to directly tell someone else your intentions.  In middle school, you could always have a friend do the actual ‘breaking’ for you.  Or, my personal favorite, there’s the phone breakup in which you curse the breakee for being a ‘dog’ and other various things just to show how serious you are about breaking all ties.  Some people might even use Facebook to avoid those delicate conversations about moving from casual dating to a full-fledged relationship.  Someday, somewhere, people might actually be proposing marriage on Facebook.  Creepy.

Still, it was pretty surprising to see the results.  People I hadn’t spoken to in months called or messaged to offer support and condolences.  Three of Mike’s friends he hadn’t told about the breakup yet only found out about it through my status change (his profile still was listed as ‘in a relationship’ at that point cause he’s a bum who doesn’t update his status).  And it was an easy way to shout out to my friends, “I need immediate and serious distraction from my own thoughts,” without having to say much of anything.  But the best part of it all is that I can still laugh at the gossipy quality to this useful little tool.  It’s still a little prideful to proclaim my new single status so quickly, and a little cheesy to feel sad about the poor broken heart pieces I showed to the world through online emoticons.  But if I can still laugh, I must be doing pretty good.

Food and looking good.

It’s always been one of standards of advertising – if something looks good, people will buy it. This is particularly true in fast food advertising. We’ve all seen the ads – tomato slices glistening with freshness, a juicy, tender-looking hamburger patty between two halves of the perfectly baked bun. And our mouth waters, despite the fact that we know our burger experience won’t be anything like that. The bread will be squished, the tomato mealy, and the lettuce half-wilted. Still, we buy into the image and the sultry, deep voice describing the delectable nature of the food choice.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this kind of advertising. The product, the perfect burger, could in some rare case be exactly as it’s pictured on television – it’s not necessarily false advertising. And I certainly don’t blame advertising companies for selling the product wholeheartedly by appealing to our most base sense – that of sight. I’m not even blaming us for responding to the advertising positively, especially if only for a moment. Still, the image of food seems to have a profound impact on us that we tend to disregard.

Take this blog post for instance. I was drawn in by the title, ‘tart and tangy’. The images were vivid, artistic, and well composed. But when i read the text itself, I felt cheated when the author initially disliked the results of her recipe. Ultimately, the review of this recipe was positive, but at the end I still felt cheated. What did the images give me that the text did not to leave this impression? Was it the artfulness of the juxtaposition of knife, plate, and empty space in the first picture? Was it the rich and vivid colors of the berries themselves? The article was what it was – a valid review of a newly found recipe. But somehow I wanted more but wasn’t sure what. Social comment? Emotive elements? Ethical appeal?

Another instance of this dissatisfaction can be seen in the Iron and Wine video, ‘Naked as We Came’.

I am oddly disturbed/moved by this video. What does it all mean? The back-and-forth of life and death, food and eating and remnants, light and rain and shadow, serve to imply some odd sort of whole message. But I still have no idea what it is. I am dissatisfied and oddly attracted to it, its vividness and gentle solemness. I want to see it again, just to try and figure out what it means, and a part of that is related to the feelings of seeing all this good-looking food just out there. And the ants. It’s a squeamish-delicious feeling, and I have the odd sensation it’s trying to tell me something about my own life.

Is this odd reaction to seeing ‘good food’ a primal instinct? Are our reactions here purely biological? Let me rephrase – yes, our reactions are biological. But are they sparked only by the natural need of sustenance, that mouth-watering reaction to certain sights and smells? Or do we have deeper, more complex reactions as well, relating to our emotions, memory, and abstract categorizations of life and what it means? Does me seeing the newest hamburger ad tempt me simply to go out and buy a hamburger, or does my reaction have some larger, unintended consequences?