Lube, Oil, and Filter

Something happened on vacation that was both eye-opening and a little unsettling: I was universally referred to as “senora.” Now, I don’t truly believe that an almost-43-year-old-woman SHOULD be referred to as “senorita” but it would be nice, is all I’m saying.

As a side note, the hostess for breakfast said brightly to me, “Hola, Senora Nicole!” and I was very taken aback since a) I did not tell her my name, b) the reservation for the resort was under my husband’s name and c) there were hundreds of people staying there, how did she know I was me? In fact, I asked her how she knew my name, and she said “It is your beautiful smile, Senora.” Which is lovely but still didn’t explain anything. The only thing I could think of was that she was at the karaoke party the night before and, well, I had a few numbers. If that is true, then a) my performances were memorable, and b) holy crap she must have worked a very long day as karaoke started at nine pm, and breakfast started at seven am.

Anyway, karaoke as an entertainment medium deserves its own post.

As I get older, I’m struck by how much more maintenance our bodies need; things that would have horrified me twenty years ago are now just part of my life and routine. I’m not even talking about things like facial depilation or constant root touch-ups, I’m talking about how, even after having had varicose veins stripped I have all new ones developing and have to wear medical-grade stockings on the plane so as to not die from a rogue blood clot, or, less dramatically, to not have sore and swollen legs after every flight.

People, you do not know glamour until you try to don or remove medical grade support hose in a public washroom. On the way to Mexico I wisely wore my sexy beige thigh-high stockings (pictured above) so when we landed in the 34 degree heat, I could remove them fairly easily while waiting for our luggage, “easily” being a relative term. On the way home, I had my full-length, pantyhose-style stockings to wear, but I did not want to die of heatstroke on the way to the airport. How hard could it be, I reasoned, to put them on in the airport washroom? The answer is: very hard. I’m sure the other passengers were wondering what exactly was happening in that stall on the left as I accidentally kicked the door, tipped over into wall, and inadvertently pushed my skirt – which I had removed to stand on to protect my feet from bathroom germs – out of the stall and into the middle of the bathroom. I emerged semi-victorious, with my pantyhose ending just a few inches from my bra line, wearing yoga pants to retrieve my skirt, noting that the other women were looking away rather quickly.

In the two weeks before our trip, I had three appointments set up, and all of them reminded me that while I feel very much like I am of the “Perennials,” I am indeed middle-aged. Although, I’m hoping to live a lot longer than 86, so maybe not quite middle-aged. In any case, these appointments were important and necessary, and please consider this your reminder to get them booked. For your reading pleasure, I have ranked them in order of agony, with 1 being the least and 3 being the greatest.


I know many women find mammograms painful and scary, and I would say that having the worst case scenario running through your head is the worst part. The first time I had one done, I was getting a lump investigated and not only did I have the mammogram but I also had an ultrasound on the lump, and I bit my lip the entire time to keep from crying. Now I get them done annually, and I find them to be not a big deal at all. There’s always the emotional “what if” factor, but in terms of physical comfort, I don’t have a problem with it at all. Perhaps it is my sad, deflated breasts, I don’t know. I do know that my doctor informed me that my breasts are dense. Dense! Let’s not belittle them. They’re just a little slow but otherwise fine. 

I have had great luck with mammogram technicians, who all seem young and perky and like they are choreographing the weirdest dance sequence ever. Okay now let’s lift! Lift here, yes, now turn away, your head too, okay, okay, now stay stay stay, oops, let’s lift again, and turn. Perfect! Stay! Yes! I have also – and here’s a hot tip for you – realized that if you have long hair, wear it up when you are getting a mammogram. Otherwise it can get in the way and things get even weirder in terms of choreography.

Another benefit is that you get to wear these saucy medical gowns!

Speaking as someone who has on more than one occasion – including very recently – put a medical gown on the wrong way, I appreciated the photos. But I did think it was a little odd; would people really not tie their gowns closed if they knew it was a single-sex change room? Is it only because it’s co-ed that we are supposed to not walk around with our breasts/ junk exposed? I mean, isn’t not flashing someone just a condition of living in a society? Well. If there is a sign – which was not there during my last appointment – there must be a reason.

However, I had some serious wardrobe malfunctions anyway. The gowns are in two sizes, depending on the colour, and the pink one they gave me is the larger size, which meant that even when I tied it as tightly as I could, the walk to the exam room led to a flapping open of the too-big gown, and some inadvertent exposure of the girls. At least it was just me and the technician, and so I was not called out for flouting the “close your gown” rules in front of elderly men or the like.

Pelvic Exam

I have had a history of doctors who couldn’t find my cervix and believe me when I say that is a very uncomfortable position to be in. I’m sure it’s there! I would joke, wincing with pain. After a very painful pelvic exam and pap that had to be REPEATED because the lab didn’t have enough “material to work with,” as it were, my doctor wrote a few notes down on my file and told me what to remind him of for the future.

I followed those directions and this past test was not terribly unpleasant, although I did feel awkward, while on the examining table, blurting out Don’t forget I need the LARGE speculum! The green one! Green for go!

The large speculum. My feminine mystique takes a bit of a beating.

Dental Scaling

By far my least favourite, I have to steel myself just to make the appointment for dental cleanings and checkups. For one thing, it takes so LONG. I suppose I could cut down on coffee consumption, but life needs to be worth living, and my god, think of the children. I have excellent dental hygiene – I brush several times a day and floss daily, I use a water pik, I buy extra whitening toothpaste – and yet, the sixty minutes of scaling feels like it says otherwise. In fact, the hygienist told me that my favourite floss, the one that I use daily and love, is “fairly ineffective but better than nothing.” For the record, it is that easy-glide dental tape, because I cannot stand the feeling of strands of floss between my teeth. To me it is akin to chewing tin foil. Shudder shudder forever.

You’ll pry my easy-glide dental tape out of my cold dead hands, I tell you. Remember that study that said that flossing was ineffective anyway? I thought about it but obviously did not refer to it to my lovely and skilled hygienist because a) I didn’t want her to think I was lying about flossing daily as it is important to me, apparently, to be well-regarded by the health care professionals in my life, b) I don’t want to walk around with food in my teeth so I won’t stop flossing, studies be damned, and c) I don’t want to seem like THAT person who quotes random and possibly inaccurate things they read on the internet. So, I took the regular non-easy-glide floss samples without comment, not wanting to flout the hygienist’s advice. At the very least, they can be donated to a shelter, and hopefully the recipient will not also view it as akin to a mouthful of foil.


  1. I snorted at the “you do not know glamour line” and then was outright laughing by the end of the stockings paragraph.

    What IS it about mammogram technician-ery that appeals to such young women? I am always amazed by how young they are. And I am really glad to hear that the choreography is a standard part of the routine rather than my inability to stand in the correct position. I love hearing, “Tilt to the side. No, not that far. Stick your butt out. Realllllllly stick it out. Shoulders back.” and trying to comply while those metal plates are smashing my chest into a breast pancake.

    AND (apparently this whole post connected with me on a Deep Level) I read the bit about the easy-glide dental tape with despair because it is the only reason I floss at ALL; the other kind gets stuck between my too-tight teeth and breaks and then I have bits of floss between my teeth for DAYS the HORROR. Nothing, not even ultra healthy gums, is worth THAT.

  2. They can pry my easy-glide dental tape out of my cold, dead hands. Even though I had braces for four years (!), my mom refused to let them pull any teeth so my lower teeth are still insanely crowded and the only floss that goes in between my teeth without an enormous struggle ending in lacerated gums is the easy-glide kind. They are lucky I floss at all damn it. At age 48 my night time routine has become a lengthy procedure of various face washes, creams, serums, mouth washes, etc so if I can’t use the easy-glide floss, I’m just not going to floss and thereby shave an extra 2 minutes off my routine. BAH.

  3. I had the exact same experience with my first mammogram – having to go back for an ultrasound. I have never been more terrified. I sat in the waiting room, shallow breathing so I wouldn’t cry, and decided I would just chop my breasts off and take all the chemo because I have little KIDS who NEED ME, for crying out loud. When it was over and the guy declared everything fine, I barely made it to the changing room before bursting into tears.

    There’s also rather a lot more touching and rearranging than I expected. I knew about the smashing, but no one told me about the REARRANGING.

  4. So can we all call you Señora Nicole from now on? It has a nice ring to it.

    That made me glad I’ve had a mammogram recently and don’t need to go back for a while.

  5. bibliomama2 says

    Okay, I LOVE that easy-glide dental floss is the hill we’re all willing to die on (and I am WITH YOU, ladies, one hundred percent). Only you could look so fucking cute in a hospital robe – it’s, like, even your colour, which is simultaneously horribly unfair and somehow exactly right. This post is comic genius.

  6. Wow, you are one sexy lady in that hospital gown. I also think it is wonderful that they are co-ed stalls, I mean, men have mammograms (my husband had one, meaning bitching about the pain no longer had as much value with him, lol). It’s time for my 5 year colonoscopy, I am not looking forward to it, but with a family history of polyps, it is a necessary evil, plus last time I had one of those pre-cancerous ones. Getting on in age is just so much fun!.

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