A guy thing, reluctantly endured

January 06, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

THERE COMES a moment during the course of a man's yearly physical exam when things become well, unpleasant only begins to describe it.

The stethoscope has been put away. The thumping on one's back and chest is over. The electrocardiogram has been done. Blood has been drawn for various tests.

"Well ," the doctor says, motioning to the man's belt buckle.

And just like that, The Moment arrives.

You men out there, you know what I'm talking about. Particularly you men over 40.

In fact, you men are probably wincing already.

Yes. I'm talking about that moment.

The moment of one's oh, for God's sake, we're all adults here prostate exam.

Understand, this is not an attempt to minimize the importance of this exam.

Uh-uh. We men know it's important. And we want everyone to know we're not, you know, chicken or anything.

It's just that, well, if medical science could find a way to make the whole thing a bit less jarring -- to eliminate the, um, human touch, as it were -- why, we would certainly appreciate this.

In fact, we would appreciate it so much that we would all take the scientist who makes this medical breakthrough out for beers.

And we wouldn't stop at beers, either. Oh, no, we're not that cheap.

I think I speak for all men when I say we would also pay for a nice Caribbean vacation for this scientist and his or her family, and perhaps see about leasing a new Mercedes for the scientist, too.

Honest. That's how appreciative we would be.

Very, very appreciative.

What follows may seem like a rather strange segue, but bear with me here.

Some think the most frightening sound in the world is that of a lion roaring in the African bush. Or a snake hissing. Or an avalanche roaring down a mountainside.

But none of those is the most frightening sound in the world.

No, the most frightening sound in the world is this: a latex glove snapping over a doctor's gnarled hand.

For weeks after his physical, a man will hear that sound echoing through his brain. He will hear it with crystalline clarity, like a tree limb cracking in the stillness of a snowy woods.

And that sound, whenever he hears it, will make him sweat.

I'm serious about this.

It could be 30 degrees below zero. He could be out on an ice floe in the middle of the Bering Sea. But if his subconscious summons the snap of a latex glove, tiny beads of perspiration will form on his forehead.

Now you would think -- at least I would think -- that women would be fairly sympathetic toward men who must endure this exam.

Ha, that's a good one! A real knee-slapper!

Here's how sympathetic women are. My wife was at the kitchen counter, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, when I returned from my physical.

Naturally, I was pale and shaken from the entire ordeal.

"Do you know," I blurted, "that a burly man with very large hands just did something to me? In a medical office?"

My wife looked up from the paper.

Then she looked back at the paper.

Then she said: "Do you have any interest in seeing the new Barry Levinson movie? It's playing at the Senator."

It was, in retrospect, an absolutely stunning response.

Look, we men know we can seem terribly juvenile and self-centered at times. And we understand that women undergo certain unpleasant procedures during the course of their physical exams.

But, my God!

A man has just been violated! In a small, windowless room next to a jar of tongue depressors!

And all you can think of is a movie?!

What kind of a cold, unfeeling world do we live in anymore?

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