Tuesday, September 04, 2007

behind the bedroom doors

It's not all blood and guts and sweat and tears, being a doctor. In fact, as a family GP, there's very little blood, and never any guts whatsoever. (Sweat and tears there are plenty of - and that's just from me after a long day). One thing that my job does entail is an almost unparalled access to peoples' inner lives. I hear about drug experimentation, I know about past criminal convictions. I am told of abortions and illicit affairs. I hear all kinds of secrets, because people know their secrets are safe with me. Unless someone plans to harm themselves, or others, I cannot break confidentiality. My lips are sealed.

So when I find out all sorts of details about peoples' sex lives, I cannot help but be intrigued. I mean, there are not many jobs with such a direct line to these nitty gritty facts. People tell me things I wouldn't hear from my closest friends. I get to find out what's happening behind all those bedroom doors. Honestly, it's been an eye-opener.

About ten years ago, I was sitting talking to a suburban, married, 30-something woman about something unrelated, when she suddenly asked me how to use a device made for 'safe' female-to-female oral sex. I'm sure the whites of my eyes were showing as I tried to coolly describe the correct usage of this piece of protective plastic. Firstly, I really had no idea beyond the vaguest concept of how this gear should be used (but surely there are instructions on the packet?!). Secondly, my mind was racing as I thought in confusion, Hang on! Your husband comes to this practice, too. Does he know about this? Are you two going to be okay? As it happened, they weren't okay - they eventually divorced. And thinking back, I wonder if this lady made her query as a way of letting me know she was bisexual (or gay), to make me to realise that all was not as it seemed. (Either that, or she thought it would be hilarious to watch a nerdy young doctor stammer her way through an sex-related explanation!) I'm not sure what happened to this lady, as I moved from that practice a few years ago. However, her husband has continued to consult me at my new practice, and he has since happily remarried.

The most captivating sex tales I've heard involve societal preconceptions about youth, age and intimacy being turned on their heads. The general community seems to expect anyone over the age of sixty to retire from all sexual thoughts, desires and activity (heaven forbid that we not all look like smooth-faced, flat-bellied movie stars whilst having sex!!), while we assume the youth of the world are going at it like rabbits. So it was a lesson for me to be allowed a window into the lives of 'May' and 'Kylie'.

May was a feisty 78-year-old widow with beautiful shoes and sparkling eyes. She was smart and vivacious, and maintained an active social life. Inevitably, she would tell me about various men who asked her out. May didn't seem too interested in any particular man, until 'Ralph' came along. Then suddenly she talked of Ralph doing this, Ralph saying that. May and Ralph went out for meals. May and Ralph went walking. They went to dances. Things got even more serious, and then everything began to unravel. May was miffed. Ralph only seemed interested in being 'intimate' with her once every few weeks, whereas May was ready to get busy every few days. Being the outspoken woman that she was, May complained to me bitterly in her heavy Eastern European accent, "A vo-man has needs, you know!". And in her hurt, she huffed, "And he needs to take pills to purrrrrr-form! My husband never needed any-sink!". It was difficult to keep a straight face around May, but somehow I'm sure May wouldn't have minded if I'd smiled. She was grinning herself half the time.

Kylie was just a teen when I first met her. She wanted to begin taking a contraceptive pill, and I was asking her routine questions, including whether she could possibly already be pregnant. Kylie shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She admitted shyly, "Well, it's been awhile since we last....you know." Familiar with the usual stories from teens with raging hormones, I assumed we were talking about a whole three days here.
"Did you use any protection?", I queried.
"Um," Kylie stalled. "Well, I'm not sure. I can't really remember. But I know I'm not pregnant. There's no way I could be."
"How can you be sure?", I asked, beginning to feel frustrated with this verbal tennis match.
Kylie paused. "Well ...... we're not really that into sex. Neither of us."
"Okay..." I prompted.
"And so.... (I'm thinking that this is like pulling teeth. Large, impacted wisdom teeth)... "so it's been awhile."
"Awhile?" I echo.
"Yes," Kylie replies, "About three or four months." I quickly retrieved my jaw from the floor so I could continue to speak.

Turns out Kylie and her boyfriend liked to do a spot of horizontal dancing at Christmas, New Year, and on each of their birthdays. That's it. And for those of you who are thinking that a relationship like that would never last - that the boyfriend must have been secretly seething with sexual frustration (you cynics! you sex-obsessed people!) - I have an update. It's been more than ten years, but Kylie showed up at my current place of work the other day. She has since married the boyfriend. They are very content together. And now, they have sex at Christmas, New Year, on their birthdays.......

and on their wedding anniversary.


fifi said...

oh. my. god.

well, who would have thought. When I were that age, I would have had to check my watch...

Friend works as GP in area with large retirement population.
when she complained to her colleague that all she seemed to get day after day was endless papsmears, he sighed and said,
"oh for a patient with an active sex life"

Perhaps you attract these unusual types!!!

I take my hat off to you, I certainly do. These secrets must balance out all the more unpleasant procdures...

Mimi said...

Fascinating! Sex, lies and videotapes or something like that. Easier to talk about than religion though. ;-)


jellyhead said...

The scary thing is, fifi, I think you may be right. I think I *do* attract unusual people. What's wrong with meeeeeeeeeee??!!! ;-)

mimi, you know, after saying it's easier to talk about sex than religion, it occurred to me that I never HAD discussed sex on this blog. Hence, this post!

Val said...

So much for all the statistics about what the "norm" is. The sad thing is that people think there is something wrong with them if they don't conform to the "norm".

I don't think it's so much that you attract the unusual types, just that you allow people to feel comfortable telling you all manner of things. Not all GPs have this ability!

meggie said...

I tend to agree with Val. I am sure you give out a reassuring comfortable prescence, & your patients feel at ease talking to you.
I wanted to ask, do Kylie & husband have any children?
I used to work with a Welsh woman, who was in her 50s. I was newly married, & was quite shocked when she told me she had married a cold Englishman. She said Xmas only came once a year & so did Ron!
They were divorced soon after, & she married a yonger man. They seemed blissfully happy.

John Cowart said...

I'm glad that all these folks have you to confide in -- a place they can get correct information.

Not too long ago, a young man (in his late 20s) came to talk with me just worried sick that he'd gotten his girl pregnant -- because he'd held her hand!

Remiman said...

It can be a strange world out there, and things aren't always as they seem.
Often I find out way more than I want to know.
On the topics of sex and religion; I'd rather talk about religion. ;-)

mackeydoodle said...

You could start a whole new blog about the sex confessions that you hear:)
Love then end to your post'and on their wedding anniversary" lol
You are not only sweet & kind, you are funny too!

Kerri said...

What an interesting bedtime read! Who needs a good book when I can read Jelly's latest post? There's a little bit of something for everyone here :)
Val's hit the nail on the head. I'm sure you inspire that feeling of confidence in people because you're so down to earth and are genuinely interested in them.
Watch your e-mail Jelly because I'm going to be sending you all my deepest, darkest secrets....LO very L :)

shellyC said...

I love hearing that preconceptions become misconceptions!! That is what makes life interesting - and your job Jelly!!!

Alice said...

Grandma Alice is keen to know if Shellyc's preconceptions which become misconceptions might possibly become conceptions?

You must have heard more confessions than the Pope, Jelly. I hope you never feel the need to indulge in a little blackmail...lol.

Keep up the fantastic work. There should be a confidante just like you every few kilometres on life's highway.

thisisme said...

What a glorious post Jelly - a very entertaining way to start a Sunday morning. Always nice to have preconcieved ideas turned on their heads too.

Like you, I have completely random people telling me intimate details of their lives. I've got no idea why though, I don't have any professional reason for it.

Sandy said...

I got up early this Sunday morning just so I could catch up on what I've missed and I find myself smiling at your post. I bet you have many secrets, hehehe and that's nice that your patients feel comfortable enough with you that they can talk freely about intimate things. Now about that prescription for Viagra, can you send that to my email?