I had my annual physical today, Medicare variety, since I'm 70. I'm fortunate to have a family physician who is caring, compassionate, and willing to talk with me for as long as is necessary when I have a concern or question.
Oh, the physician is also a woman. Which almost goes without saying from the description I just offered up.
I'm not saying that male doctors always are businesslike and brusque. But most of the physicians of my sex I've gone to have been quite a bit less pleasant than my current family doctor.
She and I talked about my only significant health problem -- a bladder that went on strike about a year and a half ago, and never returned to work. So I've had to pee via a catheter, currently about five times a day.
This isn't the worse possible medical problem, not even close. But it isn't fun, to put it mildly. And a bladder problem isn't something I feel comfortable talking about with most people.
Why? In large part because I'm a man. Men don't share as much intimate information with other men, compared to how women talk with other women.
Today my doctor spoke about a colleague, a male doctor, who she is treating for a prostate problem.
She told me that according to him, it's tough for him to talk about that problem because of "locker room talk." What she meant by this was how men put a lot of emphasis on the macho functioning of their genitals. So since the prostate is connected to the penis, as is the bladder, problems in these areas get associated with impotence, weakness, unmanliness.
Which is bullshit, of course.
I'm trying to be more open about my bladder problem, but it's tough to do, because I'm going against the grain of 70 years of being a man.
Here's a typical locker room conversation that I overhear at my athletic club:
"How's it going?"
"Great, couldn't be better. And you?"
"Tremendous. Hey, good talking with you."
"Yeah, good to see you, man."
Not much space in there for vulnerability, transparency, openness.
Now, my doctor did wisely advise me to choose with care those who I talk with about my bladder problem. Baring my medical soul to the grocery store clerk who asks me how my day is going isn't appropriate. However, I certainly can be more open with friends than I typically am.
This just requires some rethinking of what it means to talk like a man. There's a time and place for locker room talk. And also a time and place for unbridled honesty.