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03/12/2004

I don't just have issues. I have subscriptions.

This morning I went to my local gynecologist to get some tests done before my next IVF in May. Since the practice shares a waiting room with a general practitioner, I had my pick of a wide array of current periodicals — I was dazzled by the choices, much more varied than I'm used to.

Because I have a keen and questing mind, I went a little crazy.

First I decided to learn more about menopause. A brief flip through the thin and earnest magazine dissuaded me, though; despite the upbeat editorial tone, I just couldn't get too interested in the admonitions to use birth control even if you think you might be in the throes of perimenopause. Nothing like a reminder that plenty of 45-year-olds can still, despite it all, get pregnant. Seems like I have all the drawbacks of menopause — hot flashes, hormonal fluctuations, and a vaginal dryness so profound that I'm feeling a little thirsty just typing about it — with none of the possible payoff.

Grimly, then, I turned to the task of learning how to please my husband. Yes, my husband, for the magazine specifically insisted on spicing up my marriage. Good thing we're legal. Otherwise I might not have felt that the article really spoke to me. Not a moment too soon did Paul make an honest woman of me, in fact: I would hate to have missed out on a single scintilla of the relationship-saving — excuse me, marriage-saving — secrets the article divulged.

"Try experimenting with edible underwear," the author recommended. "A warm bath in candlelight will help put you in the mood." "Champagne, chocolate, and strawberries are sure to send sparks flying."

I am not making this up.

The tip that most intrigued me began thus: "Read aloud to your husband from Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden." Okay, fair enough — although on a good day my own tastes veer closer to Macho Sluts, I can see how some might enjoy that. Nothing unusual there. The intriguing part came next, when that suggestion continued: "Memorize a favorite passage or two to whisper in his ear."

Memorize. I'm already supposed to light candles, ice the champagne, buy chocolate, wear impractical underpants, warm the massage oil, cue the saxophones, and slip steamy notes into his briefcase. (I am assuming "I'm ovulating so don't eat a heavy dinner, please" counts.) Now I have to memorize?

But I already know plenty. My mind is full of memorized pieces. I wonder if he'd like the Pledge of Allegiance. First 20 digits of pi. Gettysburg Address. Opening monologue from Iron Chef. The phone number we had when I was eight. The spelling of onomatopoeia. (You can sing it to the tune of "Old MacDonald," you know.) First paragaph of Gone With the Wind. The fates of the six wives of Henry VIII. The conditions under which you use the subjunctive mood in French. "It's Not Easy Bein' Green." My Social Security number and his — what could be hotter than that?!

Once I'd learned to please my husband, I decided to branch out a bit. I directed my attention to a treatise on loving a black man. Although Paul is perhaps the whitest man in America, beating out stiff competition here in the Caucasian wasteland that is my small New England state, I value knowledge for its own sake, so I thought I'd take a gander. But before I could get too deeply into it, the nurse called my name.

As I gathered my belongings (purse, coat, veins, cervix), I tried to convince Paul to read the rest of the article so that he could report on it when I returned, but he firmly declined, pretending instead to be thoroughly engrossed in last month's Field and Stream. I was forced to conclude that he is either racist, homophobic, unnaturally fixated on water spaniels, or some creepy combination thereof.

When I confronted him with this charge, he refuted it with vigor and no small heat. It could be that I still have a bit to learn about pleasing my husband, after all.

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