Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Dreaded Word

What is it that makes people so afraid of using the real words for real body parts? What's wrong with saying penis, or vagina, or rectum? Almost everyone I talk to, myself included at times, uses euphemisms for what are natural body parts. Are we afraid that if we speak of them out loud, the Garden of Eden will be closed to us and people will know of their shame once again?

I was just talking to the pharmacist at the pharmacy which will be providing my condom catheters. I have already sent them the required measurements, the size of my penis in girth. Yet the woman on the phone needed to ask more questions. Her first was to "confirm the measurement of your... ah... " I couldn't stand it. I said "penis?" "Yes."

I pointed out that I had already done the measurement and called it in to someone in her department. She found the measurement and said  "It says '30', but it doesn't say 30 what." Unless I am an elephant, I am pretty sure it would be millimeters. Nonetheless she talked to her counterpart and confirmed the sizing.

Then I seized my opportunity and asked "Why did you send me five of those penis size measuring things anyway?" I could hear her ask her co-worker; "Why did you send him five of those things?" Apparently, once again, the word penis was too hard to say, let alone the word measurement. I wonder how she would have handled it if length were involved, or, if for some bizarre reason, the size of an erect penis were involved? My God, the world would grind to a stunning halt; immediately.

Euphemisms and appropriated pauses were used a few other times in the conversation as we discussed placement of urine bags and catheter tubes, along with instructions for installation. Yet not once did she say the dreaded word. Penis.

As my ALS progresses, I am becoming increasingly comfortable with my body as a thing distinct from me. It has parts. Some parts work. Some parts don't. Some parts are visible to the outside world. Other parts are not often seen, however these days a lot more people see me naked. None of it is shame worthy, not even the sexual parts. They are just parts, working or otherwise.

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