No female who I’ve ever met looks forward to the yearly OB exam. And I am in total agreement with PSD: Pap Smear Dread. Staying a step or two ahead of some medical issue has its rewards, so I stay up to date with my health care by stripping down and adding the clinic gown, all while doubting, “Is it open to the front? What did they say?” and leaping into table stirrups. Okay, I don’t leap. I scooch.

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To ease the awkward feeling of this exam with my male physician, I decide to add a bit of flair. This is a fine example of how I use humor to cover emotions up—my therapist busted me on this, just one or two sessions in.

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Since I have two sons, I, of course, have a nice supply of temporary tattoos. Logically, I decide to decorate the hoo-hoo region to make light of this big event. Out of the choices at hand, I settle on a jovial, brightly colored Tyrannosaurus rex: Barney the Dinosaur.

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I work in one of the hospital buildings, which is handy, but I don’ give myself enough prep time to decorate my southern region. I am in the bathroom, rushing to freshen up, but I’m also trying to get the tattoo applied to my inner thigh. I’m trying to get this dang thing on with one-ply paper towels and cold water. And I’m hopping so my pants aren’t touching the floor, giggling at my stupidity (as I often do) and snorting at the “tears” running down my leg from paper towel.

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Time is running out. I have to get over to the other building soon. . . hurry. . . and. . . done. I squinch down to see my work down in the valley, and, Oh no! The head of the dinosaur doesn’t make it on my thigh. A glance at the tattoo’s paper square shows the dude’s head only, looking at me as if to say, “You did this to me!” I simply have no time left to work on getting my face on. Literally.

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I rush across campus, up three flights of stairs and get in to see the doctor. Now I’m checked in, wearing the bleach-scented gown (open to the back) and sitting on the cold, crunchy paper that covers the exam table. As usual, I’m a little sweaty and nervous but every once in a while a giggle would find its way out as well.

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Since my doctor is a male, there is always a female nurse in the room, too. The nurse asks sweetly, “Do you mind if Holly, our medical student, comes to observe your exam today?”

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I laugh and say, “Sure. Why not?”

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Feet go into cold stirrups.

Back is sweaty on the crunchy table topper.

Lights are in my eyes.

The doctor makes obligatorily awkward small talk.

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“Scoot toward me,” he says. “Knees apart, and relax,” he says. But that’s it. No laugh!

(Note that I’ve never been told to scoot back a bit. Wouldn’t that be something!?)

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Come ON doc—this was planned since last night, and I demand a reaction!

He didn’t notice the headless Barney right there, just an inch down from where the Pap smear is taking place.

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I work up a voice and ask, “Doctor, don’t you see the surprise?” And I instantly hear how lame that sounds.

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Both the nurse and the medical student are watching me, with expressions that confirm my suspicion of sounding lame. The doctor pulls his head back a bit, looking, and says flatly, “Oh. Huh.”

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The nurse said, “Can I look, too?” Of course she can look—how could I let her down? I invite Holly to join the viewing.

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Imagine a time when you want to disappear. Now imagine that this becomes three people standing where you can see them through your own open knees while on your back. . . heads all together, tipped slightly, staring at your crotch art.

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All I could sputter out was, “Well. . . uh. . . (nervous chuckle). . . it’s a headless dinosaur.” I thought the doctor would see it and laugh. Then I say, “This was a the-head-didn’t-attach-and-I-ran-out-of-time moment. I should have had a dress rehearsal.” They all pull back—eyes go from down there back up to my face again.

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We all share a laugh at my groin garnish. T’was a nightmare come true.

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Lesson: An attempt at cute humor can swiftly turn into an awkward pants-down moment in time.