What Freud would say about your underwear
The therapist is trying to relieve a pain in my knee by methodically manipulating most of the muscles from my hips to my toes.
For this purpose, I am lying face down and next to nude under a fluffy towel.
Shortly into the session, the towel is peeled back and I feel something long and very hard, pressing into the crease where my buttock descends into my groin.
But before you minimize this screen, rest assured, the long, hard thing is only an elbow and the man with the hands has a provider number.
For what feels like some time, he continues to focus his attention on the disputed territory where buttock, thigh and groin could each stake a claim.
An area which, to be fair, doesn’t get protracted attention every day of the week. And when it does, it’s not covered by health insurance. He then plays a little more pizzicato with my knickers before firmly planting his elbow, like an explorer’s flag, into the middle of each cheek, in turn. My expectation that therapy for my knee would be on my bare knee was, as it turns out, ingenuous.
As the therapy continues, I could sensibly be thinking about the hoped for benefits to my knee. Instead, I am thinking about underpants. When I got dressed this morning, the therapy appointment had slipped my mind. I grabbed some knickers, any knickers. The problem is that somewhere in the back of my head is the silent conviction that while your CV says a certain amount about you, your underpants say more.
What exactly your underpants say, is communicated in a complex and mysterious language in which few are completely fluent. The mystery of this language is perhaps most clearly demonstrated when someone decides to wear no pants. Logically, this should say nothing about you. In fact, the converse is true.
In any event, I determine that the undergarment situation is tolerable. Now perhaps I can just relax. Instead, with my pants now holding on for dear life, I find I am thinking about the view. A week ago I got a spray tan.
I got it done wearing “comfortable briefs”. This means my legs will look they have been in the Maldives while my behind will look like it was stuck in Manchester. The effect must be to make my lower half look like a tub of Neapolitan ice cream in a family where everyone likes strawberry.
The therapist is a professional just trying to do his job. Why can’t I be professional too and stop worrying about these things? Clearly, what a patient is dressed or largely undressed in should not matter. But for some of us it does.This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the same with doctors and other health professionals, males and females. Undressing right can be as complicated as dressing right.
A striking example of this self-consciousness is the case of heavily pregnant women planning their personal grooming for the delivery room. Today it is not uncommon for pregnant women to be worried about their bikini line for D day. Notwithstanding that they have not laid eyes on said line for nearly 6 months.
Admittedly, in all of history, there has never been a more dangerous time to be a pubic hair than right now. But still, you’d think that codes of undress might be waived for the delivery room. Once in the cut and thrust of labour, worrying about personal grooming seems like worrying about your brand of lip balm on Everest. But rationality holds no dominion.
There is no time to further examine the semiotics of jocks today though. The knee’s on the improve and I’ve got a follow up appointment with that therapist. And I still need to find some undies that adequately reflect my personality, history, and values before I head off.
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