An undignified little ritual

I HAVE started wearing sunglasses for the first time in my life.

An inconsequential event, I hear you. Why are you telling us?

Let me explain.

They say the final indignity is death, but it’s not.

The final indignity is the medical. Who invented these things? And surely there’s another way?

At the family’s insistence I have been for a “full medical”. The phrase can make strong men tremble. Not just a medical, mark you, which involves a little random chest tapping and wrapping a crepe bandage round your arm and pumping it up.

This is a full medical. If you are aged under 50 you may not understand the implications of what I’m telling you.

Just because you’ve had a doctor hold your private parts in their hand and ask you to cough does not make you a man, my son.

The full initiation ceremony is more horrifying.

I am to have a finger stuck up my bottom.

He told me, when he warned me of this, that it was to check my prostate gland.

I told him I didn’t think it was necessary because I’d have noticed if it had dropped out and he told me not to be childish.

I don’t think this undignified little ritual has anything to do with my prostate.

I believe it is a simply a way of introducing people of advanced years to the rest of their lives.

I mean, I also have to pee into a little container and — much worse — take a stool sample!

Do you know what that entails? I’m going to have to explore… you know what… and scoop some into a container that, I am assured, has an air, water and horror-proof lid.

I can’t even begin to imagine how I’m supposed to achieve this.

And — worse — when I have, I shall have to take it to a pathology lab and hand it over.

Will they give me a private room for the purpose? Of course not. It will be a public counter in a room with people reading back numbers of Women’s Weekly, and the receptionist will say in a loud voice: “Oh, that’s your stool sample, is it, Mr Pearce, for your full medical?”

And the whole world will know about everything, including the finger. I shall have to move to another town.

Old age begins here. I am being acclimatised for the day someone else has to wipe my bottom and insensitive nurses in crowded wards will ask loudly if I’ve “been” today.

Is it only men that suffer the trauma of these physical assaults? Or do women, too, go through them?

If they do they certainly seem to take it in their stride, but I suspect that’s because internal examinations for women are often about the unique power of childbirth. And it usually begins earlier. Maybe they get used to it. They talk to each other about it, for God’s sake!

I do not want to get used to it, but I may have to. The doctor says I should have a full medical every year. I look at my friends differently now. Doug, in the pub, is five years my senior. Does this mean that, over the years, he has had a whole fistful of fingers probe his prostate? It doesn’t show in his eyes.

Will it show in mine? Not now I’ve got sunglasses, it won’t.