Going for my annual medical exam has always been a point of pride for me. I leave happy. With a clean bill of health. More importantly, I love hearing how young I am. When I moved to New York in 2000, I was 22. I picked a doctor near Washington Square and went in for a checkup. He was eccentric and old school. With Einstein hair and round glasses.
“Why are you here? You’re a baby. Don’t come back unless you have a problem.”
I was flattered. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed something about the way doctors talk about my age during annual exams. This trend is not pleasing.
First, it was:
“You’re a baby. Get out.”
“You’re just a kid.”
I gradually matured to being young.
“You’re so young.”
“You’re still young.”
“You’re relatively young.”
“You’re still on the younger side.”
Then a seismic shift occurred. ‘Old’ subtly and innocently replaced ‘young.’
”When you’re older, we could consider medication.”
“Relax. You’re not that old yet…”
The next thing that changed - how I was addressed:
‘Baby’ became ‘kid’ became ‘young guy’ became ‘guy’ became ‘young man’ became ‘man.’
“Guys in your age range…don’t typically get prostate exams.”
”Men your age should take it easy with the salt.”
Then, the ultimate fate set in. No, please, don’t call me by my surname:
“Mr. Terchila. Have a seat. Let’s discuss osteoporosis.”
There’s nowhere else to go now. No other way to talk to me. No exam needed. I’m a goner.