As the nurse pumped up the cuff on my arm, I inhaled and held my breath, hoping to trick my blood pressure into reading lower. This probably doesn’t work, but it’s much easier than exercising.
“Okay, your blood pressure looks fine,” she said, ensuring that I will hold my breath during those tests for the rest of my life.
Ordinarily, I avoid the doctor like the coughing coworker, but my wife Kara ambushed me with an appointment for a physical.
“Now take off your shoes and hop onto the scale,” the nurse said. Just my shoes? Everyone knows that a scale’s output is not valid unless you’re completely naked, you’ve skipped breakfast and you’re hanging on to a bouquet of balloons, which you hopefully procured before getting naked.
I quickly tossed my wallet, my keys and my cell phone into my shoes. There’s no way I was getting pounded for their ounces.
“This is not a regulation match,” I said to the scale as I stepped on. Clearly, a pair of jeans weighs ten pounds. Make that fifteen.
“Now take off your shirt and have a seat,” the nurse said as she stepped out the door. “The doctor will be here in a moment.”
Call me old fashioned, but when I’m meeting people for the first time, I generally prefer to be shirted. Sure, the doctor’s time is precious, but whatever efficiency could be gained by saving him the three milliseconds it takes to doff a T-shirt in his presence seems greatly outweighed by the corresponding loss of dignity during the initial handshake.
Of course, my aversion to disrobing in public is not shared by everyone. I once attended a minor league baseball game with a friend who didn’t feel that the world should be deprived of gazing upon the fruits of his gym membership.
“You think it’s okay to take our shirts off here?” he asked me.
“OUR shirts?” I thought. On any given day, I spend much less time wondering if I’m allowed to take my shirt off in public than I spend considering whether or not you could defend yourself against a charging moose by just standing sideways behind a tree.
My buddy decided that it was indeed okay, and he spent the afternoon basking in all his biceptual glory, undeterred by the fact that a grown man in a non-beach setting should only take off his shirt if a giant letter from a sports team has been fingerpainted onto his chest, which somehow makes it okay.
When the doctor came in, he skipped the handshake, which suited me fine, since I was dressed like I’d just narrowly escaped an early morning house fire. He punched my medical history into his laptop, asking me questions that never offered an opening to talk about my most exciting medical moment: the time I almost fried off my pinky finger with a model rocket engine. That rocket took me to the emergency room and beyond.
After it became clear that I’d come to the doctor’s office for no reason other than to score a few husband points with my pregnant wife, the doctor started talking about his own family. He talked glowingly about his kids for a moment, and then he asked, “Would I be happy if I never got married and never had kids?”
“Of course not,” I thought, answering his rhetorical question in my mind.
“Absolutely!” he replied a beat later. “It would just be different. There’s a yin and a yang to everything.”
That’s not the advice you’re supposed to give to a man in my situation. You’re supposed to lie and tell him that having a family of your own is all yin and no yang. Or all yang and no yin. Whichever the good one is.
You can yin Mike Todd’s yang at email@example.com.