Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heterosexist Saturday at the ER

"I think I need to go to the emergency room. Can you drive me?"

It's odd how often I tend to get these calls. I don't know how it is for everyone else, but I tend to accompany someone to the emergency room every few years. I go for myself much less often, as the image that springs to mind when I think of the doctor's office is something like this:

the nurse's office

I'm terrified of doctors, the byproduct of a childhood spent in surgery. While I have no problem self-diagnosing based on things on the internet ("I have a headache. I hope it's not encephalitis.") I have to be convinced that I am near death, or actually have to have blood shooting out of me, for me to voluntarily go to the hospital. I fully understand that while they claim to be helping me, all doctors everywhere are actually just waiting for the moment when they can knock me unconscious so that they can harvest my organs or perform medical experiments on me.

Or, worse, they're waiting to do it while I am still awake.

I have no problem driving other people, though, which I did today:

the emergency room

I have noticed, though, that there are definite differences between the way that medical staff relate to you when you drive a male friend and the way they relate to you when you drive a female friend. Male friends, in my experience, have other friends, and it is perfectly natural for their friends to give them a ride. Female friends, on the other hand, are only given rides by husbands and boyfriends. Don't believe me? Let me offer two examples from today's adventure:

My friend needed a ride today because she fell on some pavement last night, scraping her face and landing badly on her wrist. We weren't sure if both her wrist and her thumb were injured, but her thumb was twice as big as the other thumb and refused to bend, strongly suggesting that she needed medical attention. I brought along a book, as these visits are rarely short, and waited for the nurse to call her. When she did, I asked, "You want me to come with you?"

"Sure," my friend answered, to which the nurse immediately added, "He doesn't have to, you know."

OK, nurse? I know I just brought in a female whose face is all banged up and who can't move her swollen hand, but really? Shouldn't you at least have security around before you start provoking me and accusing me of domestic abuse? The nurse confirmed that she hadn't really thought this all the way through when she followed up that comment with this question in the intake room:

"Has... SOMEONE," she began, looking pointedly at me with the kind of subtle facial acting that's made Telemundo infamous, "been hitting you?"

"Yeah, the pavement," my friend answered while I rolled my eyes.

"I wasn't even there," I added. "All I did was drive her here."

As bad as the nurse was, though, the doctor was even more insulting and heterosexually biased. When he walked into the exam room, which was apparently designed for children:

height chart

he looked at my friend sitting on the paper-sheeted bed and me reading a book in the side chair and asked, "What are you reading, while your wife sits here in pain?"

"Oh, she's not my wife," I answered, holding up my book. "I have nothing to do with this mess other than driving the car."

But really, there it is, everybody. In the eyes of the medical profession, men have friends, and women have husbands.

And, also, my friend has a broken thumb:


And that was my Saturday.


stanford said...

If we have another kid I am going to plan a long 'bathroom break' for right after the kid is born. The nurse essentially has to wait around until I am out of the room to ask if Amanda 'has a safe place to take the baby home to.' Both times she just got tired of it and asked her in front of me...which is just awkward for everyone. But I guess if you were going to intervene in an abusive relationship there isn't a better time than when it isn't just her that is endangered any more.

Still, it sucks that you get implicated for kindness.

Donna said...

It's not just the ER. Remember the time we went to the DMV to get my name changed on my license, and the clerk congratulated us for getting married? And I told her that actually I was getting divorced, and then you became the other man.

WTF? Doesn't every woman have a best gay friend? Because she should!

And I was never asked if my babies had a safe place to go home to?

Liz said...

I have the same horror and disgust with hospitals and doctors. The last time I had to go to emergency (and yes it was a case of not being able to stop the bleeding) I had to take a cab. I didn't bleed on it.