Sunday, May 16, 2010


I have a deathly phobia of needles. Not pointwork or gramophones, but the kind you jab into your arm or thigh. This among other things -- lack of work ethic, not enough free time, self-body image not as damaged as need be-- have kept me from professional body building. Zoroastra help me if I ever get adult-onset diabetes. I tend to get the shakes and start to squirm like The Dude in The Big Lebowski when a ferret was thrown into his bubble-bath.

I recall having my wisdom teeth extracted under general anesthetic. The oral surgeon walked in, all freshly tanned from his likely month-long vacation in some place tropical, expensive, and littered with Sands resorts (it's a sobering thought that the cultures of umpteen number of Melanesian and Micronesian nations are kept afloat by overfed Americans, heat-stroked stupefied and blazing sunburnt, watching disinterestedly to a thousand year old dance while devouring some endangered tropical fish that tastes 'just like chicken').

He had the sort of professional ease and casual boredom that comes from folks who do one or two things repetitively, for vast sums of money. Obviously someone who'd seen quite a few extracted wisdom teeth.

So they get the needles ready, and I start to shake, only a bit, I thought. But at some point the surgeon says, with not negligible amount of alarm in his voice 'easy, easy'. There's a current of panic there, like he just remembered he left his tazer in his six-figure sports sedan (complete with a set of keys attached to a logo keychain that'd make Flavor Flav do a double take). It's then that I realized that my phobia of needles was, er, exceptional?

Several months ago I went to get flu shots with the family.

That is, all in a small examining room, all taking shots.

It's a burden for those of us less self-possessed; for those of us more harried and continuously aware of our shortcomings, that children, specifically, your children, learn by what you do, not by what you say. Many of your actions, likely the ones you least like, will manifest themselves in your brood. I mean, many will not too, and there will be innumerable things that they do that come from the ether, or from their genes, or from Elmo.

But you have to control for the things you bestow them. Fear of needles, terror of doctors, or the innoble memory of their father losing his shit were not things I wanted to bestow to them. Not if I could help it, which, let's face it, I wasn't sure that I could.

So I dug deep, as the sports cliche goes, clenched the jaw, went into the fray. I volunteered to be first, bared the arm, and looked straight ahead. I took the shots. They didn't seem to hurt as much, inner turmoil and the looming spectre of parent failure, I assume, dulls the pain.

So I'd like to say that my fear of needles has been overcome. But it'd be far more accurate to say that my fear of needles can be sufficiently repressed given enough pressure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the time in medical school where we were practicing starting IVs on each other. Classmate girl X wiped my antecubital fossa with an alcohol pad, and started to get to work.

Slowly, slowly, she approached my skin with the needle. The needle broke the skin, and penetrated deeper. She started to advance the sheath, and then stopped. I looked at her, and she was breaking out in a cold sweat. She turned very pale. I spoke loudly, firmly, and frighteningly, to no one in particular: "I THINK WE NEED SOME HELP HERE."

Someone told her to let go, and she let go. Then she passed out.

Re: wisdom teeth. I sympathize with you. I had impacted wisdom teeth. I remember the date exactly. I was home for break from undergrad, and I said I needed to get my teeth check. Pop suggested a friend of his.

Now, when a physician parent suggests seeing a friend, one must hold certain reservations. I'm not sure why. It's just been my experience, and here's an example: so we go see his dentist friend. He poked around and said, myeah, my wisdom teeth were impacted, and they needed to come out. I'm not sure why, but I agreed. The gas came. Novocaine next. And the following parts were very clear:

There wasn't enough gas getting into me. I was congested. I couldn't breathe through my mouth, because it was being worked on. More gas. More novocaine. Lots of pressure, and the sound of nerves, tissue, etc. Like snapping, like popping. Teeth being pulled out. I didn't feel pain, but my body registed pain: I could feel tears stream down the sides of my temples. I remember my pop holding down my legs.

Next thing I remember is being at home, asking for some Tylenol. Passing out. Mother coming down to check on me and wishing me a happy new year.

Pop expressed remorse. Brothers went to Real dentists, and got completely knocked out.

Anyway, I hope that when your kids are old enough, and if they ever need to get dental work like this done, that you go to a Real dentist, and not a friend. Because anyone with needles, drills, gas and a love of teeth is not your friend.

Damn teeth. Damn needles.
Later, bro.