by MIA FREEDMAN
Don’t make jokes in airports. I think we’re all across that now, yeah? If not, there are signs everywhere to ram the point home: ‘Do not jest about bombs or knives or a terrorist packing your bags. It’s not amusing and we will arrest you.’
They should have those signs in doctors’ surgeries. Last month, I got myself into all sorts of trouble during a routine mammogram when I made a lame joke.
“Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” asked radiographer briskly as I stood shivering in my paper gown.
“Any chance?” I fake-laughed. “There’s always a chance! Hahaha…..you know….probably not…well, I guess…no….um…..”
I sort of trailed off at this point because there was no punch line and it wasn’t funny. She looked up from her clipboard, frowning. Over the next few minutes, we discussed in extreme detail the possibility of me being pregnant. Keen to get on with it, I offered to do a pregnancy test on the spot. Surely they kept spares for such situations? They didn’t.
And with that, I was sent on my way. “Have an ultrasound this time and come back when you know you’re definitely safe.”
So I had the ultrasound – made some excruciating small talk with the sonographer which included an in-depth discussion about children’s soccer and the inclement weather in her native Scotland – and slunk off.
Is there any conversation more awkward than the one you have during a medical procedure? What exactly should you talk about during a breast exam, a pap smear or a prostate check?
Small talk drains me at the best of times but there’s nothing quite like making chirpy chit chat with a stranger who is doing an extremely intimate test that has potentially life-changing consequences. My breast tests were routine and yet there’s nothing remotely routine about looking the prospect of cancer in the face while discussing how COLD it’s been lately. And the rain! And how about those ParaOlympics, hey? That’s a pretty necklace. Are you watching Puberty Blues? Plans for Christmas?
Like most women, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to make medical chit chat over the years and as a result, my own rules go like this:
1. Do not discuss anything too mentally taxing. Like the NDIS. Or Syria. Let your medical professional concentrate really, really hard on what they’re doing.
2. Do not raise controversial topics such as climate change denial, the state of modern feminism or Labor’s chances at the next election. See point 1.
3. Do not discuss the hypothetical consequences of a bad test result. Even though many women love playing the hypothetical game, medical professionals clam up.