For a milestone birthday, my doctor advised a routine colonoscopy. I considered postponing it, not because of the scope itself, but because of the preparation required. I’d seen my husband nearly retch while consuming a hideous gallon of solution prescribed to cleanse his bowels. And I’d seen him withdraw for hours afterward, behind the closed door of our bathroom, emitting mournful sounds.
“Maybe you’d be more comfortable in the guest room?” I’d suggested helpfully around ten that night as I eyed our warm fluffy bed, secretly hoping I might get it all to myself. “A change of scenery might do you good,” I added sweetly through our bathroom door.
“Nice try,” he hollered back. “I have squatter’s rights.”
My procedure was scheduled for a Monday, which meant I’d prepare on Sunday. I’d miss one of my son’s baseball games but I knew he’d understand. It also meant I’d have a few alone hours at home, a rarity that I welcomed. In between drinking, gagging and using the restroom, I holed up on our den sofa, flipping through TV channels. Finally, I settled on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” an absurd reality show that I’ve been known to mock. That day, though, the pop icons and their First World problems put my preparation in context: shit keeps on flowing, even if you’re beautiful, wealthy, and have your own fragrance.
By Monday morning, I was insanely hungry and glad the end was near. According to many, I’d already endured the worst. “The procedure is a breeze,” my sister-in-law emailed. “The drugs are the best part,” texted a friend.
I was looking forward to the drugs and the woozy sleep that was bound to follow. Moms never get enough shut-eye. Perhaps my husband and nine-year-old twins would even cater to me afterward? “Can I bring you anything?” they might ask. “Ginger Ale? French fries? Anything at all?”
My anesthesiologist was a gentle woman named Karen who spoke in hushed tones as she hooked up my nasal cannula: “My job is to keep you safe and comfortable. I’ll be watching you every second.” Happy shivers ran up my spine. I hadn’t felt this special since giving birth.
Karen wheeled me toward the procedure room. A long dark-haired woman approached, flagging us down. “I’ll take her,” she instructed Karen. “Go on break.”
“But,” Karen stammered. “I just returned from break.”
“She’s my neighbor,” said the other woman, grabbing the rails of my gurney. She stood above me, leering like a creepy jack-o-lantern.
It took me a moment to recognize her: Our sons play on the same baseball team. While I watch from the bleachers, Tiger Mom marches around the field in gray shorts, wielding a clipboard. Her legs are strong and capable, as are her arms, which steered me away from Karen.
“My goodness, this is awkward,” I said, “Of all procedures. Really, you don’t need to take me.”
“We’re professional here,” barked Tiger Mom. “Besides, I like to take care of my neighbors.”
Take care as in the way the Mob does it? I wanted Karen back. I wasn’t feeling safe and comfortable. My blood pressure was rising, my naked butt was sweating.
Once inside the procedure room, Tiger Mom wasted no time: “Why don’t both of your boys play baseball?” Even though it was none of her business, I squeaked out a reply: “We encourage separate interests.”
“Can you believe our team lost yesterday because the pitcher walked in a run? Walked!” she said, clearly upset. Her jack-o-lantern face deflated, like it had been on the porch too long.
“All that matters is that the boys had fun,” I said.
“What matters,” she said, fastening a tube into the IV port in my hand, “is that they win.”
Sheesh, I thought, even the Kardashians have a better grip on reality.
“Perhaps you know Dr. G?” I asked, referring to my next-door neighbor, also an anesthesiologist.
“I do,” acknowledged Tiger Mom, “but she’s older than I am.”
Aha, so that’s it. Tiger Mom is in her thirties, stuck in competitive female mode, spreading her feathers for all to see. I am successful, she wants you to know. She hasn’t yet been humbled by life, or embraced its sense of humor.
I used to take my career seriously and then I got divorced. I used to take myself seriously and then I couldn’t stand my own company. I used to be a competitive female and then I grew up. I learned the value of friendship, support, gratitude and forgiveness–the true power of women.
What could I do, though? TM didn’t want any tips from me; she just wanted to cast her power. So I let her. As she put me to sleep, I smiled. The worst was over.