Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which a friend on Facebook reminded me was one of the only two Communist Holidays celebrated in the other states. This makes sense to me. Why else would they have color coded girls pink if not for our collective devotion to socialist revolution?
Unlike many of the rest of you, I did not spend the holiday putting up pictures of my mother or the late RBG or resharing that video of Maxine Waters talking to Megan Thee Stallion (If you haven’t seen it, please go seek it out, it’s absolutely delightful). I did however have a small surgical procedure aimed at removing a few (five to be precise) vexing fibroid tumors. It was outpatient, performed in a neoclassical office park in that part of peak Cary, where everything, including the homes, looks like it’s part of a neoclassical office park.
Because it was Covid, I went in alone, double-masked, had my vitals collected and IV loaded by a nurse who swore he was a master of locating anyone’s hometown by their accent. “You’re from New Jersey, aren’t you?” he asked. (I’m not)
He also absolutely loved cruises. “Where else can you find that many drag queens, sparkly muumuus, and all you can eat lobster tails? I just about died when Covid made me cancel all of my cruise plans for last year?” he said. Then he told me that there was a real possibility I would be in considerable pain after the procedure. “Like period pain,” he said, “but worse.”
A few minutes later, the doctor performing the surgery stepped into give me a similar spiel once my IV was hooked in. I don’t think they were hitting me with rock star level narcotics yet, but I was certainly just woozed enough that I didn’t reflect too hard on another man trying to color in the edges of exactly how a thing would hurt that he could only understand in basic anatomical terms. “The way I understand it is that it’s going to be kinda like a bad period,” he said, and then I was wheeled off to surgery.
I drifted out to a conversation among the OR staff about the costumes in “Coming2America.” I was able to get in a comment about the genius of Ruth Carter. “Who’s Ruth Carter?” asked one of the nurses, also male. “The costume designer,” I said. “She won an Academy Award for ‘Black Panther.”
“Weird,” said the nurse, who sharpied x’s on my feet like my toes were trying to get into a hardcore show. “I would have figured it would have been a man that did those things.”
Then the fentanyl hit and my brain congealed to aspic.
A few hours later, I was dressed and sitting in a wheelchair on the office-park sidewalk with the cruise-loving nurse. “Remember to get ahead of the pain,” he said. “It could get pretty bad.”
“And by pretty bad, you mean.”
“I told you,” he said. “Like a really bad period.”
I shrugged this off, half-amused half-annoyed by grown men talking about my periods.I felt a little sore, but okay. I thought, Men don’t have the foggiest notion of female pain. Then I thought, I don’t have the foggiest notion of how it feels to get kneed in the balls either, but at least it’s not my job to try and describe it to somehow who is about to have it done.
I slid into my mother’s car. We drove home. By the time I walked into my front door, I ‘d skipped right up the pain scale, from a mildly uncomfortable 3.5 to a bursts of “I might pass out” 10. It was the kind screaming, edge-of-reason pain that was barely touched by pharmaceuticals. I was rendered mute, with no thought but holy shit, this hurts. It was, as I described to a friend this morning, once things had settled down (they did settle down, considerably, I’m now sitting on the porch, upright, a little achey, but mostly fine, having exchanged the narcotics for ibuprofen about twelve hours ago), “Rather like being shot in the lady business with a flaming cannonball, and the flaming cannonball got stuck there.” It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and I say this as someone who’s had a concussion, an abscessed tooth and an infected gall bladder (though not at the same time). I know hurt from hurt.
In case anyone needs to know, this is not what “having bad period cramps” feels like. To describe it relation to would be sort of like the difference between a papercut and having an arm amputated without anaesthesia while a whole hive of yellow jackets stings your feet. Simply does not compute. Simply does not compare.
In the moments of yesterday when I could sneak in a few rounds of rational thought before the next wave, I kept coming back around again to watching “WandaVision” over the weekend, because evidently Marvel properties are the new standard for how I’m weathering these challenging times. “WandaVision” was a pretty entertaining, well made, often silly superhero show that also managed to be about what it means to be a woman in such misunderstood and unmanageable pain that it overwhelms the world and creates another one made entirely of grief forced into the shape of nostalgia.
I wondered yesterday whether what I was feeling was so great that it could spill out and infect others. It seemed impossible I could feel something so tremendous without it leaving some kind of toxic afterglow that would seep out from beneath the door and roll out around the neighborhood like a bruising miasma, until it was consumed by everything I was feeling. I wasn’t sure I could even come up with words to describe it and yet, here we are.
The ultimate goal of the surgery was less pain long term, which I guess is a trade-out for yesterday. Still I feel like I’m 100% the kind of weenie that would have maybe backed out if I’d known in advance what yesterday felt like. I definitely would have backed out if yesterday had gone on for days. There are people in the world who take perverse pleasure from what they endure. I’m not one of those people. I don’t think we learn anything from pain except for what pain is, and if we have any empathy at all, that we should be doing everything possible to limit the amount of pain people feel. Because, no way it’s good for you, no matter what your weirdo ex or your fitness instructor says.
In the meantime, it’s about 70 out and sunny. I feel almost miraculously better, but I’m just superstitious enough that I’m not making a big deal about it. Just in case.
Happy International Women’s Day (a day late).
Picture is of my xed out ankles. One day later.
As of this writing, 93,715, 490 people have recovred from Covid-19. 313 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.