I wish that I didn’t know now
What I didn’t know then.”
-from Bob Seger’s famous song
She came to see me because her lupus threatened to win the battle against her. She did not have any life-threatening manifestations. She was just miserable. By two in the afternoon she felt wiped out. She had numerous aches and pains that kept her from the workouts that she liked so much, but the pains were never bad enough that she felt that she needed to take medicine. It was difficult to concentrate at work or home. There were many misplaced keys; a coworker who was fond of her had to double check her assignments.
Maybe because she was not critically ill, or was it because she hated the thought of exposing herself to potential side effects, none of her four prior specialists had prescribed anything other than mild pain relief. She came to my office for opinion #5, although it was clear to both of us that there was no doubt about her diagnosis, and no question that something had to be done.
Talk to me. What can I do for you?
“Give me back my life.”
She was tall; very well developed without appearing muscular. She could have stepped right into an Olympic beach volleyball telecast; no one would have been able to tell that she didn’t belong. A number of tattoos; all of them tasteful. Very short hair. And stunningly beautiful.
Good enough. Tell me about yourself. What kind of life have you had? What do you miss the most?
A long story. Difficult childhood; a mother that seemed to be too busy making herself pretty; no visible father; frequent run-ins with authority figures as a teenager; of course an early pregnancy; child’s father nowhere to be found… Let’s say that she had been around, and then some. Somewhere, somehow, she saw the light. She finished college on line. She found a good job. She earned a few promotions. She was devoted to her son; he was doing very well. Then she became ill.
At first she tried to deny that there was anything wrong. She was busy; she was starting a master’s degree; her son was into many activities. When she noticed that she was crying herself to sleep every night she broke down and asked for help. But she never found the right match. Deep down she still wanted to deny that there was anything wrong. Her doctors sensed that they were dealing with a strong and very independent woman. They were reluctant to appear as if they were forcing her to take potentially toxic medicine.
So we have a diagnosis. It’s clear that what you’ve been doing has not helped. I’ll say it again: what can I do for you?
“I don’t want any side effects. Isn’t there a natural remedy?”
Arsenic is found in nature. So are poisonous mushrooms. There is nothing that you can take that is free of side effects.
“I have a son. My job needs me. I can’t…”
And you think you’re doing your best for them now?
A brief look of anger. I pick up on this immediately. I stand up and reach out with my hand.
You’re an amazing woman. You have beaten the odds many times over. I have the knowledge and the resources to allow you to keep this up. I want to help.
She took my hand. Another smile.
Take the medicine. Please. I’ll be there for you no matter what. You can reach me by e mail; you can have my cell phone number if you want. Please take the medicine.
She took the prescription.
At her next visit she was improved, but far from well. Three months from the day that we met she came back. Bright; cheerful; not a hint of gloom or concern in her expression. I could see why she had been successful at work. Her smile could melt an iceberg.
You look great!
“I feel great. No pain. Energy almost back to normal. My son told me that I wasn’t crabby any more. Caught up with my schoolwork.”
That’s great. I’m glad. I have nothing to add. You’ll keep getting better. Just come in every four months for blood tests; let me know if anything new comes up.
I stood up. She stood up, flashed her amazing smile, and pinched my left cheek between her right thumb and index finger. She almost ran out of the office.
I realized that maybe I had a problem. I let my nurse know what had happened.
Please find her primary care doc for me.
A few minutes later my nurse pulled me out of an exam room. “Dr. Krueger on the line.”
I felt some relief. I knew Steve Krueger from ten years back. I trusted his judgment. I explained what had happened.
I wanted to let you know. I don’t know if this was an act of gratitude or seduction.
He laughed out loud.
“Don’t worry about it. This is the way she is; very impulsive. She had a wild streak when she was younger; she’s OK now. Besides, you’re too old to worry about these things.”
Thanks a lot. But you put me at ease.
I hung up and went back to work.
Two months later she sent an e mail. She had a new hip pain; she was worried that her disease might be flaring. I made arrangements to see her the next day.
She still looked well. There was nothing on exam that concerned me.
I think that you have a bursitis. Nothing to do with lupus. Probably overdid it when you exercised.
“Yeah; I have been pushing it at the gym. But now I can’t walk fast anymore.”
No problem. I can give you a shot in the tender area. Follow it up with some stretches. That should do it.
She quickly agreed. No more mention of natural remedies. I gave her a drape.
Slide your pants down just a few inches. You can keep your underwear on. Drape yourself; I’ll be back in a few minutes.
I pointed to the troublesome spot. A few minutes later I walked back into the exam room. She was lying on her side, facing away from me. Seemingly naked from the waist down. The drapes were looped around her knees. A suggestive tattoo on her left buttock. Totally comfortable with her state of undress.
I suppressed a loud groan. I made it clear that she could keep her underwear on. A line had been crossed. Now I had to leave the room, and find a nurse to be in the room with me, and after I was finished with the injection I had to spend a lot of time discussing limits and boundaries with her. This would put me way behind. I was upset.
As I turned my head to the door I noticed something unusual. There was a string looped around her waist. Part of the string found a way to nestle between her buttocks. She was wearing underwear after all, although of a kind I’d never seen in the past.
Internal sigh of relief. She was playing by the rules after all. I gave the injection and hurried out of the room. She promised to do her stretches.
Later on my partners and the staff were having lunch. I had a female partner that I was (and am) particularly fond of. Smart; funny; never hesitant to put me in my place if I became too sure of my opinions. I told her what had happened.
“You never saw a thong before?”
Obviously not. What’s a thong?
She laughed out loud. Al of the female employees joined her. I was in for a sustained session of ribbing and verbal torture. After they thoroughly humiliated me about my ignorance they explained about thongs, and how younger women use them to hide underwear shadows when they wear tight pants. How some people compare them to dental floss.
I get it. But it seems to me that it has to be uncomfortable to have a piece of string up your…
“Oh no! It actually feels fine!”
NO! Why did you say that? Now every time that I look at you I’m gonna have this image…
Everybody laughed at me again. As my partner left the lunch room she patted me on the back. In a patronizing way.
“Get over it.”
Not that I had a choice. A few weeks later it was Valentine’s day. I went to the lunch room at the usual time, but there was no one there except for a pharmaceutical rep. She was new at the job and had never been to the office. A very young, articulate, somewhat intimidated woman. I introduced myself; I asked her how things were going.
“I love it. It was nice of you to let me come in today. You have a large office; my boss said it was important for me to get to know all of you.”
It gets a bit rowdy for lunch, but everyone will be nice to you.
Just as I finished saying this they all came in. Obviously a staged move; people usually came in singles whenever they had a minute. All of them at once; they were chanting a tune that I did not recognize. The last three people in the line were my nurse, the office manager, and my female partner. They slithered in, moving their hips seductively from one side to the other. To the beat of the other employees’ chant, that I now recognized as a melody often associated with a strip tease. They were wearing thongs over their work pants. The new pharma rep looked a bit startled. More than a bit.
The three protagonists (instigators?) moved to center stage; they formed a chorus line in front of me. They began to wiggle their thighs and slowly moved their thongs down, first to their knees, then the ankles, finally taking them off a foot at a time. They took turns coming to me; each pushed their thongs over my head and around my neck. After they were done I rubbed my lips on the underwear.
It’s almost impossible to get me to laugh out loud, but I did have a huge smile on me. Everyone present was laughing hysterically. The rep, however, was in clear distress. Almost in tears. I had to come to her rescue.
OK; OK; this is what’s going on.
I spent the next ten minutes telling her the thong story. With three thongs draped around my neck. Too late I realize that maybe I don’t look professional. I take the skimpy underwear off. She smiles. I think we’re OK now. I relax.
When I’m done with my day I drive home with my trophies. I tell my wife what happened. I show her the thongs.
“That’s funny. Here, give them to me. I’ll throw them away.”
Throw them away? Why don’t you wear them?
I get the look.
No; seriously. Let me see how they look on you.
Another look. This one a bit more penetrating.
“Those days are over. It wouldn’t look good. I promise; you won’t like it.”
You’ll look great! Give it a try!
She turns away from me after she gives me (another) patronizing pat on the back. The thongs go in the waste basket.
I didn’t give up on my thong quest. A few weeks later we were on vacation in Key West. As we walked down a street heavily infested with tourists I noticed a sign in a bar.
THONG CONTEST TONIGHT
This was my chance. I asked my wife if we could go. I got the look again.
“Sure. If it means so much to you.” She has her resignation face on.
I hurry up to the bartender to find out about the time, and any cover charge. When I get to the bar I see pictures that were taken at prior contests. Of men. Muscular, well-endowed men of all heights and ethnic origins. The bartender walks up to me.
“Can I help you?”
Do you have any bottled water?
I paid my three dollars and walked off. My wife took a sip of my water.
“What time does it start?”
Naaah. I don’t want to see it anyway. I’d rather see you.
I get another look; this one of disbelief. But she’s kind enough to let it go. We went to a nice restaurant instead.