Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thongs to Come

It was called ‘Going to Staff’.

I look at my granddaughter and see her body changing from child to woman. I watch as she demands privacy. I listen as she whispers her intimate questions to me. I pay the clerks after we have spent an afternoon buying new ‘things’ that better match her approaching adulthood. And I wonder ... how would she deal with ‘going to staff.

My parents were middle income. They had a daughter that needed extreme medical care. They needed financial help. The March of Dimes offered them the help they needed. But my parents had to agree to agree with all surgeries recommended by the ‘staff’.

Staff referred to all of the doctors that donated their time to the many children in Los Angeles that needed orthopedic help. Braces, casts, ugly shoes, tests, therapy, temper tantrums, and pain could all be meted out with only one doctor’s decision. But when that one doctor decided that surgery was the next step ... then I had to ’go to staff’.

I would be escorted to a small wooden enclosure. The enclosures were lined in a row like small, stark, penitent booths. All they had behind their individual swinging doors was a wooden seat. I would be handed a hospital gown and what would now be referred to as a ‘thong’ and told to undress. I could hear the other children and their mothers murmuring. I could hear the occasional sob and once in awhile an outright scream. I was the quiet child so I would just sit there undressed holding my mother’s hand waiting for my name to be called.

Sometimes I would pray that the staff would say that my doctor was wrong. Sometimes I would shake with the fear. But as I aged and my body began to approach womanhood I would sit there and burn with humiliation.

When my name was called I would walk through a door that took me directly on to a stage. There would be a sea of white coats in the seating area. That was ’The Staff’. They would decide my fate. On the stage would be my doctor, a screen for large viewing of my x-rays, chairs for the ultimate white coats, and large, burning lights. The lights were focused on a specific area of the stage. For a bit I would have to listen to my particular doctor discuss my orthopedic un-correctness, then I would be told to take off the gown. I would then be told to walk back and forth in the area that was hot with the lights. My doctor would lightly touch my body with the pointer that he had in his hand as he described the things about my body that didn’t fit into the norm. My spine would have to be inspected and touched several times. My legs would come into much discussion. My hips touched and talked about.

All of this was done while I walked back and forth naked except for something that the rest of the world hadn’t yet discovered; a thong. I had to do ‘staff’ every year of my youth, but the years when my body was changing and I craved privacy was the worst humiliation that I have ever experienced.

My mother knew. She would be waiting for me to exit that stage door. She would have a coat to put around my shoulders. She had once been a young girl. She knew!

As I look at my granddaughter and her friends I wonder if they would have those same feelings. They have been raised in a world filled with thongs. Movies, television, magazines, mothers, even grandmothers have thongs now.

Who would have thought that I was experiencing a precursor of thongs to come?

Maybe if I’d known I wouldn’t have burned so bright with the embarrassment. Sure I would have. I was the quiet girl!

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